"A mini-victory for us" - Formula E routiniers Sam Bird & Sebastien Buemi come up trumps at Diriyya E-Prix
The "old guard" can still do it! Lucas di Grassi already proved that with his pole position and 3rd place in Mexico. In the first round of the Diriyya E-Prix, two more veterans who each contested their 100th race in Formula E on Friday made a comeback: Sam Bird battled for victory in phases and ultimately finished on the podium in third place, Sebastien Buemi initially made it to pole position and in the end finished in 4th place..
Just Diriyya expert Bird in the Jaguar left a very good impression in the race. Although his team had to admit defeat to the merciful efficiency of the Porsche cars of Pascal Wehrlein and Jake Dennis, the 36-year-old was very satisfied after the race: "It feels so, so good to be on the podium again. I can't put it into words," Bird told TV's World Signal shortly after the race..
The last twelve months had been very difficult, especially for him personally. While teammate Mitch Evans was battling for the world championship title, Bird went winless for the first time ever in a Formula E season and finished 2022 - without even a podium result - in a frustrating 13th place overall.
"Jaguar has been great," he said.
"Jaguar was great, they were always by my side," Bird says, looking back on that low point in his career. "It's been the same in the recent past, as Mexico was not a good start to the season." Reflecting on all the work and "a lot of sleepless nights" since the Mexico City E-Prix, Bird says, "This is a mini-victory for us!"
Nevertheless, even he knows that to beat Porsche, Jaguar will have to step it up a notch on Saturday. "Porsche absolutely deserved the win, and Pascal did well - congratulations to everyone. The Porsche looks very good, especially in the steering and in the corners, especially in the slow corners. We still have some homework for tonight."
Buemi: "I've still got it, I guess".
Quite similarly expressed Sebastien Buemi during the day, even if his personal highlight occurred a few hours earlier. The 34-year-old had already been strong on the road in Mexico and also showed a squeaky clean performance in qualifying on Diriyya Friday. He decided one duel after another in his favor and also prevailed in the final against the up-and-coming youngster Jake Hughes. With the 15th pole position of his Formula E career - the first since the 2019 New York E-Prix - he again drew level with record-holder Jean-Eric Vergne in this statistic.
After two extremely difficult seasons in the underperforming Nissan, Buemi was very moved after qualifying, "I'm a bit emotional, although it's only qualifying. It's all because of the last two seasons. The time was hard, and of course then you also start to doubt yourself. I guess I still have it! This is probably the most emotional pole position of my career," Buemi said.
In the race, the Swiss driver underlined that he can still keep up with the front runners even after 100 races. True, even his customer Jaguar from Envision had no chance against the Porsche in race trim. But as in Mexico, Buemi left his fast teammate Nick Cassidy, who finished sixth, behind. Buemi delivered a flawless race and, in fourth place, scored important points for the world championship.
Nevertheless, he was not entirely satisfied after Friday night's run. "I think we had good race pace in Mexico, but today we lacked a bit of speed. Tomorrow we have another chance, and I will continue to do my best."
In the Formula E overall standings, Sebastien Buemi is in third place, immediately followed by his old adversaries Lucas di Grassi and Sam Bird. All three drivers thus rank ahead of their younger teammates. The "old guard" can still do it.