Formula E: Bird confirms good form at anniversary weekend, Evans loses top-5 chance at finish line
After a grueling 2022 Formula E season, Sam Bird returned to old strength at the Diriyya E-Prix. A third and fourth place finish in Saudi Arabia marked one of the best starts to a season of his electric career - fittingly on the anniversary of his 100th E-Prix participation. Mitch Evans also racked up lead miles in the second Jaguar, but was "in the wrong place at the wrong time" at the finish and curiously missed the chance for a top-five result.
At the second race weekend of the new season, it almost seemed as if Sam Bird had found his way back to his form of the successful Formula E years with Virgin or Envision. He collected a total of 28 points in Saudi Arabia - more than he scored in his last eight race appearances for Jaguar combined! On Friday, he also capped his 100th start in the electric series with his first podium since the 2021 New York City E-Prix.
Even after Saturday's race, in which Bird narrowly lost the fight for the podium to Rene Rast (McLaren), his rivals were full of praise for the Brit. "He had two percent more energy than us in the meantime," highlighted Jake Dennis (Andretti), among others. Rast also praised the "fight to the last corner" with Bird.
Bird was "incredibly happy" with his car's pace after Saturday's race at Diriyya. "However, a podium would have been possible today. We were very efficient, but after the safety car the race became a full-on sprint. That made it difficult to overtake."
Jaguar's team boss James Barclay also raves about the 36-year-old's performance: "Congratulations to him on a great weekend! He's back to the form we've seen from him. A podium as well as 4th place plus the fastest race lap on Saturday show how talented he is!".
Evans lacks "flow" first, then race luck.
In contrast, Bird's teammate Mitch Evans departs Saudi Arabia with mixed feelings. The New Zealander took the lead from pole-sitter Jake Hughes (McLaren) in the first corner of Saturday's race. Jaguar, however, was caught off guard by McLaren, Porsche and Andretti in the two mandatory attack mode sequences. Barclay also explains, "We gave the rest of the field a slipstream. That cost energy, which is why he had to drop back to save power."
Evans fell behind Hughes in the process, as well as some of his rivals. Lying in 6th place, he tried several attacks against the Briton in the closing stages - before the McLaren driver ran out of power in the final corner. Evans was unable to take evasive action in time, got caught on his rival's diffuser and was thus unable to prevent Sebastien Buemi (Envision) from overtaking him a few meters from the finish. In the end, Evans was left with only 7th place.
"This was the latest in a series of unfortunate events," Barclay said. "This result is not a fair reflection of Mitch's performance and of our car. It's on tough days like these that we learn the most. Now we have some homework until the next race."
Evans himself was also contrite after the race. "Actually, the pace was good, but I never got into a good flow throughout the weekend. I was often in the wrong place at the wrong time. I have no choice now but to leave, look at the data and focus on the next race."
This will take place in Hyderabad on February 11, 2023. Evans travels to India in WRC position 9, with Bird in fifth. Fifth place is also occupied by Jaguar TCS Racing in the team championship. There, the British squad is just behind its own customer team Envision Racing.