Sam Bird has completed a dominant New York City ePrix, converting his Sunday pole position into his second race win of the weekend.
The DS Virgin Racing driver’s race wasn’t without some effort however, as the Briton lost the start to Felix Rosenqvist, and found himself in second place at the first corner.
Bird stalked the Mahindra driver through the opening laps, which were interrupted by a full course yellow to recover Mitch Evans’ stricken Jaguar, and with racing back underway dived down the inside at Turn 6 on Lap 10 to take the lead.
From here, Bird would not be headed. Moving away at the front under no pressure, the Briton managed to run an additional lap to his rivals on his first stint, and pitted under a second Safety Car which had been called when his teammate Alex Lynn stopped on circuit.
At the front of the field for the restart and with more energy available to run the course of the 49-lap race, Bird just drove away from the chasing pack to take victory by 11.381 seconds.
Having won both races in New York, along with taking Sunday’s pole position and topping the Sunday practice session, it was an unbelievable strong weekend for Bird. In fact, with Lynn’s Saturday including scoring pole position and setting the fastest time in opening practice, it was a dominant event for DS Virgin Racing – Practice 2 on Saturday morning was the only session all weekend without one of their cars ending at the top of the results.
“What a weekend not only for myself but for the team!” Bird reflected after his win.
“What a car I was given this weekend – it was flying in qualifying, sensational energy management in the race – so hats off to DS Virgin Racing for giving me the best car they have ever given me.
“It feels incredible to win here – this was an historic weekend, not only for Formula E, but for motorsport in general. There’s never been a race in New York before and this has been a long time coming and to be the first person to win the first and second races here is really special.”
Rosenqvist claimed second place ahead of his Mahindra teammate Nick Heidfeld, however the pair’s race required some management from the team.
An issue with the energy readout from Rosenqvist’s car was detected, so while the Swede eased up to manage the problem, Heidfeld was allowed through to try and chase Bird. With the drama under control and Heidfeld unable to challenge Bird for the lead, the positions were reversed and Rosenqvist returned to second place.
Speaking post-race, Rosenqvist acknowledged both Bird’s speed and Heidfeld’s generosity.
“I wasn’t expecting DS Virgin Racing to be as strong as they were; Sam also drove fantastically he looked pretty on it,” he admitted.
“During the second stint we started to get a few problems with my energy calculations, so we decided to let Nick past and to try to solve these issues in a slightly calmer environment. When we got our heads around it, I was able to concentrate and focus again and Nick was kind enough to let me back through for P2.”
While this was unfolding, Renault e.Dams substitute driver Pierre Gasly was catching the Mahindra duo with more energy available, and found himself challenging for a podium in his debut Formula E race weekend.
The Frenchman attempted a move around the outside of Heidfeld through the final corner of the race, but the pair made contact and Gasly also clipped both walls in the process. Luckily for both drivers their cars made it across the finish line with no change to the order.
It was an intense finish to the race, as Heidfeld described.
“Gasly was obviously closing very quickly on the last two laps and he got beside me before the last corner, luckily on the outside,” Heidfeld recalled.
“I didn’t encourage him to go up the inside, and I just tried to stay as close as possible to Felix so that there was not a big gap in front of me where he could have turned in. I did try to give him enough room and we made contact. For sure I didn’t touch him on purpose, and it’s a pity to finish like this, but at least we both made it over the line.”
Despite not making the podium, Gasly achieved exactly what the Renault e.Dams team expected of him. Filling-in for championship leader Sébastien Buemi, the Frenchman was tasked with the role of banking points for the Teams’ Championship, and if possible take points away from Buemi’s title rival Lucas di Grassi.
The reigning GP2 Series champion managed to do just that, with di Grassi finishing in fifth position after starting from ninth on the grid. The result means di Grassi halved his deficit to Buemi, which now stands at 10 points ahead of the final event of the season – the Montreal double header – in two weeks’ time.
