Bird wins a crash-filled Putrajaya ePrix
After finishing third in the Beijing ePrix, Virgin’s Sam Bird soared to first place in Putrajaya, displaying impressive driving skills and adept energy conservation. Starting from second on the grid while Dragon Racing’s Oriol Servia was in pole position, the Brit hijacked the lead shortly after the yellow-flag period that ended on lap 4. Bird was the last to switch cars, pitting on lap 19 to jump into the second car, and temporarily ceding the lead to Audi Sport Abt’s Daniel Abt. But Abt had pitted early to change cars and did not have enough power left to sprint to victory, letting Bird reclaim the lead with five more laps to go.
Bird crossed the finish line with a 4.175-second gap from Beijing winner and Abt’s teammate, Lucas di Grassi. di Grassi had clipped the wall during qualifying and did not set a time, landing him on 18th place on the grid. Third place winner, e.dams-Renault’s Sebastien Buemi, also started at the back on the 19th spot on the grid. But they both fought their way up throughout the race with superb driving skills and also a bit of luck when multiple crashes that involved their rivals allowed them to advance.
Speaking during the post-race media conference, Bird dedicated his win to “a good friend of mine who is currently very ill”, referring to Jules Bianchi who remains in critical condition after the Japan F1 GP in October.
It was painfully obvious that the Spark-Renault SRT_01E’s are still beasts yet to be tamed, especially on the bumpy Putrajaya circuit with that crazy hairpin Turn 10. “A small miscalculation can ruin your weekend and that’s what happened to me during qualifying,” said di Grassi. During the first lap, Katherine Legge underbraked on Turn 7 and hit Michela Cerruti, who had to return to the pit to change car much too early in the race; soon, a throttle issue ended the race for her. Jarno Trulli and Nelson Piquet collided when they were in third and fourth positions, taking them both out. Bruno Senna, who was on course for fourth place having overtaken Nicholas Prost using the Fan Boost advantage, crashed on the final lap.
Nick Heidfeld just can’t catch a break. Fans were rooting for him after his unfortunate accident in Beijing which wrenched victory from him at the last minute, but soon after the race started in Putrajaya, he was clipped by Matthew Brabham. Not yet halfway through the race, he was jammed into a barrier by an aggressive Franck Montagny, taking him out of the race for good. And then post-race, officials declared that he had stopped outside the permitted area during his car swap pit stop and his 19th place finish will be excluded from the race results. Poor chap! Let’s hope things look up for him at the next race in Punta Del Este on 13 December.