DS Virgin Racing secured fourth place in the team standings after the final race of the 2016/17 Formula E Championship in Montreal this weekend.
The double-header weekend saw some incredible driving from both Sam Bird and Jose Maria Lopez after they were both hit with mapping issues on their cars during qualifying on Saturday, limiting them to 170kw of power instead of the available 200kw. Despite starting the 35 lap race in 16th and 18th, they both gained ground early on, and were just outside the points when they pitted to take advantage of a full course yellow (Formula E’s ‘virtual safety car’ that forces drivers to slow to 50km/hour and prevents overtaking).
With only a third of the race left, Lopez and Bird were in eighth and ninth respectively. An unfortunate mistake by Lopez as he tried to gain further ground saw him make contact with the barriers at turn eight and cut his race short.
Bird continued his fightback and crossed the line in sixth place – which later became fifth after Renault e.dams driver Sebastien Buemi was disqualified for his car being underweight.
“I gave it my all in that race and I’m really pleased to come away with some great points,” said Bird. “Of course, it was disappointing to have started at the back, but I know if we’d been at the front of the grid it could have been a different story, but it’s still great to come away with the result we did.”
Sunday’s race, however, was a very different story. Bird started the race in second, just missing out on pole position to rival Felix Rosenqvist. Lopez had tough track conditions to contend with in qualifying, having been drawn in the first group, and started from 11th place but quickly moved up the field to sixth place.
Bird made contact with a wall at turn three, causing damage to his stressing and compromising both his handling and energy consumption during his first stint – but he only lost one place before pitting at lap 17. After the pit stop shuffle, the DS Virgin Racing drivers came out in third and fourth, with Bird just ahead going into the closing stages.
Bird had Rosenqvist in his clutches but with less usable energy he couldn’t maintain the pressure and Lopez passed him to move into third. Pushing until the chequered flag, Lopez was unable to pass Rosenqvist and crossed the line in third place, gaining his second podium finish of the season.
“I’m really pleased with the result, especially after what happened in race one, and to finish the season this way,” said Lopez. “I could tell straightaway what a difference the team had made to the car since my last race and it was frustrating our qualifying group meant we were unable to show this. Nevertheless, I enjoyed the race and of course the whole season, as well as working with the DS Virgin Racing team.”
Bird added: “It’s been a great final race of the season. Unfortunately, I clipped the wall in the first stint and compromised my car so we were always on the back foot and didn’t quite get the result we wanted – despite pushing all the way! I want to thank my team for everything and for achieving such a strong end to the year, and also to congratulate Jose.”
The FIA Formula E Championship returns in Hong Kong on December 2nd, with pre-season testing commencing on October 2nd in Valencia. Keep up with the latest news on the DS Virgin Racing website.