Formula E

Envision Virgin Racing have a weekend of two halves in Diriyah

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Sam Bird at the start of race in Diriyah
Credit: Envision Virgin Racing

Envision Virgin Racing went from the heights of victory to the disappointment of a double retirement in the season-opening Formula E race weekend at the Diriyah street circuit in Saudi Arabia.

Sam Bird enjoyed a strong drive in Friday’s season-opener with a fine victory to mark a positive start to the season on the streets of the Saudi capital from fifth on the grid. He utilized his Attack Mode well and managed to out-maneuver both Mercedes driver Stoffel Vandoorne and pole-sitter Alexander Sims.

But race two brought nothing but despair, as despite rising from fourth to seventh in the first half of the race, he was an unfortunate victim of a close battle between himself and Mitch Evans.

The New Zealander saw an opening at turn 17 which was closed down by Bird which saw the pair make contact and pitched Bird into the wall and out of the ePrix. Evans was awarded a drive-through penalty for the incident and wrecked both of their races in a flash.

Envision Virgin Racing driver Sam Bird said: “After the high of yesterday, today was a serious blow – it really has been a tale of two halves. Mitch [Evans] has been penalised for the incident but it’s still massively disappointing, I really believe we were denied another podium in today’s race. Despite today, it’s been a great weekend for the team, and I want to thank everyone for working so hard over the summer and getting us into such a strong position for the start of season six.”

His team-mate Robin Frijns also had a tale of two races with a fifth place finish on Friday, but ended Saturday in the tyre barriers.

The Dutchman made five places from thirteenth on the grid until he crashed after he lost grip going off-line and made contact with the wall.

Frijns said: “I’m bitterly disappointed by today, I was making great progress in the race – having made my way up into the points – but I ran onto the dirty line and just lost the rear end of the car. We’ve shown the pace is there this weekend and will now be looking forward to the next race.”

Virgin certainly had mixed fortunes on the opening weekend of the season. But they are still second in the teams championship and just two points behind Mercedes-Benz EQ Formula E Team after the opening installment of the 2019-20 ABB FIA Formula E Championship.

Managing Director of Envision Virgin Racing Sylvain Filippi said: “After such a strong day yesterday, a double DNF is a difficult pill to swallow. Sam’s shown incredible pace throughout this weekend and it’s such a shame that he was taken out of the race as he looked set to take a podium finish. Robin has shown his overtaking skills once again and simply lost the back on a notoriously dirty track off-line. The team is coming out of the weekend with a large points haul still, and we’ll now be looking forward to round three.”

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