First Formula E victory for McLaren in Brazil

Sam Bird has won the Formula E race in Sao Paulo in a McLaren. The Brit secured victory in the fourth round of the electric racing series on the final lap ahead of Mitch Evans (Jaguar) and Oliver Rowland (Nissan).

Image: Formula E

It was the 37-year-old driver’s first victory since 2021, when he was still part of the Jaguar works team. Bird only switched to McLaren-Nissan for the 2024 season and was therefore able to win the fourth race for his new employer. The fact that he made it into the duel phase of the very special Formula E qualifying was already considered a small exclamation mark, as Bird had scored no points at all in two of the three races so far this season in the McLaren.

It has been clear since last year that the starting grid in Sao Paolo – Porsche works driver Pascal Wehrlein won the final duel for grid position 1 by just 0.002 seconds – would not be decisive for the race. The track through the world-famous Samba Stadium in the metropolis of millions is characterised by high energy consumption. As a result, there is initially a kind of “energy-saving phase” in the race, in which the drivers drive noticeably below the limit and do not actually want to lead – in the slipstream of a racing car in front, their own consumption is lower. After this phase with an extremely large number of position changes, there is a kind of sprint to the end of the race. Those who can save more energy in the first phase and still get into a good position in the tight field will then have more reserves in the final sprint.

Race winner Bird and his former team-mate Mitch Evans in the works Jaguar tackled this energy management particularly well. In the final laps of the race, the pair were able to pull away from the rest of the field. Evans held the lead for most of the race, but then Bird came along: the McLaren driver was able to squeeze past Evans’ Jaguar on the outside in a fast passage with a very daring manoeuvre just a few corners before the end. The driver from New Zealand had nothing left to counter this spectacular overtaking manoeuvre – he aborted an attempted overtake in the last corner because he was not far enough next to Bird’s race car.

Nissan works driver Oliver Rowland completed the podium – but only to a limited extent on his own merits. Before the final corner, Rowland was in fifth place behind Wehrlein in the works Porsche and world champion Jake Dennis in the Andretti team’s customer Porsche. As Wehrlein and Dennis obstructed each other in the supposed duel for the final podium place, Rowland was able to pass the two Porsches on the inside and crossed the finish line just ahead of Wehrlein and Dennis. It was the second podium finish in a row for the British driver – after two nil finishes at the start, he had already finished third in the second race in Saudi Arabia.

With Bird’s victory in the McLaren team’s customer Nissan and another podium finish for Rowland in the works car, there is a clear upward trend for the Japanese manufacturers after several very difficult years at the back of the field. The two top favourites Jaguar and Porsche seem to be fast on all tracks at the moment, but Nissan was also among the front runners in Saudi Arabia and now Brazil. Stellantis is still well represented with DS-Penske, but the team was unable to get much out of grid positions 2 and 3 in Sao Paolo – both Jean-Eric Vergne and Stoffel Vandoorne fell too far back in the “energy-saving phase” and were unable to make up for this in the final sprint.

Jaguar driver Nick Cassidy continues to lead the drivers’ standings with 57 points, ahead of Wehrlein (53) and Evans (39). However, Cassidy failed to score any points in Brazil: He damaged the front wing of his Jaguar in the turmoil of the opening phase. Later in the race, the part came off completely in a fast section of the track and got under the car, which is why Cassidy was unable to decelerate or steer – and crashed hard into the wall. However, he escaped with a scare.

With both drivers in the top three, Jaguar logically remains in the lead in the team standings – with 96 points. The Porsche works team is already well behind with 61 points, followed by DS-Penske (57), McLaren (55) and Andretti (47). The positive news for Porsche from Brazil: the second driver, Felix Antonio da Costa, scored his first points of the season with 6th place.

The next ePrix race will take place on 30 March in Tokyo. (race report), (race results) (driver results), (team ranking)


about „First Formula E victory for McLaren in Brazil“

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