Sam Bird produced a brilliant performance to hold off the charge of Sebastien Buemi and claim the first Formula E win for the DS Virgin alliance.
Bird started the race from pole and controlled the pack from the front, just using enough energy to keep Nico Prost (Renault e.dams) and then Team Aguri’s Antonio Felix da Costa at bay.
While the Brit was untroubled at the front, from the back of the grid Buemi was giving his all to try to work his way up the order.
The Renault e.dams driver pulled off an audacious four-wide move on the opening lap to ensure he vaulted from 18th to 15th in one fell swoop. From there on he meticulously carved his way through the pack, picking off his rivals one by one, so that he was into fifth place when the unfortunate da Costa’s car ground to a halt.
The Qualcomm Safety Car was deployed and bunched up the field, and meant Buemi was now a realistic contender for victory. With Renault e.dams team-mate Prost running slowly as he entered the pits for the mandatory car swap, Buemi jumped into third, behind Bird and title rival Lucas di Grassi (Abt Schaeffler).
Di Grassi knew his best chance of victory was to attack Bird right after the restart and set about chasing down the Brit. But in his effort to exert pressure he made a small but critical mistake.
The loss of momentum allowed Buemi to get a run, draw alongside and steal away second place.
This initially afforded Bird some respite, but with just two laps to go, Buemi homed in on the leader. Bird took the law of defensive driving to its limits, but not beyond, and manged to keep Buemi behind. Following a difficult start to the season, during which the DS Virgin car demonstrated pace but not consistency, it was a very welcome result.
Bird said: “As everybody knows we merged with a great manufacturer, DS, for this season and the hard work at the DS Virgin Racing team has produced a really good car today. This is for the boys and the ladies who have worked tirelessly since Punta [del Este] to give me a better race car.”
Buemi’s second place means he extends his championship lead, but the way in which he was able to fight from the back demonstrated that victory would surely have been his had he not made the mistake in qualifying.
Buemi said: “To be honest I’m a bit sorry for my team because I think today I had a great car and didn’t get the most out of it. But the race itself was great, it was hard because I think apart from da Costa who stopped, I had to overtake all the other guys. It’s good to be here and finish second. I was a bit lucky with the safety car, in fact a lot. Without that it would’ve been a bit more difficult.”