Envision Virgin Racing’s Sam Bird took first place at the Santiago E-Prix this weekend, putting the team at the top of the drivers’ and teams’ standings.
Temperatures were high in Santiago, making this the championship’s hottest ever race but Bird kept his cool, starting from fourth position on the grid to take his eighth career victory and the first win of the new Gen2 era for the team and its Audi e-tron FE05.
Teammate Robin Frijns drove an equally superb race, making up 10 places to finish in fifth place and secure more valuable points for the team.
With temperatures reaching 37°C in the Chilean capital city, managing battery and tyre temperatures was key. The opening lap saw both Bird and Frijns make up ground and by the halfway stage, Bird was in second place with his team-mate already up to seventh.
In the second half, Bird was closing in on leader Sebastien Buemi, forcing the Swiss driver to go defensive. Then with 10 minutes left in the 45 minute (plus one lap) race, Buemi made a mistake at the cincane and clipped the wall on the exit, allowing Bird to take the lead.
Bird then had his work cut out in keeping Pascal Wehrlein at bay, but his experience showed through to take the chequered flag.
“That was a great, but challenging race!” Bird said once it was over. “No-one really knew going into this race how the battery and tyres would react in these extreme temperatures. The whole race we were going into the unknown. But to get the result we did is fantastic, and my thanks goes to everyone at Envision Virgin Racing for once again putting in the hours to give us this win. It’s been a steep learning curve for the team, with the limited testing we’ve had, so to find ourselves in a situation where we’re winning races – to go with pole positions and podiums from previous races – is an incredible achievement.”
Frijns also had his work cut out for him in the mid-pack, with some close and frantic racing but he held his nerve to secure a strong result.
“Starting towards the back of the field was always going to make things tougher but we fought hard from the off and managed to gain some good ground early on,” Frijns said. “Towards the end I was really in the thick of it, but we came away with another strong result for me and the team.”
Sylvain FIlippi, Managing Director at Envision Virgin Racing, added: “After the success of our double podium at the last race, it’s an amazing feeling to come here to Chile and go even better. The whole team, as always, put in a huge effort to prepare for this race and that hard work clearly shows in the results today. I’d also like to thank the whole Audi Sport team for their contribution to this result.
“The high temperatures were always going to make the conditions tough, but Sam and Robin drove superbly, and we now head to the next race in Mexico full of confidence.”
The next round of the Formula E championship takes place in Mexico City on February 16th. Head to the Envision Virgin Racing website for all the latest news.