Sam Bird has described losing his full-season FIA World Endurance Championship drive with AF Corse due to calendar uncertainty for the ABB FIA Formula E Championship as ‘frustrating’.
The Envision Virgin Racing Formula E driver was forced to relinquish his season-long seat alongside Davide Rigon at AF Corse to Miguel Molina earlier this month.
This was because Ferrari had to confirm a driver that could give 100 percent commitment to its WEC campaign and attend all of the eight dates on the 2019-20 schedule, which was announced a year ago.
E-racing365 understands that, while some drivers who compete in both disciplines such as Sebastien Buemi and Brendon Hartley have clearer protocols for managing potential date clashes, Bird has been hamstrung by his contract ceasing at the end of 2018-19 WEC ‘Super Season’.
With no clarity issued by Formula E on its definitive calendar, which originally included three clashes with WEC over the course of the season, Bird and AF Corse were unable to commit to a new WEC deal.
Since that time, moving the 6 Hours of Spa from May 2 to April 25 reduced the potential clash threat to two dates: Formula E’s still TBA Dec. 14 and March. 21 dates, which clash with WEC rounds at Bahrain and Sebring.
Bird says that while he and Ferrari remain on ‘really good terms’, the decision left him feeling sad and frustrated.
“I’m obviously very disappointed that I won’t be taking part in the WEC this season with the No. 71 squad at Ferrari and especially so because it is all circumstances that I have little or no influence over,” Bird told e-racing365.
“But I fully understand Ferrari’s position and likewise they know the situation I was faced with.
“There are no hard feelings between us and we remain on really good terms for possible future work together. It’s just left me really sad and frustrated to be honest.”
Bird described his frustration over his contractual situation as “enormously annoying” and reiterated his disappointment in being given no option but to bow out of his WEC seat.
“The fact that the calendar [in Formula E] has taken so long to be firmed up this year has effectively cost me a job, there’s no hiding that fact,” said Bird.
“It was a role I loved at Ferrari and one I had a lot of success in.
“The issues with the calendars and potential clashes created havoc for me and my [contractual] situation. That’s just the way it is but it is enormously annoying, as you can imagine.”
Bird also said that lessons from the previous clash between Formula E and WEC in July 2017 were learned.
“I’m not into pointing fingers and criticizing anyone because I know that these things are never easy to get 100 percent in place, especially in Formula E on city tracks.
“But what is especially frustrating is that we went through all this two years ago with the New York and Nürburgring clash.
“After that everyone says it shouldn’t happen again and we will talk and structure things so it won’t happen, then it does.
“There were initially these three clashes and now we are at point where it is three months to the first race and still we don’t know the full picture of how many there will or won’t be.”