Behind di Grassi, the second Renault e.Dams of Nicolas Prost came home in sixth position, with Tom Dillmann seventh for Venturi and Techeetah’s Jean-Éric Vergne recovering to eighth place. Vergne had started from third on the grid, but was forced to pit early for repairs to damaged bodywork and spent the rest of the day driving back through the field.
Andretti’s Robin Frijns claimed ninth position at his team’s home event for the second day in a row, following a penalty for changing his gearbox after a morning practice crash saw the Dutchman start from the rear of grid.
Frijn’s charge to the points was aided by a smart race strategy which included pitting three laps later for his car swap than everyone else. This strategy provided a huge energy advantage late in the race which he used to full effect, including passing four cars on the final lap of the race. Jerome D’Ambrosio rounded out the top ten for Faraday Future Dragon Racing.
|2017 Formula E New York ePrix – Race 2 Final Classification (49 laps)|
|Pos||Driver||Team / Entry||Laps||Result||Pts|
|1.||Sam Bird||DS Virgin Racing Formula E Team||49||58:09.388||28*|
|2.||Felix Rosenqvist||Mahindra Racing Formula E Team||49||+ 11.381||18|
|3.||Nick Heidfeld||Mahindra Racing Formula E Team||49||+ 12.319||15|
|4.||Pierre Gasly||Renault e.DAMS||49||+ 12.355||13^|
|5.||Lucas di Grassi||ABT Schaeffler Audi Sport||49||+ 23.451||10|
|6.||Nicolas Prost||Renault e.DAMS||49||+ 30.470||8|
|7.||Tom Dillman||Venturi Formula E Team||49||+ 41.862||6|
|8.||Jean-Éric Vergne||Techeetah||49||+ 52.292||4|
|9.||Robin Frijns||MS Amlin Andretti||49||+ 1:00.475||2|
|10.||Jérôme d’Ambrosio||Faraday Future Dragon Racing||49||+ 1:12.659||1|
|11.||Adam Carroll||Panasonic Jaguar Racing||49||+ 1:41.314|
|12.||Stéphane Sarrazin||Techeetah||48||+ 1 lap|
|13.||Loïc Duval||Faraday Future Dragon Racing||48||+ 1 lap|
|14.||Oliver Turvey||NextEV NIO||48||+ 1 lap|
|15.||António Félix da Costa||MS Amlin Andretti||48||+ 1 lap|
|16.||Nelson Piquet Jr||NextEV NIO||44||+ 3 laps|
|Not Classified||Team / Entry||Laps||Result|
|DNF.||Maro Engel||Venturi Formula E Team||30||Retirement|
|DNF.||Alex Lynn||DS Virgin Racing Formula E Team||23||Retirement|
|DNF.||Daniel Abt||ABT Schaeffler Audi Sport||42||Retirement|
|DNF.||Mitch Evans||Panasonic Jaguar Racing||18||Retirement|
* For claiming pole position (3 pts)
^ For posting the fastest lap of the race (1pt)
Given there were a maximum of 58 points available to di Grassi this weekend, Buemi will no doubt be relieved to have only lost 22 points of his 32 point pre-New York buffer (12 on Saturday and 10 on Sunday), with the Swiss driver returning to the series in Toronto.
Buemi heads into the final two races as the favourite to secure back-to-back championships, but a single bad race will throw the door wide open for di Grassi to capitalise. When the same pair of drivers battled for the title last season they came to blows on circuit during the final race, ultimately a shootout for the fastest lap bonus points in their second cars saw the title awarded to Buemi.
Mathematically, Rosenqvist is the only other driver capable of stealing the title, but at 53 points behind Buemi with at most another 58 available his chances are unlikely at best.
Renault e.Dams continue to comfortably lead the Teams’ Championship with 259 points. The French squad look likely to secure their third successive title – a maximum of 94 point remain available with the team currently 65 points ahead of ABT Schaeffler Audi Sport (194 points), with Mahindra (182 points) the only other challenger within striking distance.
The final event of the 2016/17 FIA Formula E season, incorporating Races 11 and 12 of the championship, will be held on the streets of Montréal over the weekend of July 29-30.
Image via FIA Formula E Championship