Despite racing in the heart of Moscow and surrounded by the impressive backdrop of the Kremlin, St. Basil’s Cathedral and Red Square, the Russian ePrix didn’t go as planned for both Virgin Racing Formula E drivers Sam Bird and Jaime Alguersuari. Technical difficulties, damage and a penalty prevented both drivers to perform well.
The morning started with problems for British driver Sam Bird as his rear right wheel came loose on the first turn in practice one and throttle sensor failure in session two preventing him from having time on the track and also stopping him from pushing for pace.
Qualifying in the second group, Bird went into his stint with little information about the circuit but drove clean and collectively to put himself in P12, the best he could have done considering his limited track time in the morning. Starting the race strongly, the 28-year-old overtook three drivers on the opening lap and looked confident attacking the pack ahead. On turn one on the seventh lap, Bird touched the wall causing damage to his right rear wheel and forcing him to enter an early car changeover. With a significant stint ahead in his second car, the Brit opted to go for fastest lap and retired from the race with ten laps remaining.
“In motorsport you have days like today where things just do not go your way. From the very moment I stepped in the car for the first time this weekend we had difficulties,” Bird said. “From P12 may aim was to push on and get in the top five, which would have been excellent. But it did not go to plan. This has been a day to forget for me but I have to look ahead to the London ePrix – my home race where I know I will put on a great show for the home fans.”
Bird’s teammate Jaime Alguersuari enjoyed a strong morning and temporarily topped the time sheets in the first practice session before turning his attention to race pace. Unfortunately, the Spaniard was unable to replicate this in qualifying and started the Moscow ePrix from P17. Similar to his teammate, the 25-year-old pushed hard in the opening lap and overtook the two Mahindra drivers ahead of him earning fifteenth position. Gaining places steadily, Alguersuari made his car changeover in thirteenth and returned to the track in P9 but was given a drive-through penalty for exceeding maximum power resulting in his fourteenth place finish.
“In other racing series when you put two and two together you get four. In Formula E it is a lot more complicated than that because we still have a lot to learn about these cars which is exciting, but it is also challenging,” Alguersuari said. “I felt so confident with our race strategy and we were working our way up the places nicely, pushing hard and racing clean but getting the driver-through penalty really ruined our chances of a good race.”
Alex Tai, Virgin Racing Team Principal, added: “We are a competitive company and a competitive team and of course, we always want to win. However, I am confident in our race strategy and on a different day, we could have produced a much different result. I was really impressed with how both of our drivers raced today. Jaime Alguersuari attacked the track and made good progress from starting in P17 and making up eight places into ninth. Unfortunately the drive-through penalty hindered our chances of scoring points. We have been looking forward to the London ePrix for a long time now and we can not wait to put on a show for our home fans.”
The next ePrix takes place on the 27th June 2015 when the series moves on to London for the final two rounds of the FIA Formula E championship as the Virgin Racing team welcome the series to it’s home town.