Sam Bird says that all the pressure is on his title rival Jean-Eric Vergne heading into the ABB FIA Formula E Championship title decider in New York this weekend.
Bird sits 23 points adrift of his former DS Virgin Racing teammate with 59 points available at the double-header round in Red Hook, New York.
Bird has scored two victories to Vergne’s three this season, claiming wins in Hong Kong and Rome but the DS Virgin driver believes that as the underdog this weekend he has nothing to lose in his pursuit of a first ever single-seater championship success.
“If I were him I would be terrified of close-quarter racing because one clip at the front or contact at the rear or even just a lock-up can put you in the barrier,” Bird told e-racing365.
“The thought of him having a bad Saturday must almost keep him awake at night because if that happens and I have a good Saturday he has to deliver the following day.
“So, he might easily be in the position where he has to dig deep on Sunday to win this thing. For sure all the pressure is on JEV.”
Bird and Vergne had an occasionally tetchy relationship when they partnered together at DS Virgin during the 2015-16 season.
Matters came to a head at the inaugural Paris E-Prix when the pair made contact while disputing second position.
Allied to a fraught relationship between Vergne and then DS Virgin Team Principal Alex Tai, the pair’s relationship became strained for a short period of time following the Paris race.
Bird though thinks that their rivalry now is more cordial and respectful mainly due to Vergne’s acceptance that his Formula 1 career came to a premature conclusion in 2014.
“I think his personal psyche is in a much better place than when he was my teammate,” said Bird. “He was on a bit of an emotional rollercoaster and he’s put those demons to rest, so good for him.
“It must be hard leaving Formula 1 and getting released from that particular program he was on. You must get a bit vulnerable in your own head but he’s come through it and he’s a strong driver.
“If there are any mental cracks I guess we will find out this weekend, but he is world-class and he is leading it.
“There is no real hardship between us. What happened in Paris [in 2016] was unfortunate. It could all have been controlled a bit better by everyone. But there are no issues now.”
The last time that Vergne was involved in a title fight ended with controversy in October 2011.
He was battling rival Robert Wickens for the World Series by Renault 3.5 championship, but the pair collided early in the race giving the current IndyCar driver the crown.
Bird though thinks any desperate tactics that could result in contact from Vergne are unlikely this weekend.
“I believe that we will both want to win it fair and square rather than who can destroy another one’s race by shoving them in the wall,” said Bird.