Formula E Rome: Bird wins as Evans’ hopes fade with low energy stores

Virgin Racing’s Sam Bird won the inaugural Formula E race in Rome ahead of Audi driver Lucas di Grassi, as long-time leader Felix Rosenqvist retired after hitting a kerb.

Andre Lotterer completed the podium, with his team-mate – championship leader Jean-Eric Vergne – finishing fifth despite sustaining damage on the opening lap.

At the start, polesitter Rosenqvist led away ahead of Bird and Jaguar driver Mitch Evans. While Vergne survived being hit from behind by Alex Lynn.

Rosenqvist edged away from Bird early-on, with Evans and Lotterer falling behind as they opted to save energy and run a lap longer in the opening stint.

Bird closed back in on Rosenqvist before they both pitted on lap 16 of 33. Rosenqvist maintained the net lead of the race as Evans, Lotterer, Daniel Abt and di Grassi stayed out for an extra lap.

As those four returned to the track, the race was neutralised with a full course yellow following Lynn, who stopped at Turn 10, and a four-way incident at the Turn 13 hairpin involving Oliver Turvey, Nick Heidfeld, Luca Filippi and Edoardo Mortara.

Bird closed in on Rosenqvist when the race resumed, with Evans five seconds back and engaged in a scrap with Sebastien Buemi, as further back di Grassi passed Lotterer.

Evans had just deposed Buemi for third when Rosenqvist suddenly slowed and stopped just past the finish line after he clipped the kerb at the Turn 18/19 chicane, which appeared to break his left-rear suspension.

Bird enjoyed a lead of 3.2s over Evans – with di Grassi fighting his way past Buemi for third shortly before a second FCY was deployed to allow Rosenqvist’s car to be recovered.

After the restart, Evans used his energy advantage to close in and attack Bird, with di Grassi in close company and Lotterer making it a four-way fight for the lead after passing Buemi.

Evans attacked Bird the bumpy uphill Turn 9 on lap 29, but the Briton defended the inside and Evans lost momentum.

Bird then enjoyed some crucial breathing space in the final laps as di Grassi pressured Evans and passed him at Turn 9 on two laps to go.

Lotterer also got by on the final lap by going around the outside of Evans at Turn 10.

Di Grassi charged up to Bird but could not get by and the Virgin Racing driver held on to win by 0.970s. But di Grassi finished the race facing an investigation for his car swap procedure.

Evans could not make his energy last and he tumbled to ninth at the finish, with Abt fourth.

Vergne, who had scrapped with Abt and Buemi in the second half of the race, finished fifth after passing the Renault e.dams driver late on.

Jerome D’Ambrosio rose from 18th on the grid to take seventh, ahead of Maro Engel, with Mortara rounding out the top 10. Nelson Piquet was the only other retirement after stopping in the pitlane after changing cars.

Race result:

1Sam BirdVirginDS Virgin3358m20.656s
2Lucas di GrassiAudiAudi330.970s
3Andre LottererTecheetahRenault339.518s
4Daniel AbtAudiAudi3310.167s
5Jean-Eric VergneTecheetahRenault3317.444s
6Sebastien Buemie.damsRenault3319.835s
7Jerome d’AmbrosioDragonPenske3324.379s
8Maro EngelVenturiVenturi3326.350s
9Mitch EvansJaguarJaguar3337.709s
10Edoardo MortaraVenturiVenturi3340.739s
11Antonio Felix da CostaAndrettiAndretti3342.680s
12Oliver TurveyNIONextEV NIO3348.833s
13Luca FilippiNIONextEV NIO3349.331s
14Nicolas Proste.damsRenault331m13.880s
15Tom BlomqvistAndrettiAndretti331m31.832s
16Nick HeidfeldMahindraMahindra331m44.774s
17Jose Maria LopezDragonPenske294 Laps
Felix RosenqvistMahindraMahindra22Retirement
Nelson Piquet Jr.JaguarJaguar18Retirement
Alex LynnVirginDS Virgin15Retirement

Formula E Rome: Bird wins as Evans’ hopes fade with low energy stores

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