Bird pips Evans for FE victory in São Paulo

Sam Bird sealed one of the most dramatic victories in Formula E history at the São Paulo E-Prix, with a stunning final-lap move on former teammate Mitch Evans (Jaguar TCS Racing) to secure NEOM McLaren’s first victory in the ABB FIA World Championship and his first with the team.

The race that included 212 competitive overtakes was watched by tens of thousands of fans in Brazil’s most populous city including racing royalty Bernie Ecclestone and fellow countrymen Felipe Massa and Emerson Fittipaldi.

“I’m really happy for Sam, he’s had a tough few seasons so to see him get a win again in his new colours – he looks good in orange – I’m super happy for him,” commented Mitch Evans. “Got some good points. I would have taken second coming into this weekend just in terms of my championship position, but the win was right there…. I just had no power, so he would have got me to the line anyway, I was a bit of a sitting duck.”

Sam Bird established an early lead in São Paulo, strategically using ATTACK MODE to keep ahead of the pack, including early frontrunner Pascal Wehrlein. Throughout the race, the top 15 contenders were tightly grouped, with minimal time differences accentuating the intense competition.

The lead shuffled between Bird, the Porsches of Wehrlein and his teammate António Félix da Costa, the Jaguar of Mitch Evans and Jake Dennis (Andretti Formula E) as the race ebbed and flowed. The consensus on strategy before the race was of an energy-critical encounter with the Anhembi Sambadrome Circuit’s long straights and long sweeping curves. Two Safety Car periods – including one for the recovery of standings leader Nick Cassidy’s Jaguar when the Kiwi hit the wall in dramatic fashion on Lap 16 – turned the remainder of the race into a straight sprint to the finish.

As the laps ticked down, Bird and Evans looked to hold the advantage. Despite Dennis in third keeping 1.5% usable energy in-hand on the lead pair, his car was running too hot to capitalise. Inside the final seven laps, including three added on for those periods under the Safety Car, Evans appeared to have done enough with a move around the outside of Bird at Turn 3 for P1.

However, the McLaren driver was not done yet. All too aware he’d not won since Formula E’s trip to New York City in 2021, Bird couldn’t resist a last-ditch manoeuvre on Evans, his old sparring partner and Jaguar teammate for the top step of the podium. Bird went all the way around the outside of Turn 10 – his last chance to make something stick – and hung on to take the inside line and the lead into Turn 11, steering to the win with Evans just half a second back. Most certainly one of the best moves and best finishes to a race in Formula E’s 10-season history.

Dennis’ temperatures were critical, and the Porsche-powered Andretti had to manage things to the finish, allowing Oliver Rowland (Nissan Formula E Team) to capitalise as the reigning champion tried to fend off Wehrlein. Yorkshireman Rowland was able to slice by both at the last corner, beating the pair in a sprint to the finish to third, with Wehrlein edging Dennis for fourth.

António Félix da Costa (TAG Heuer Porsche Formula E Team) rounded out the top six, while Brazilian home hero Lucas di Grassi (ABT CUPRA) only managed 13th respectively.

This resulted in a substantial reduction of Cassidy’s lead at the top of the standings, due to his crash and absence of points from this race. Wehrlein finds himself just three points back in second on 53 points, with Evans third on 39 in the Drivers’ World Championship. In the Teams’ Jaguar TCS Racing head TAG Heuer Porsche, 96 points to 61.

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