Sam Bird has taken his second win of the ABB FIA Formula E Championship season in Saturday afternoon’s inaugural Rome E-Prix following a retirement for long-time race leader Felix Rosenqvist.
The DS Virgin Racing driver took the lead on lap 23 of 33 after running second behind Mahindra Racing’s Rosenqvist for the first part of the race when the Swede retired with what appeared to be a broken left-rear wheel.
It was Bird’s seventh victory in Formula E and moves him into second place in the drivers’ standings, 18 points behind leader Jean-Eric Vergne.
Vergne claimed fifth position after a subdued race in his Techeetah Renault Z.E. 17.
While he looked set to have to defend from a tense lead battle in the closing laps, a lock-up from Mitch Evans prevented both the Panasonic Jaguar Racing driver and Lucas di Grassi from challenging for the lead.
This gave the Brit a slightly clearer track for the last couple of laps while di Grassi, Evans and Andre Lotterer battled it out for the final podium positions.
Evans ended up finishing down in ninth after running out of energy in the closing laps, preventing Jaguar from taking its second podium finish.
Di Grassi came across the line 0.970 seconds down on Bird while Lotterer completed the podium for Techeetah.
The Audi Sport ABT Schaeffler pilot is under investigation for a possible pit stop infraction, however.
Two brief full course yellows were called during the race, one to collect Rosenqvist and another after Alex Lynn was stranded in the escape road after an incident-filled day for the DS Virgin driver.
Lynn had contact with the barriers in the closing stages of both Free Practice sessions while he picked up damage in the first few corners, forcing him to pit on the second lap.
The start was relatively clean despite the tight hairpin serving as the first corner, although a pile-up did occur later in the race at the hairpin.
It involved Edoardo Mortara, Luca Filippi, Oliver Turvey and Nick Heidfeld, all of whom were able to get going again under their own power.
Nelson Piquet Jr., after topping the opening practice session on Saturday morning, lost considerable time with a belts problem following his pit stop and eventually retired.
Fourth place was Audi’s Daniel Abt who also got an extra point for taking the VISA Fastest Lap on the final tour.
Sebastien Buemi, who looked at one stage to be in line for a podium charge, dropped back with an apparent issue and rounded out the top six.
RESULTS: Rome E-Prix