Sam Bird put in a stellar performance at the Diriyah E-Prix to claim his first rostrum since the 2021 New York City E-Prix, in what was incredibly his one-hundredth race in the ABB FIA Formula E World Championship.
The Formula E veteran has looked strong throughout the weekend so far at the Riyadh Street Circuit, with the Brit having topped Free Practice One on Thursday and his group in qualifying. Whilst he missed out on the Final duel, Bird made an excellent start from third and was almost immediately ahead of Jake Hughes, who he overtook in the opening laps of the first race of the double-header in Diriyah.
After overtaking the rookie with ease, Bird was quickly onto the back of fellow centurion Sébastian Buemi, who like Hughes, had absolutely no answer to the Jaguar TCS Racing driver. Bird flew past Buemi with relative ease, with the Envision Racing driver having put up no fight at all to retain the lead. Bird’s early race pace was extraordinary, with the eleven-time Formula E race winner having built a healthy gap to Buemi in no time at all.
As the race moved towards the final third, though, it became apparent that Buemi wasn’t the driver that Bird should be concerned about, with Pascal Wehrlein and Jake Dennis having both made rapid progress towards the front. Wehrlein was the first to catch Bird and actually overtook him at Turn Seventeen comfortably, despite having gone deep at his first attempt to overtake the Briton. Wehrlein’s and Dennis’ Porsche powertrains were just unstoppable, with the championship leader having also overtaken Bird with relative ease.
It actually ended up being a lonely drive to third for Bird, who was still absolutely delighted to be on the podium, following a “rough twelve months”. Prior to the podium, Bird was quick to thank the Coventry-based team for all their “sleepless nights” and for having remained by the thirty-six year-old’s side, with Season Eight having been particularly difficult for him as well as his retirement at the season opener in Mexico City.
“It feels so good to be back on the podium, I can’t tell you. It has been a rough twelve months, but Jaguar have been amazing – they have stuck by me, put their arm around me and also recently we had a very difficult Mexico to open the season. The amount of work, the amount of sleepless nights everyone in the team has had in order to get us to this point, this is a little mini victory for us.
“I get that Porsche will be taking the spoils – but for us and where we have come from, amazing. Congrats to everyone in the team – we keep pushing. I tried to place my car to make it difficult for Pascal, I know the grip out there is tricky, but he did a superb job. The Porsche is looking extremely decent on change of direction and minimum speed, so we have got a bit of homework to do tonight.”