Sam Bird takes dominant victory at the Putrajaya ePrix


Virgin Racing’s Sam Bird dominated the Putrajaya ePrix with a stunning victory, moving up to second in the standings after finishing four seconds in front of championship leader Lucas di Grassi of Audi Sport ABT.

Bird was able to take advantage of the poor start suffered by the pole starter, Dragon Racing’s Oriol Servia, but none were quite as dramatic as Audi Sport ABT’s Daniel Abt who got off to a stuttering start.

It opened the door to Bird, who took the race lead on the fifth lap and proceeded to build a strong lead before the first safety car and it didn’t take long for Trulli GP’s Jarno Trulli to also ease past Servia and become Bird’s nearest challenger.

The ninth lap saw Andretti Autosport’s Franck Montagny make an aggressive move on Venturi GP’s Nick Heidfeld, but the ambition saw the two collide and force Heidfeld into the wall, ending his race and signalling the safety car.

The following lap saw Abt roll the dice, pitting to make his car change around eight laps earlier than the rest of the field as his team went a gamble under the safety car period.

Two laps later, the safety car went into the pits and Bird launched an excellent restart that left Trulli unable to respond, and by the fourteenth lap the Virgin Racing driver led by six seconds.

The eighteenth lap saw the field begin to make their car changeovers, with Mahindra Racing’s Karun Chandhok one of the first to pit alongside the likes of Trulli, China Racing’s Nelson Piquet Jr, Servia and Amlin Aguri’s Antonio Felix da Costa.

While some were in the pits Senna had a tangle with Andretti’s Matthew Brabham, but the Brazilian was able to continue on before the rest of the field made their pit.

Bird was one of the later drivers to pit, but his strong driving saw him come out in second after the changes.

It left the Brit with Abt the target, as the German’s early change meant he was driving a flagging car running on minimal energy.

It was looking plain sailing for Bird, aided by Trulli’s errors. Beginning with an energy infringement that led to a drive through penalty, the Italian rounded off his errors by bizarrely pushing Piquet Jr into the wall, ending the driver’s race.

Trulli would later retire ending a miserable day for Trulli GP following a collision that saw Michela Cerutti’s race effectively ended by Amlin Aguri’s Katherine Legge on the opening lap.

By this point, Bird had caught up to Abt and the German sensibly allowed the faster driver through to resume the race lead.

Abt chose not to defend from Bird on lap 27, but he wasn’t to have much choice against the train of cars following behind. His low energy saw him drop down the order.

Mahindra’s Bruno Senna could draw envious looks from Abt as he stretched the power and fan boost to begin a late surge up the order in the final few laps.

With only a few corners left, Senna had his eyes on a podium place, but on the run to the hairpin the Brazilian lost control and hit the wall with force ending his race.

Bird cruised to the flag to take victory, but his fellow podium finishers both impressed as di Grassi managed to overcome his qualifying setback for second, with a similar start batted away by e.dams-Renault’s Sebastian Buemi who took third.

Fourth saw Buemi’s team-mate Nico Prost overcome his grid penalty to finish just outside the podium places, while the ever-improving Dragon Racing saw Jerome D’Ambrosio grab fifth.

Chandhok lost plenty of time with a slow pitstop on his way into the second car, but recovered to take sixth at the flag. For Servia, his time was lost with a poor start to the race, but the veteran was able to recover for seventh.

Debutant da Costa proved quick on the streets of Malaysia and took eighth, followed across the line by Virgin Racing’s Jaime Alguersuari and the different strategy of Daniel Abt didn’t pick up the rewards, with tenth his finish.

Provisional Results:

  1. Sam Bird – Virgin Racing
  2. Lucas di Grassi – Audi Sport ABT
  3. Sebastien Buemi – e.dams-Renault
  4. Nico Prost – e.dams-Renault
  5. Jerome D’Ambrosio – Dragon Racing
  6. Karun Chandhok – Mahindra Racing
  7. Oriol Servia – Dragon Racing
  8. Antonio Felix da Costa – Amlin Aguri
  9. Jaime Alguersuari – Virgin Racing
  10. Daniel Abt – Audi Sport ABT
  11. Ho Pin Tung – China Racing
  12. Stephane Sarrazin – Venturi GP
  13. Matthew Brabham – Andretti Autosport
  14. Bruno Senna – Mahindra Racing
  15. Franck Montagny – Andretti Autosport
  16. Katherine Legge – Amlin Aguri
  17. Jarno Trulli – Trulli GP
  18. Nelson Piquet Jr – China Racing
  19. Nick Heidfeld – Venturi GP
  20. Michela Cerruti – Trulli GP