DS Virgin Racing’s Sam Bird claimed victory in Formula E’s inaugural Rome ePrix as suspension failure for pole-sitter Felix Rosenqvist removed him from contention.
Running second behind Rosenqvist during the first half of the race, Bird inherited the lead when the Mahindra driver hit the Turn 18 kerb to break his right-rear suspension shortly after the pitstop.
Rosenqvist, Bird and third-placed Sebastien Buemi all pitted a lap earlier than most, meaning that they had to complete the second half of the race with a deficit of around six percent energy to those behind.
As a result, Mitch Evans, Lucas di Grassi and Andre Lotterer all managed to pass Buemi and subsequently catch Bird.
After successfully fending off Evans – who was forced to conserve energy himself in the final three laps – Bird then managed to retain the lead to claim victory and leap-frog Rosenqvist into second place in the championship.
Di Grassi finished second. The reigning champion passed Evans at Turn 9 with three laps remaining. He caught Bird on the final lap but was unable to pass. However, a stewards enquiry has been reported with di Grassi under investigation for an unsafe release.
Andre Lotterer stole the final spot on the podium away from Jaguar’s Evans on the final lap. Lotterer had closed in on the leading trio in the closing stages, with five percent more energy than Bird at his disposal for the final four of 33 laps.
Evans’s defence against Lotterer ended when he ran out of energy half-way through the final lap. Evans fell to a ninth-place finish.
Daniel Abt battled with championship leader Jean-Eric Vergne throughout the second half of the race. Vergne briefly vaulted ahead of Abt, but slipped back after a lock-up at the Turn 13 hairpin. Abt finished fourth and Vergne fifth.
Sixth was Sebastien Buemi. After emerging from the pits in third, excessive energy consumption in the second stint cost him several positions.
Maro Engel climbed from 14th on the grid to finish eighth, while Venturi team-mate Eduardo Mortara was equally productive to finish 10th after starting 16th.