For­mula E show­down: can Bird beat Vergne?

Autosport (UK) - - PIT + PADDOCK - ALEX KALINAUCKAS

Un­til Lu­cas di Grassi won the first Zurich eprix last month, only Sam Bird had achieved a win in each of For­mula E’s four sea­sons. It’s a record that Se­bas­tian Buemi – sta­tis­ti­cally the most suc­cess­ful of the elec­tric cham­pi­onship’s ‘big three’ – is un­likely to match at this week­end’s

New York sea­son-four fi­nale.

DS Vir­gin Rac­ing driver Bird has the op­por­tu­nity to be­come the last of the trio to seal an FE ti­tle but, thanks to Jean-eric Vergne hold­ing a 23-point se­ries lead, the odds are stacked against him. Win or bust – and Buemi’s 2016-17 Mon­treal im­plo­sion and FE’S un­pre­dictabil­ity sug­gest the ti­tle des­ti­na­tion is still very much up in the air, es­pe­cially if Vergne suf­fers a re­peat of his poor Zurich qual­i­fy­ing form – Bird is pleased with his 2017-18 per­for­mances.

“I’m re­ally proud of my team and I sup­pose I’m proud of my­self for be­ing able to achieve this many points,” he said. “At the be­gin­ning of the sea­son, we never thought that this would be pos­si­ble.”

That doubt, and the rea­son why Bird’s cam­paign has been con­ducted in his clas­sic FE un­der­dog style, stems from a lack of up­grades to the DS pow­er­train ahead of sea­son four. As well as the even­tual steam­rolling per­for­mance of Audi and the gi­antkilling form of Vergne’s Techee­tah squad, weight and ef­fi­ciency is­sues have ham­pered Vir­gin, es­pe­cially on flow­ing tracks that do not suit its pack­age.

“We did no up­grades on our per­for­mance and other peo­ple made their cars a lot lighter, more ef­fi­cient and just faster,” ex­plained Bird, who has scored two wins and four fur­ther podi­ums in 2017-18.

Bird was peer­less in New York last sea­son (be­low), as he claimed both wins of the dou­ble-header in the Big Ap­ple.

But changes to the Brook­lyn Cir­cuit’s lay­out mean a re­peat per­for­mance is not guar­an­teed. The track is nearly 0.3 miles longer, with four new flow­ing turns added.

“It’s a com­pletely dif­fer­ent an­i­mal,” said Bird. “The track is longer, which means ef­fi­ciency is key. And there are some cars out there that are just more ef­fi­cient than us. There’s no get­ting away from that so we’ll have to just do our best.”

What­ever hap­pens in The City That Never Sleeps, Bird con­sid­ers FE’S fourth cam­paign to be his finest so far: “This would be the best one. For con­sis­tency, not nec­es­sar­ily bet­ter wins or bet­ter podi­ums or stuff like that, but just con­sis­tency, al­ways max­imis­ing the pack­age.”

STALEY

TEE

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