DS Virgin Racing proudly claimed third place in the FIA Formula E Teams’ Championship for 2015-16, after a dramatic finale at the London ePrix. DS Virgin Racing driver Jean-Eric Vergne also secured the team’s fourth podium of the season, with third place in the opening race on Saturday.
After a dramatic double-header at London’s Battersea Park, DS Virgin Racing has secured third place in the FIA Formula E Teams’ Championship 2015-2016, with four podiums and four pole positions across the season.
On Saturday, in one of the most thrilling races of the season, Jean-Eric Vergne claimed DS Virgin Racing’s fourth podium in the championship’s penultimate race. The third-place finish was a fantastic result for both the team and the driver considering the Frenchman crashed out in Q1, losing the front end of his car and slamming into the wall, forcing the team’s mechanics and engineers into a race against time ahead of the main event.
After qualifying in seventh, British driver Sam Bird finished the first race in the same position. Bird, whose DSV-01 featured a special one-off Union Jack livery, had looked set for a higher finish, but on the final lap Bird’s energy was low, forcing him to slow down and see Buemi and Da Costa go past with seconds to go.
The second day of racing at Battersea Park got off to a challenging start after Free Practice 2 was cancelled due to a problem with the car charging infrastructure on track.
The weather stayed dry for Qualifying as both Jean-Eric Vergne and Sam Bird qualified in P7 and P8 respectively behind Sébastien Buemi, Nicolas Prost, Lucas Di Grassi, Oliver Turvey, Nick Heidfeld and Daniel Abt.
As the lights went green on Sunday’s race, spectators watched in shock as title contenders Lucas Di Grassi and Sébastien Buemi collided coming into turn three on the first lap, propelling the drivers behind them further up the leaderboard, including Bird who managed to jump to P4, with Vergne not far behind.
As the safety car went back into the pits, the drama restarted. Bird started aggressively chasing Abt to challenge for third position but, to the team’s dismay, his car began to slow on track with 27 laps remaining.
“I’ve got no power guys, nothing,” Bird was overheard telling his Race Engineer on the team radio. As the second safety car of the race was deployed, Bird was forced to retire from his home ePrix, the race which he won last year. It was later revealed that the fault was down to a mechanical issue with the throttle.
The race continued during the pitstop when Vergne, at this stage running in P4, benefited from great work from the team to exit narrowly ahead of Heidfeld to claim P3. He continued to defend his position fiercely and it was looking like Vergne’s second podium of the weekend until his car also began to slow just moments before crossing the finish line. It quickly became clear that a miscalculation of energy had lost Vergne his podium position and he finished in P8.
The season has seen many highs and lows for the DS Virgin Racing team but with four podiums and four pole positions, the hard work of the team is not lost on Team Principal, Alex Tai: “Today didn’t go our way but over the course of the season, we’ve proved that we have two fantastically fast and talented drivers. I’d also like to thank my team of engineers and mechanics who have been exceptional and worked out how to make this car win. We know the car is fast, as our four pole positions this season proved, but we now need to turn it into a car that can achieve consistent race wins as well. We’re confident of doing that next year.”
For Sam Bird it was a disappointing end to what had otherwise been a successful season. Up until the recent Berlin ePrix, Bird was still a genuine championship contender: “It’s a disappointing way to finish and a shame that we couldn’t hold on to third place in the Drivers’ Championship. But the season’s over now and I think if you’d told us after Beijing that we’d have a P3 in the Teams’ Championship then we’d have taken it. It’s an improvement on last season and now it’s a case of pushing on again.”
Jean-Eric Vergne was disappointed not to pick up his second podium of the weekend: “It is really frustrating that we weren’t able to get another podium today. I was pushing hard in the second half of the race and unfortunately the team miscalculated how much energy we had left. These things happen in motor racing but I think the last few races for me have been pretty good.”
Xavier Mestalen Pinon, Director of DS Performance, also had a positive reflection on the team’s season:
“We know we can be better but it’s also good to look back on how much we have improved. The partnership with Virgin has been an effective one and it’s been a question of understanding what both parties have to offer and taking the best of both worlds. It’s time to look ahead to next season and I’m really looking forward to it.”
The third season of the FIA Formula E Championship will start on 9th October in Hong Kong.