Sam Bird is the inaugural winner of the Rome ePrix, benefiting from a crash for Felix Rosenqvist to claim victory.
Starting from second on the grid, Bird followed pole-sitter Rosenqvist away from the start, but the early action was further down in the pack. Bird’s DS Virgin teammate Alex Lynn made significant contact with the rear of championship leader Jean-Éric Vergne’s car, causing damage for both drivers.
Throughout the opening stint of the race, Rosenqvist managed the gap to Bird behind, holding the lead at 1.2 seconds after six laps of racing. The pair pitted together on Lap 16, exiting in the same order, before a full-course caution neutralised the race a lap later.
A four-car incident at Turn 13 involving Nick Heidfeld’s Mahindra, Edoardo Mortara’s Venturi and the two NEOs of Oliver Turvey and Luca Filippi was the cause of the yellow flag period, while Lynn’s car stopped had stopped at Turn 10 and was recovered at the same time.
With racing back underway after the caution Bird began to apply pressure to the rear of Rosenqvist, but the complexion of the race changed on Lap 23. Hitting the kerbs through the Turn 18/19 chicane, the left-rear suspension failed on Rosenqvist’s Mahindra, forcing the Swede to park and retire at the exit of Turn 21.
With Bird now leading, Jaguar’s Mitch Evans began to challenge the new leader, while Lucas di Grassi moved to third and André Lotterer into fourth. Evans attempted a pass on Bird at Turn 10 but was unable to complete the move, before falling back behind di Grassi and then also behind Lotterer. Having over used his energy trying to claim the race lead, Evans eventually ran out and was forced to limp to the finish, ultimately in ninth place.
Di Grassi made a late attempt at challenging Bird, but could not find a place to make a move which allowed the Briton to take victory by 0.970 seconds. Lotterer claimed third place ahead of Daniel Abt. Vergne recovered from his opening lap damage to salvage fifth position and retain the championship lead by a reduced 18-point margin to Bird.
Sébastien Buemi ended the race in sixth position after struggling with energy management issues with his second Renault e.dams car, while the top ten was rounded out by Jérôme d’Ambrosio, Maro Engel, Evans and Mortara.
Nelson Piquet Jr failed to finish in the second Jaguar. The Brazilian left his pit garage after his car swap only to be forced to stop in the pit lane without his seat belts fastened.
Speaking post-race, Bird made it clear that he felt the race was absolutely Rosenqvist’s to lose before the Mahindra driver’s suspension failure.
“I honestly didn’t think I would be sitting here today,” he said. “[After Felix was out of the race] it was just a case of getting my head down but I made a mistake going down the fill into Turn 5, which allowed Lucas and Mitch to close right in. I had to defend and luckily came out unscathed. I knew Lucas would be hunting on the last lap, so I tried to give myself the best scenario and it worked out well.”
For di Grassi, most of the action played out during his second stint, including using his FanBoost to full effect.
“I had a very conservative first stint. I tried to save energy, did a good pit stop and then used the FanBoost to overtake Buemi, who was struggling anyway,” he recalled of his battle with his long-time rival.
“At the end, it was pretty intense as Mitch was chasing Sam and I wanted to be close in case something happened. It was a very eventful end of the race but I had a lot of fun.”
In the Drivers’ Championship standings, Rosenqvist remains third behind Vergne and Bird, however the Swede is now 37 points off the championship lead. Buemi sits in fourth place on 60 points ahead of Abt (50), and a tight battle between the Jaguars of Piquet (45) and Evans (43). Having reversed his horror start to the season, defending champion di Grassi is now in eighth position on 39 points.
Techeetah comfortably leads the Teams’ Championship standings on 152 points, ahead of DS Virgin (118) and Mahindra (103). Audi Sport ABT Schaeffler (89) now sit fourth by a single point over Jaguar, with three-time reigning champions Renault e.Dams in sixth place with 67 points.
The eighth round of the 2017/18 Formula E championship will be held on Saturday April 28, as the Paris ePrix is run for the third time.
|2018 ABB Formula E CBMM Niobium Rome E-Prix Presented By Mercedes EQ – Final Classification (33 laps)|
|Pos||Driver||Team / Entry||Laps||Result||Pts|
|1.||Sam Bird||DS Virgin Racing Citroën||33||58:20.656||25|
|2.||Lucas di Grassi||Audi Sport ABT Schaeffler||33||+ 0.970||18|
|3.||André Lotterer||Techeetah Renault||33||+ 9.518||15|
|4.||Daniel Abt||Audi Sport ABT Schaeffler||33||+ 10.167||13|
|5.||Jean-Éric Vergne||Techeetah Renault||33||+ 17.444||10|
|6.||Sébastien Buemi||Renault e.Dams||33||+ 19.835||8|
|7.||Jérôme d’Ambrosio||Dragon Racing Penske||33||+ 24.379||6|
|8.||Maro Engel||Venturi Formula E Team||33||+ 26.350||4|
|9.||Mitch Evans||Panasonic Jaguar Racing||33||+ 37.709||2|
|10.||Edoardo Mortara||Venturi Formula E Team||33||+ 40.739||1|
|11.||António Félix da Costa||MS&AD Andretti Formula E||33||+ 42.680|
|12.||Oliver Turvey||NIO Formula E Team||33||+ 48.833|
|13.||Luca Filippi||NIO Formula E Team||33||+ 49.331|
|14.||Nicolas Prost||Renault e.Dams||33||+ 1:13.880|
|15.||Tom Blomqvist||MS&AD Andretti Formula E||33||+ 1:31.382|
|16.||Nick Heidfeld||Mahindra Racing||33||+ 1:44.774|
|17.||José María López||Dragon Racing Penske||29||4 laps behind||8|
|Not Classified||Team / Entry||Laps||Result|
|DNF.||Felix Rosenqvist||Mahindra Racing||22||Suspension||3|
|DNF.||Nelson Piquet Jr||Panasonic Jaguar Racing||18||Seat belts|
|DNF.||Alex Lynn||DS Virgin Racing Citroën||15||Accident|
Bonus Championship Points:
- Three bonus points awarded to Felix Rosenqvist for claiming pole position
- One bonus point awarded to Daniel Abt for posting the fastest race lap by a top-ten finisher.
Images via ABB FIA Formula E Championship