Formula E

Sam Bird takes "full responsibility" for Jaguar colleague crash in Hyderabad: "Failed my team"

Tobias Bluhm

Tobias Bluhm

It's considered the golden rule of motorsport: "No matter what you do, never collide with your teammate." In a memorable race in Hyderabad, however, that's exactly what happened to Sam Bird. During an overtaking attempt against Sacha Fenestraz (Jaguar), the Briton misjudged and hurtled into the car of his teammate Mitch Evans, who was driving in front of him. After the race, Bird's frustration is great - and the explanation trouble also.

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Even before the start of the Formula E weekend in Hyderabad, Jaguar Racing never tired of emphasizing the importance of the world championship round in India. The team, which is actually registered in Great Britain, referred to the E-Prix several times as a "home race." After all, both Jaguar Land Rover's parent company, the Tata Group, and Jaguar's title sponsor TCS have their headquarters in India. The E-Prix turned into a roller coaster of emotions for Sam Bird and Mitch Evans. But unlike what they had hoped, the ride ended not with a "home win" but with the first major low point of the season.

Evans jubilant about pole position, again tactics frustration in the race

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At least the timed sessions should still have gone entirely to Jaguar team boss James Barclay's liking. Porsche waived laps in free practice on Friday as a precautionary measure after Pascal Wehrlein crashed due to an electronics problem. Jaguar was able to take advantage of this and gain important knowledge, while Porsche fell behind. This made itself felt in qualifying: Mitch Evans secured pole position, Sam Bird made it to 6th.

But after that, it was all downhill for Jaguar. First, Evans lost the lead to Sebastien Buemi (Envision) and eventual race winner Jean-Eric Vergne (DS Penske) as a result of his first Attack Mode activation - the second tactical blunder at Jaguar in two consecutive races. Then a storming maneuver by Bird ended the run of both "predatory cats."

The Briton had set up an overtaking maneuver against Nissan driver Fenestraz in the laps before. He hoped to surprise the Frenchman on the inside of the slow hairpin on the 13th lap of the E-Prix and take fourth place from him. However, the 36-year-old lost control of his car on the dusty right-hand lane. Bird overshot his target by a wide margin, locked his front wheels and was unable to avoid colliding with his teammate Evans. Both slid off the track and abandoned the race shortly afterwards with damaged vehicles.

"I was catching up with the cars in front of me, but then Sam made this mistake that knocked me out of the race," Evans said, describing the scene after the E-Prix. "It wasn't intentional, but it was very frustrating. My season so far has been really challenging."

Bird contrite: "Failed my team"

The briefly blocked track also saw Fenestraz and Maximilian Günther (Maserati) lose crucial positions. After the E-Prix, the FIA handed out a penalty transfer against Bird for the next race as well as two penalty points. Far more worrying for him, however, is likely to be the anger of his team, which is leaving India unsuccessful - apart from Evans' three points for pole position - despite the best of conditions.

"Words cannot describe how sorry I am for everyone who was affected by my mistake," Bird wrote in an Instagram post minutes after the race.  "I take full responsibility for this and would like to apologize to my race team, my teammate and the other drivers involved. We had a great car today, but I let my team down."

Jaguar boss Barclay takes Bird to task: "Unfortunately, sometimes mistakes happen, and that's what happened today," the South African said. "Sam has apologized to Mitch and the team and we've put it behind us."

Bird will now try to "rally for the next race" to make amends there, he said. This is coming up in just two weeks: The first Cape Town E-Prix is scheduled for Feb. 25, 2023. In the drivers' championship, Bird slipped to position 6. Mitch Evans ranks 12th overall, and Jaguar is now only fifth in the world team championship.

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