Virgin Racing are now in third place in the overall Formula E Championship standings after a strong drive from Jean-Eric Vergne was enough to push the team one spot further up the leaderboard. Vergne’s performance also saw Virgin Racing secure their fourth Pole Position of the season, surpassing any other team.
“We have two very talented drivers and now it’s looking like we have a fast car, we now have more pole positions than any other team and we have just knocked Dragon Racing off third spot in the championship” – Alex Tai, Virgin Racing Team Principal.
Virgin Racing drivers Jean-Eric Vergne and Sam Bird finished P5 and P11 respectively at today’s Berlin ePrix. The day got off to a flying start for the team after Free Practice 1 and Free Practice 2 went without a hitch, they watched as Jean-Eric Vergne topped the time sheet during Qualifying and then went on to claim Pole Position in Superpole giving the team their third Pole Position in a row after Long Beach and Paris.
Vergne’s teammate Sam Bird also had a strong Qualifying lap that put him in P6, just one spot short of Superpole – a slight disappointment for the Brit who claimed his third Pole Position of the season in Paris. However, shortly before the cars were due to line up on the grid, it was announced that both Mahindra Drivers Bruno Senna and Nick Heidfeld (who qualified in P4 and P5) would be excluded due to an error with tyre pressures, bumping Bird up to a P4 grid starting position.
It was a dramatic start to the Berlin ePrix that saw Vergne lose his first place position to Sebastien Buemi after just a few seconds, reclaim it less a minute later, only to lose it once more. Vergne had two small collisions during the first half of the race with bollards whilst fending off Buemi that saw him clip both his front end plates, but luckily this happened just prior to his pit-stop and he was able to switch cars without further drama and despite dropping down a few places to finish P5, Vergne remains content with his final position.
“When you start in Pole Position you want to win the race and today was no exception but Buemi is extremely quick. I knew when he overtook me for the second time that he was gone and I wouldn’t be able to catch him,” explains Vergne. “I also think the other drivers that overtook me were also quick. We did great to get Pole Position and I think it goes to show just what a good job the team have done to improve the car but I also know I couldn’t have done better than 5th place today. I still gained valuable points for the team which has moved us to third in the championship and I’m really pleased with that. It’s what the team deserves.”
Meanwhile, Bird, who was challenging Daniel Abt for third position, was less fortunate after a collision with Abt damaged his front end plate early on in the race. In a decision that been perceived as overly cautious, the Race Director requested that he make a stop to replace the nose. Unhappy with the request Bird engineers tried to challenge the decision but they were unsuccessful.
As Bird came in to pit it became clear that his hopes of remaining a championship contender were coming to an end as he dropped from P4 to P14. “I’m really disappointed with this decision,” says Bird. “I didn’t expect a black flag for such minimal damage, as I said on the radio I don’t believe the front end plate was that lose and that decision means it’s now extremely difficult for me to contend for the driver’s championship.”
In the pit, the nose change went smoothly and was extremely quick but Bird was already down 10 places on his position and was unable to make it back into the top 10, finishing P11. Disappointing for the driver who, had today produced a better result, might have considered himself a quiet contender for the championship title. “I’m really pleased for the team. We’ve wanted to challenge Dragon Racing in the championship for a long time and although today was a disappointment for me, it was a triumph for the team. I will now be focusing on London which will no doubt be an epic finale to the season.”
Team Principal Alex Tai added, “I am extremely proud of both drivers. The decision was an unfortunate one for Sam, who would have no doubt had a fantastic drive had the damage not occurred, however he still showcased his talent by moving up from P14 to P11. Jev excelled during Superpole which proves that we are moving in the right direction. We have two very talented drivers and now it’s looking like we have a fast car, we now have more pole positions than any other team and we have just knocked Dragon Racing off third spot in the championship. London is going to be a big one for us but the team and the drivers are improving with every race and I look forward to what lies ahead. We’re in a good place.”
Head of DS Performance Xavier Mestelan Pinon was also proud of the team’s performance. “It’s becoming clear that we have made major improvements on the car, I am pleased that both drivers have now managed to achieve a pole position with the DSV-01. We are still facing certain challenges that our team are working on but for now I would just like to congratulate the team on their hard work, which as we have seen today, has paid off.”
The London ePrix and season finale will take place on the 2nd and 3rd of July in Battersea Park with a double race weekend to end the season.