Virgin Racing’s Pechito Packs A Punch In Buenos Aires
- Virgin Racing had high hopes for a good day after very positive performances from its drivers during the free practice sessions
- Early collision saw Sam effectively out of the race by lap 5
- Jose Maria Lopez battled from 18th to 10th in a heroic mid-pack fight to score a valuable point for Virgin Racing
Virgin Racing entered Buenos Aires feeling bullish ahead of the 3rd race of the season. Sam Bird had won on the same track last year, whilst Jose Maria Lopez as the sole Argentinian in the series was the clear crowd favourite. The day however brought mixed fortunes.
Early practice sessions kept team spirits high, with Jose Maria setting the quickest time in FP1 and Sam Bird setting the quickest time in FP2. Changeable grip conditions during qualifying however resulted in Sam lining up in 10th on the starting grid, whilst Lopez hit a wall during qualifying meaning he started the race from 18th.
From the green light however both drivers made it clear they were up for the fight, Bird immediately moving up one place to 9th while Lopez narrowly avoided Adam Carroll, sliding into 17th shortly before a full course yellow halfway through lap 2. By Lap 4 a coming together on a corner saw Bird’s DSV-02 sandwiched against a wall, with critical damage to his rear left suspension. Bird limped through lap 5 and pitted with the intention of moving immediately into his second car in an attempt to salvage something from the race by trying to set the fastest lap. Once out on track Sam almost achieved this, setting the fastest lap time until it was pipped by Felix Rosenqvist in the latter stages of the race. Thereafter Sam continued to put in the quick laps until a slippery track led to a coming together with the wall towards the latter stages of the race.
Meanwhile Jose Maria Lopez rocketed into action, chasing and passing Nick Heidfeld through lap 17 into 15th. He then moved within yards of Daniel Abt, showing a developing skill for energy management as he opted to stay out through lap 19 as most of the pack pitted, eventually returning to the pits himself on a nail biting 1% battery on lap 20.
Rejoining the race, Lap 22 saw Lopez move up to 14th , mounting a second attack on Venturi’s Stephane Sarrazin who he’d jockeyed with in the earlier stages. The crowd were on their feet by lap 31 as a battle erupted between Antonio Felix Da Costa, Sarrazin and Lopez, with cars 3 abreast around turns and Lopez making two bold attempts on inside overtakes and successfully moving through Sarrazin into 13th on lap 32, before going past Robin Frijns up to 11th and eventually 10th place by lap 36. Sebastien Buemi took the chequered flag, with Jean-Eric Vergne second and Lucas Di Grassi 3rd.
Team Principal Alex Tai stated: “It was a tough day on the track for Sam, he showed great pace in the early sessions and had the racing incident been avoided I am sure he would have scored well. I’m delighted with the continuing development of Pechito, the racer in him was truly evident today, I am confident that we will see him gaining racing honours this season. I would also like to thank DS Performance and our engineering team for the continued progression in the pace of our car, if we ca keep this focus the results will come.”
“This was a positive race for Pechito.” said DS Performance director Xavier Mestelan Pinon. “His energy management skill in the late pitting shows his rapid progression as a Formula E driver in just his 3rd race. Meanwhile, whilst Sam’s raceday was unfortunate, his lap times early in the race, combined with Pechito’s latter race pace shows the pace of our DSV-02 car.”
Speaking of the race, Jose Maria Lopez said “I enjoyed moving through the pack today in front of a home crowd. I have renewed confidence in my energy management, and I’m growing in confidence and aggression with every minute I spend in the DSV-02.”
“Today was just one of those things,” said Sam Bird. “However I was pleased with the pace of the car in the early stages. Let’s hope I can take the fight further in Mexico City!”