Teammates collide - again! Jaguar to launch internal review following Jakarta E-Prix clash
It took less than five minutes for Sam Bird to undo what could otherwise have been a good race for Jaguar TCS Racing in Jakarta. First, he stormed into the rear of Evans in a battle for position, taking his teammate out of the race - for the second time this season! Then he clashed with Rene Rast (McLaren). Jaguar team principal James Barclay reacted diplomatically to the incidents, but announced an internal investigation into the next teammate crash.
A five-second time penalty and two penalty points for Sam Bird - that's what the stewards of the FIA saw as an adequate penalty for the incident between Sam Bird and his teammate Mitch Evans. 36-year-old Bird, who finished the E-Prix well outside the points anyway, will surely be able to cope with this penalty.
Far more grueling for him is likely to be the team's internal Jaguar debriefing of Saturday's Jakarta race, though. Bird crashed into the rear of his garage neighbor during the race - for the second time in the 2023 season. At the Hyderabad E-Prix in India, he had already taken Evans out of the running after rear-ending the Kiwi. Now a repeat of the accident followed in Indonesia - with similar consequences. In disbelief, Evans parked in the emergency exit of the first corner after Bird spun him. "Sam just crashed into me, I'm out," he said on the team radio, puzzled, before turning his car around and heading for the pits to retire from the race.
Bird apologizes - Barclay announces review of incident
Bird apologized to Evans while still driving by and apologetically raised his hand from the steering wheel. On the radio, he talked about how the speed difference between the two cars had surprised him. But by then it was too late for an explanation - the damage was already done.
"I take full responsibility for the incident today on track and want to apologise to the team for the mistake," Bird is quoted in a Jaguar Racing press release after the race. "We had a difficult qualifying and race, and unfortunately so far this weekend, the car hasn’t been performing at the level we would hope. We’ll regroup tonight and come back stronger tomorrow."
"I don't really want to comment too much on it," Evans said to 'Motorsport.com'. "I was having a tough race anyway, I was struggling a lot with the pace. The car was very difficult to drive."
"It was an unfortunate accident", the Kiwi added. "We have got a lot of work to do to have a good day tomorrow as a team. Unfortunately, it's the second time this year so it hurts. We missed a few points which is not good. The main thing is to try and make the cars fast for tomorrow."
"It wasn't a great end to the day," Jaguars team boss James Barclay said diplomatically after the race. "Up to that point, Sam had made up seven places and Mitch was also on course for strong points. There's nothing more to say than it wasn't the ideal end to the race. We'll manage that here internally and then look forward. Because there's no point in always looking back."
Rast takes Bird out of points race
Both drivers had spoken to each other immediately after the end of the race, crisis manager Barclay confirmed, adding that this was important to him. "We need to ensure we don't let that happen (again). Days like this happen, because you can't win every day in sport. We will reset and go again tomorrow."
For Bird, the E-Prix was not over after the accident. Just three laps after the Evans crash, he got caught up in a fight with Antonio Felix da Costa (Porsche) on the dirty part of the track, which in turn allowed Rene Rast (McLaren) to catch up and move alongside Bird. Impetuously, Rast tapped the Briton, who spun and, like Evans before him, slammed into the wall. Bird finished the race in 21st position with a slightly damaged car, while Rast was penalized and ended up 15th.
Tobias Bluhm's opinion: Incident at an inopportune time
Sam Bird's double crash in Indonesia is like the salt in a wound torn open again. For months, the Briton has been struggling with his own form, which he could not get on a par with Evans. In the practice sessions for the Jakarta race, he looked faster than Evans for the first time in a long while, before a disappointing qualifying session again brought him only 17th place on the grid. A remarkable race to catch up led him into the top 10 - and ultimately into the rear of Evans.
The accident comes at an inopportune time for Bird. In the media, the Briton has had to put up with repeated criticism and his contractual future being questioned in recent weeks. Will he swap cockpits with the ever-successful Nick Cassidy from Jaguar's customer team Envision in 2024, similar to what Porsche and Andretti did with Andre Lotterer in 2023? Would a move to another Formula E team be an option? Should Bird focus on the WEC?
The renewed collision with Evans by no means makes the search for answers to these questions any easier. The fact that James Barclay is not afraid to make harsh cuts when it comes to performance-related decisions was already made clear in 2019 when he made the driver three driver changes within a couple of months - switching from Nelson Piquet Jr. to Alex Lynn to James Calado.
While Evans once again belongs to the extended circle of title hunters - without the accidents in Hyderabad and Jakarta he would probably be even better positioned in the world championship - , Bird's own future at Jaguar is now at stake. At least, he will have a renewed opportunity to score points on Sunday, when Formula E races in Indonesia for a second time. The race starts again at 10:00 a.m. CEST.