November 22 was a good day for Sam Bird.
The Virgin-Audi driver won the opening race of the 2019-20 FIA Formula E season at the Riyadh street circuit exactly five years after he won his first ePrix with the same team at the Putrajaya street circuit in Malaysia.
“Great to be back in season six. I haven’t missed a race so far and I’m not planning to miss one in the future. It was a really good race for us. We’ve been quick right from the start here (Riyadh),” Bird said at a media conference after the Diriyah ePrix on Friday.
Bird was fastest in regulation qualifying, earning an additional point. But he was pushed to fifth in the super pole shootout, where the Andretti-BMW i of Alexander Sims took pole position and the extra three points along with it.
“I was very disappointed not to get the pole position. I really felt we had the speed in qualification and I backed it up in the race with a win. I feel fantastic and we executed the attack modes to perfection. Fantastic job from everyone at Envision Virgin Racing,” said Bird, who now has nine wins in Formula E.
In the super pole shootout, the top six drivers in regulation qualifying get another 15-minute session with clear track each to determine their starting order for the race.
Bird, 32, described the changes in his team’s preparations ahead of the new season as the reason behind his victory in Riyadh.
“We’ve done a lot of work during the off-season with the simulators back in Silverstone and with the testing. We learned a lot more about the car which we couldn’t do last season. And this is the reward we got for our work,” said the British driver.
Mercedes-Benz EQ’s Stoffel Vandoorne, who finished third, led Bird at one point in the race, but the Virgin-Audi driver pulled off a brilliant move to steal the lead from the Belgian. With the safety car coming into play towards the end of the race, Bird maintained his lead till the very end despite Vandoorne’s late attack.
“In all honesty, the critical thing was to get behind Stoffel and be on P2. I felt I had the pace to stay with two to five people in particular today. And when I was right behind Stoffel, I knew he had one more attack mode to go and I saw Andre (Lotterer of Porsche) was just a second behind as well. So I thought that was the moment. And I think that was necessarily the manoeuvre that got us the victory today,” said Bird.
Dominic Richard is in Riyadh on invitation from Porsche.
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