McLaren driver Sam Bird in an exclusive Formula E interview: "There wasn't all bad"
As one of only five drivers, Sam Bird has been involved since the very first Formula E season. The Brit won a total of eleven E-Prix for the Virgin and Jaguar teams and scored 838 points, which puts him fourth in the all-time leaderboard. After a disappointing 2023 season, however, he decided on a change of scenery and will be racing for McLaren next season. e-Formula.news had the opportunity to speak to Sam Bird during pre-season testing in Valencia.
Sam, it wasn't your first time in the McLaren car in Valencia, you had already completed a filming day in England a few days earlier. What was your first impression of the car?
Well, firstly I've done more than just a little bit of filming in England with McLaren. So I have done a day in a car, which has been amazing. I'm very, very impressed with what I've seen so far. We continued to work as hard as we can here at Neom McLaren and also alongside Nissan, to make sure that our software and our drivetrain are as robust and fast as possible, going forward to Mexico and the rest of the year.
How does the Nissan powertrain differ from the Jaguar you drove last season?
I don't think there're major differences. I think it's just minor details, that we absolutely can manipulate and push forward, change and create a more efficient and faster racing car for this year.
Does your experience help McLaren to close the gap to the front?
I hope so. I hope some of my inputs are going to be helping the team. That's for other people to say, not me, but I'm certainly enjoying working with a great group of individuals here that make out McLaren. I've worked with some of them before and I highly rate everybody here. But it's not just me coming to Neom McLaren that is going to change everything. There's so many smart people with great ideas, great concepts moving forward that I'm just a small cog in the wheel of this team. Hopefully I fit seamlessly into that team and we go racing and get some good results.
The tests here in Valencia were interrupted by a fire in the pit lane and several sessions were cancelled. How much more difficult do you think that made your preparation in Valencia? Or is it the same for all teams?
It's certainly not the same for everybody. We believe that there is one team (Mahindra) that's been affected more than the other teams, with regards to the incident. So this particular team will need to buy a lot more resources. It will be more difficult for them in the next few weeks. I think everybody else is okay. For us there is no affection of the preparations. For this particular team yes and also for (battery manufacturer) WAE as a group.
Are you also worried that this will have a negative impact on the start of the season in January?
As we've seen in the past, it takes a long time for batteries to be created, made, serviced etc. If we are now some batteries down going into the season, that makes it more difficult if there is issues in Mexico or Diriyah. If the pot is smaller to choose from, with regards to spares, it always puts a strain on a championship.
Last season was, to put it mildly, not your best season in Formula E. What do you expect from 2024?
The pace that I showed last year was very strong. I made too many personal mistakes and I had quite a few mechanical errors as well. I think if I can very much limit the personal mistakes, then there is no reason why we can't be doing quite well in the championship. I think I topped more of the group qualifyings than anybody else in the championship. I topped multiple free practices and have been on the podium four times. There wasn't all bad.