Formula E

"It's now or never" - Sam Bird & Mitch Evans explain thrilling duel for Formula E victory in Sao Paulo

Timo Pape

Timo Pape

What a final phase in Brazil: just a few corners before the chequered flag, Sam Bird overtook his former Jaguar team-mate Mitch Evans to secure McLaren's first ever Formula E victory. After the race, both drivers described the thrilling duel for victory - and paid tribute to each other. Bird promises a wild party night.

"Looking back at everything I had to go through to get back into this (winner's) chair, this victory is one of the most special," said an emotional Sam Bird at the press conference shortly after the race. "And it's the first for Neom McLaren! My goal at the start of the season was to get a few podiums. I didn't expect to win. Now we've already won in the fourth race."

This was preceded by an extremely thrilling duel for victory with his former Jaguar team-mate Mitch Evans. After the New Zealander had snatched the lead from Bird with just a few laps to go, it looked as though Evans would secure his first win of the season. After all, in addition to the better position, he also had a clear energy advantage over the McLaren driver.

The high temperatures in Sao Paulo (36 degrees Celsius), however, put paid to his plans: "We still had plenty of energy, but on the last lap my battery unfortunately derated due to the high temperatures. As a result, I no longer had much top speed and it got worse and worse during the lap," explained Evans.

Evans: "Felt like I was in a Gen1 car on the last lap"

"When the derating kicks in, it's very aggressive. I felt like I was in a Gen1 car on the last lap. I've never experienced this so much with the battery in this series before. But I think others have also suffered from this. The Nissan powertrains handled it better."

That was also true for the Nissan-powered McLaren of winner Bird. "I said on the radio: 'He's struggling more with the temperatures than I am'," said the Briton, describing the final lap of the race. "I was told to cool the car down. But I thought to myself: it's now or never."

So Bird made a surprising attack around the outside and also made a spirited charge through the following left-hand bend. "He defended the inside lane and left me just enough space on the outside lane. I don't know how close it was with the wall, but I made it," said a delighted Bird.

Bird: "A great race between my old team-mate & me"

"The overtake was really good," said Evans, praising his old team-mate. "I'm happy for Sam. He's had a difficult couple of seasons. To see him winning again in his new colours - he looks good in orange - is great. But even without the move, he would probably still have passed me."

The respect is mutual: "Thanks to Mitch for being so fair. It was simply a great race between my old team-mate and me."

However, Evans was also disappointed about the last-minute loss of victory. "I had the feeling that we actually did everything right. Victory was within our grasp, but it wasn't meant to be today. It's obviously very disappointing, but before the weekend I would have taken second place. Those are good points," said the new third-placed driver.

Bird is looking forward to the party: "I won't remember tonight"

However, it was the Nissan camp that is really celebrating after the Sao Paulo E-Prix, as Bird actually secured the first Gen3 victory for the Japanese manufacturer in the McLaren customer car. Oliver Rowland also managed to finish third in the works car in the final corner.

"A double podium for Nissan - that hasn't happened for years. Now everyone can see the progress that is slowly but surely happening," says Bird. "I'm very happy for them and of course for my guys at Neom McLaren."

"It's a boost, but there's still a lot to do," Bird cautions, before joking: "I'm going to enjoy tonight - don't get me wrong. I won't remember tonight. But there's still a lot to do and there are a lot of brilliant teams that can win races in the right conditions."

"We now need to understand why it went so well - and then pick up where we left off in Tokyo." The first Tokyo E-Prix will take place in just two weeks on 30 March. The field appears to be closer together than it ever was in the Gen3 era thanks to the upswing of the Nissan cars.

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