DS Virgin Racing has claimed third place in the FIA Formula E Teams’ Championship for 2015-16 after the London ePrix this weekend.
The first part of the double-header at Battersea Park got off to a challenging start as Jean-Eric Vergne crashed during qualifying, losing the front end of his car and slamming into the wall, giving the team’s mechanics and engineers a race against time to have the car fixed before the race.
Vergne started in fifth position, with his teammate Sam Bird just behind in seventh and the DS Virgin Racing team had fixed Vergne’s damaged car by the time he came into the garage for his pit stop. Entering the garage in fifth position, he left in fourth ahead of Robin Frijns, gaining what would prove to be a vital place in the race.
As the rain started to fall, the race was heating up, Sebastian Buemi squeezed past Daniel Abt in a bid to chase down Lucas Di Grassi and Vergne. Meanwhile Di Grassi’s teammate Abt ended up hitting the wall, taking out Frijns, propelling Bird up to eighth place after he had slipped to 10th during his pit stop and introducing the safety car.
The atmosphere in the DS Virgin Racing garage was intense as the race drew to its conclusion. Vergne was left in third place after Turvey crashed out and Bird was forced to slow down after his energy was low, meaning he finished in seventh.
Vergne’s third position finish gave the team their fourth podium of the season but the drivers were both already focusing on the next day of racing.
The final day of racing for the 2015-16 season started with problems with the car charging infrastructure on track, which meant that Free Practice had to be cut short. Once the problem was solved and qualifying was complete, Vergne and Bird lined up to start the race in seventh and eighth position.
As the lights went green in London, spectators watched in shock as title contenders Di Grassi and Buemi collided during the first lap, propelling the drivers behind them up the leaderboard – including Bird who managed to jump to fourth place.
As the safety car returned to the pits, the drama was on again. Bird started to challenge Abt for third position when, to the team’s dismay, his car began to slow on the track with 27 laps still to go.
“I’ve got no power guys, nothing,” Bird’s voice came across the team radio.
As the second safety car was deployed, Bird was forced to retire from the event that he won last year. It was later discovered the fault was down to a mechanical issue with the throttle.
“It’s a disappointing way to finish and a shame that we couldn’t hold on to third place in the Drivers’ Championship,” Bird said. “But the season’s over now and I think if you’d told us after Beijing that we’d have a P3 in the Teams’ Championship then we’d have taken it. It’s an improvement on last season and now it’s a case of pushing on again.”
Vergne, meanwhile, continued with his goal for another podium finish. Exiting the garage from his pit stop in third position, he battled hard to defend his position and it looked like he was going to find himself in third position as he crossed the finish line for the second time this weekend. But as he was just moments from crossing the finish line, his car began to slow. It quickly became clean that a miscalculation of energy had lost Vergne his third place and he finished in eighth.
“It is really frustrating that we weren’t able to get another podium today. I was pushing hard in the second half of the race and unfortunately the team miscalculated how much energy we had left,” Vergne said. “These things happen in motor racing but I think the last few races for me have been pretty good.”
Team Principal, Alex Tai added: “Today didn’t go our way but over the course of the season, we’ve proved that we have two fantastically fast and talented drivers. I’d also like to thank my team of engineers and mechanics who have been exceptional and worked out how to make this car win. We know the car is fast, as our four pole positions this season proved, but we now need to turn it into a car that can achieve consistent race wins as well. We’re confident of doing that next year.”
The FIA Formula E Championship will return on October 9th in Hong Kong.