After 10 races across four continents, with four pole positions and four podiums, Virgin Racing has proudly claimed third place in the FIA Formula E Teams’ Championship for 2015-16.
The nail-biting finale came down to a competition between the two championship leaders over who could secure fastest lap of the race, but the second day of the Battersea Park double-header 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 in London, spectators watched in shock as title contenders Lucas Di Grassi and Sébastien Buemi collided coming into turn three of 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 started again. Bird started aggressively chasing Abt to challenge for third position when, 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 the event which he won last year. It was later revealed that the fault was down to a mechanical issue with the throttle.
The race continued in 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 JEV’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 contained many highs and lows for the 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 is was a disappointing end to what had otherwise been a successful season. Indeed 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.”
Director of DS Performance, Xavier Mestalen Pinon 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.