Early race incidents leave DS Virgin Racing chasing for fastest lap

After Sam Bird and José María López struggled to get heat in their tyres in qualifying, both drivers qualified outside the top five with the Argentinean starting in seventh place and the Briton in 10th on the grid.

With the chaos of the 2015 Monaco ePrix in mind, the teams and drivers were particularly wary of incidents at the 1st turn.  This year was not as dramatic, but congestion on the inside of the first turn caused López to be hit from behind and pushed into the car in front, damaging both front and rear wings.  At the same time, Bird pulled off an excellent move around the outside of turn 1 to move into 7th position.

Bird was fighting Maro Engel (Venturi GP) for sixth, when he broke his suspension after brushing the wall coming out of the swimming pool chicane.  DS Virgin Racing managed to fix the suspension in the pit lane, but with lap times at under a minute, the 30-year-old could only return to the race 3 laps behind the leaders. As a result, the strategy was changed to aim for fastest lap, which Bird achieved on lap 24.

“It was a tough day. I struggled with the rear tyres from the beginning of the race, but I made a good start and everything was looking good, but then the rear tyres overheated and I had massive oversteer. I knew the race was done because we were 3 laps down and we’re never going to score points from there. The maximum we could achieve was to go for the fastest lap and thankfully we did it and got that one point”, said Bird.

After some early race incidents, the DS Virgin Racing drivers could only chase for the fastest lap Photo: Sam Bloxham/LAT/Formula E

López entered the pit lane shortly after Bird’s departure, having been forced by the race officials to replace the damaged wings he sustained at the first corner. The 34-year-old then challenged Bird for the fastest lap and returned to the pits at lap 43 to make adjustments to the front wing, flaps and tyre pressures to optimise his chances of success.

In the end, López came within a tenth of a second of Bird’s fastest time. “I think we still have to work a bit to understand the car, but I think the potential is there to easily be in the top 3. It’s just hard to bring everything together” judged López.

“We’re pleased to have got fastest lap and come away with a point, but it was a frustrating race and again our pace deserved better than this result today. We’ll be pushing in Paris for the results that we know we can achieve”, summarised Team Principal Alex Tai.

DS Performance Director Xavier Mestelan Pinon added: “It was a very frustrating weekend as we knew we had the potential to have a very good race, but sometimes everything does not go as well as it should. Our focus now is the home race for DS, the Paris ePrix, which is only a week away so we can move on quickly.”

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