Sam Bird has won the first race in the inaugural New York City ePrix, holding off Jean-Éric Vergne in a two lap sprint to the finish following a late-race Safety Car.

Daniel Abt jumped from second on the grid to grab the lead into Turn 1 ahead of pole-winner Alex Lynn (pictured above), while Bird moved ahead of Vergne into third. Clearly being held up by fill-in teammate Lynn, Bird was eventually allowed through to second on Lap 9 and got straight to work pressuring Abt for the lead.

On Lap 15 came the moment for Bird to strike, passing Abt on the inside through the Turn 1 hairpin and beginning to build a comfortable lead which he would hold through the mid-race pit stops.

Behind Bird there was movement in the chasing pack as Lynn fell from third to seventh on the road, while Vergne found his way past Abt into second. Lynn was first to stop, regaining fifth place as the pit stop cycle unfolded, while Nick Heidfeld fell down to eighth. The stop cycle also benefited Heidfeld’s Mahindra teammate Felix Rosenqvist, who moved to sixth after a qualifying error left the Swede 18th on the grid.

Lucas di Grassi – who had started tenth – had meanwhile moved forward and was pressuring Rosenqvist who had inherited fifth following Lynn’s retirement, seemingly caused by a driveshaft failure.

A mistake by Rosenqvist saw the Mahindra spin into the wall at Turn 2, allowing di Grassi through, and although the Swede got his car moving again the Safety Car was soon called for the other Mahindra of Heidfeld which had stopped on circuit with five laps to go – also struck down by a driveshaft issue.

With the lead neutralised, Bird was left having to defend from Vergne over two tense final laps. The Briton did not make a mistake and gave Vergne no chance to make a pass, going on to take his first win of the season by 1.354 seconds. Behind the leading pair, the final lap was action packed.

Abt was in third place as they started the final tour, but a battery system issue into Turn 1 saw Stéphane Sarrazin slip by into third. As Abt attempted to recover he nearly hit teammate di Grassi, who moved to fourth while the battery issue would ultimately stop German from finishing the lap and the race.

The demise of Abt moved Faraday Future Dragon Racing’s Loïc Duval to fifth, ahead of the NextEV NIO of Oliver Turvey and Renault e.Dams substitute driver Pierre Gasly, who not only moved from 19th at the start to seventh at the finish but also beat home experienced teammate Nicolas Prost in eighth. The top ten was completed by Robin Frijns in his Andretti team’s home event and Jaguar’s Adam Carroll.

Speaking post-race, Bird was overjoyed to take the first win in New York, completing what had been a successful day for the DS Virgin Racing team.

“It was incredible! Firstly, it’s incredible that we are here and congratulations to everyone at Formula E for putting this event on, I can imagine how difficult it was, but it’s been an amazing week so far,” he beamed.

“We had pretty good speed today. We learned a lot from Berlin and that was a real turning point for us, it may not have looked like it at the time, but I think we demonstrated that this weekend. Also hats off to my team-mate this weekend Alex Lynn, who did a scintillating job in Super Pole to take pole position.”

As a new team this season Techeetah have shown strong pace from their customer Renault Z.E 16 cars on several occasions, with Vergne scoring podiums along the way. With the team scoring its first double podium in New York, Vergne paid tribute to their work during the year as he reflected on his race.

“As a team we have worked really hard this season and finally it’s our first double podium with my teammate and that’s what I feel most happy about,” he added.

“As for myself I believe the start cost me the win. It was extremely dirty off line and everybody who started on the left-hand side lost a position. I had a pretty safe beginning of the race, I lost a couple of positions, which I knew we would get back again, and that’s what I did and I finished the first stint in second position. I pushed hard to save more energy than this guy [Bird] but he didn’t make any mistakes and he deserved the win.”

The race within the race was to see how much di Grassi could eat into the points lead of Sébastien Buemi, who is missing from New York due to clashing race commitments in the FIA World Endurance Championship.

With his fourth place finish, di Grassi scored 12 points and reduced Buemi’s margin to 20 points. Given a yellow flag during his qualifying run limited the Brazilian to tenth on the grid, he was happy with his result post-race.

“Well twelve important points today from tenth so really happy, it was the best we could do. We have to improve for tomorrow and try and get a victory for sure,” he said.

A win for di Grassi on Sunday, or second place with the three bonus points for pole position will see the ABT Schaeffler Audi Sport driver head to the final two races in Montreal with the championship lead. Any other result will see Buemi hold his position at the top of the standings before re-joining the series. Barring a disaster for di Grassi in the final New York race, it looks like the championship will go down to the wire for the third season in a row.

Sunday’s action in the New York City ePrix commences with a single practice session at 07:00 local time (UTC-04:00), ahead of qualifying from 09:00 and the 49 lap race (six laps longer than Saturday’s event) schedule for a 13:00 start.

2017 Formula E New York ePrix – Race 1 Final Classification (43 laps)
Pos Driver Team / Entry Laps Result Pts
1. Sam Bird DS Virgin Racing Formula E Team 43 52:29.275 25
2. Jean-Éric Vergne Techeetah 43 + 1.354 18
3. Stéphane Sarrazin Techeetah 43 + 4.392 15
4. Lucas di Grassi ABT Schaeffler Audi Sport 43 + 6.155 12
5. Loïc Duval Faraday Future Dragon Racing 43 + 8.428 10
6. Oliver Turvey NextEV NIO 43 + 8.952 8
7. Pierre Gasly Renault e.DAMS 43 + 9.321 6
8. Nicolas Prost Renault e.DAMS 43 + 10.036 4
9. Robin Frijns MS Amlin Andretti 43 + 11.019 2
10. Adam Carroll Panasonic Jaguar Racing 43 + 12.073 1
11. Nelson Piquet Jr NextEV NIO 43 + 12.977
12. António Félix da Costa MS Amlin Andretti 43 + 13.341
13. Tom Dillman Venturi Formula E Team 43 + 16.337
14. Daniel Abt ABT Schaeffler Audi Sport 42 Battery
15. Felix Rosenqvist Mahindra Racing Formula E Team 42 + 1 lap
Not Classified Team / Entry Laps Result
DNF. Nick Heidfeld Mahindra Racing Formula E Team 35 Driveshaft
DNF. Maro Engel Venturi Formula E Team 30 Wheel 1^
DNF. Alex Lynn DS Virgin Racing Formula E Team 23 Driveshaft 3*
DNF. Jérôme d’Ambrosio Faraday Future Dragon Racing 22 Retired
NC. Mitch Evans Panasonic Jaguar Racing 18 Not Classified

* For claiming pole position (3 pts)
^ For posting the fastest lap of the race (1pt)

Post-Race Penalties:

  • None

Image via FIA Formula E Championship

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Mitch Timms

Journalist at MotorsportM8
Professional motorsport engineer and all-round tech head.