The first ever New York Formula E race saw Sam Bird of DS Virgin Racing claim his maiden Formula E victory; but it wasn’t the best race for Mahindra with Felix Rosenqvist finishing 15th while Nick Heidfield saw an unexpected retirement.
DS Virgin Racing’s Sam Bird claimed his first ever Formula E victory at the New York City ePrix held in Brooklyn. The street race saw Bird in his best offensive beating teammate Alex Lynn, who made a fantastic debut with a pole position and raced to the chequered flag with a 1.3 second lead over Jean-Eric Vergne of Techeetah. Vergne’s teammate Stephane Sarrazin also scored his first podium of the season in P3, while teammate Lucas di Grassi finished fourth after starting 10th on the grid.
The opening lap saw Daniel Abt of Abt Schaeffler Audi Sport lead the race beating Lynn off the line. However, Bird got the necessary jump into Turn 1 and was right behind Lynn. Bird followed Lynn up till Lap 9 and was eventually allowed to pass the rookie teammate and go after Abt. About halfway into the 43 lap race, the DS Virgin driver finally had the opportunity to pass Abt and finally take the lead on Turn 1.
Meanwhile, Lynn moved down the order as the experienced drivers including Mahindra’s Nick Heildfield, Vergne and teammate Sarrazin as well as di Grassi passed the rookie. With Bird still in the lead, Vergne charged towards the top spot and passed Abt to take the second place. During the mandatory mid-race car change, Bird continued to maintain a comfortable lead over the drivers.
Things seemed up for Mahindra, but the different pit strategy of the race leaders saw Heidfield lose the most. The Mahindra driver dropped to 8th, while teammate Felix Rosenqvist rose to sixth, having started from 17th. With the lead pack stabilising post pit stops, Rosenqvist moved to fifth, but was immediately attacked by di Grassi. Meanwhile, Lynn made an early pit stop and retained fifth but retired soon after a suspected driveshaft failure.
As luck would have it, Rosenqvist locked up at the exit of Turn 2 spinning rearwards into the barrier. A broken rear wing forced the Mahindra driver to pit for a replacement dropping him all the way to 15th. Things seemed bright for Heidfield, but a broken driveshaft on Heidfield’s car with just two laps to go ruined all plans of scoring crucial points for the team.
The Mahindra driver had to stop at the side of the track with just two laps to go, which even called for the safety car. This led to Bird’s lead being neutralised over Vergne and the DS Virgin driver had no room for mistakes now to win his maiden ePrix race.
In the battle for third, Abt seemed to clench hard to the position, but threw away at the first corner of the final lap, promoting Sarrazin to P3, securing a double podium for the Techeetah team. Abt eventually retired after a couple of problems.
Loic Duval of Faraday Future Dragon Racing took a surprising fifth in its home race, while teammate Jerome d’Ambrosio had to pit with nose damage early in the race. Oliver Turvey of NextEV NIO took the sixth place, while Pierre Gasly of Renault e.dams filling in for Buemi took seventh, rising from 19th on the grid. Teammate Nico Prost finished eighth ahead of Robin Frijns of Andretti Formula E and Adam Carroll of Jaguar Racing.
The absence of Sebastien Buemi from the NYC ePrx has helped di Grassi cut the championship lead to 20 points, while Rosenqvist is a distant third in the standings. However, Nico Prost is now just 10 points away from Rosenqvist. The team standings is still lead by Renault, followed by Audi Sport and Mahindra. Race 2 of the NYC ePrix will be held later today and will be a chance for the Mahindra drivers as well as rookie Alex Lynn to secure better points.
By Sameer Contractor NDTV