Sam Bird has been one of the more successful drivers in Formula E picking up five wins from 33 races.
The British driver is now going into his fourth season with DS Virgin Racing, and the 30-year caught up with Andrea Perilli to discuss his Formula E journey.
“When I went into season one, I didn’t know what to expect from the series, whether or not it would be successful. My management team and I had a strong feeling that this could become something extremely significant, which is why we committed to it from the very start,” explained Bird.
The Brit is now only one of nine drivers that have raced in every Formula E race since its debut in 2014 in Beijing. Bird went on to win Formula E’s second ever race in Putrajaya, Malaysia, and quickly became a popular figure in the series.
The 30-year old believed that Formula E’s fan engagement was vital to attracting fans in the early stages. “I think that Formula E is one of the series that looks to get up close and personal with fans. Formula E drivers are very happy to do this; unlike other series, you can come and say hi to us drivers, we can talk to our fans, we can interact through social media,” commented Bird.
At Bird’s home event in London, he picked up his second win of his Formula E career after chasing down. Bird crossed the line second in an intense battle with Stephane Sarrazin. However, Sarrazin ran out of usable energy before he crossed the line which promoted Bird to first place.
The second season saw Virgin partnering with French premium car brand DS. “It’s been very important to get DS as a partner,” explained Bird. “They work extremely hard on improving our drivetrain, improving our understanding of our racing and car. So I’ve been very, very happy to be a part of DS and wear their logo for the last few seasons.”
Bird’s next win came in the fourth round of season two, in the Buenos Aires. The race remains as one of the most iconic and hard fought in Formula E’s history, as Sébastien Buemi came from 18th to second and chased down Bird in the last few laps.
“It was difficult for many reasons. I didn’t expect to be on pole position, but we did it. The car that year was 35 kilos overweight and would not give me 170 kW when I accelerated. This meant it was inefficient on two accounts: firstly because of weight, secondly because I didn’t have access to full power. So it made the race very, difficult, but it was one of my best ever races,” said Bird.
After a season of ups and downs, the DS Virgin Racing team was the team to beat in New York, as they had strong pace in qualifying, which was capped off by two dominant wins by Bird.
“That was my highlight of the season. A double win is special anywhere, but to do it in New York, that was spectacular. We were, I think, above anybody else that weekend. We scored fifty-three or fifty-four points out of a possible fifty-eight, so it was a huge weekend for the race team,” added Bird.
The race was special for many reasons for Bird and having team owner Sir. Richard Branson witnessing the victory was one of them.
“I was so thrilled that he was able to be there in New York to pick up the manufacturer’s’ trophy for the winning team. I think he enjoyed this; I think it was a great day and nice to give something back to a boss that’s very supportive of our team over the years,” commented Bird.
As DS Virgin Racing heads towards Season 4, Bird will be joined by fellow Brit Alex Lynn, who substituted for José María López for the New York ePrix and qualified on pole.
Bird explains that he was Lynn’s driver coach when the 24-year old was progressing through the ranks. “I was actually his driver coach many years ago, so I know him well”, he comments. “Alex will be an extremely strong teammate; he’s really talented, so I’m expecting good things from Alex”.
As Bird starts his fourth Formula E season, he is certain that choosing Formula E was the right choice to make. “Now I know that it is a self-sustaining series, it’s considered as one of the top elite motorsports categories, and I’m so pleased that I took the leap of faith in the beginning to do Formula E.”