Sam Bird picked up where he left off on Saturday to take a double victory in New York despite an intermediate challenge from the Mahindra pair of Nick Heidfeld and Felix Rosenqvist, who used an early pit-stop call to keep themselves in the hunt.
A mandatory ten spot ten spot grid penalty for Nelson Piquet for a component change saw a shuffling of the order.
A great start from Bird wasn’t good enough to hold out a hard-charging Rosenqvist who benefitted from starting on the clean side of the track, however it was Daniel Abt again who was the chief victim of first lap histrionics, his ABT Schaeffler Audi rear wheel guard damaged and needing repair. Jean-Eric too experienced damage and set about fighting his way back from the rear.
Heidfeld immediately slotted into third with Formula E new boy Pierre Gasly two seconds arrears in fourth as the virtual safety car was enacted to cover the damage at the start. Lucas Di Grassi found himself in eighth with a lot of work to do to chase down a championship dangling in front of his visor.
Just as all looked clear, Mitch Evans threw his Jaguar into the barriers after locking a right-front brake. The contact was minimal but the New Zealander was now finding it difficult to engage reverse.
Gasly found himself in trouble going through turn ten being the first one to see the full course yellow – immediately lifting and catching out Nick Heidfeld, who in turn nearly found himself acquainted with Sam Bird’s gearbox as the course once again went green.
Bird was now in maximum attack mode, catching out Rosenqvist with an opportunist dive down the inside to take the lead. Rosenqvist was about to slot in behind Bird when Heidfeld – not wanting to miss the party – was already at his team mate’s side-pod. Felix was wiser for it though and chose to preserve team harmony and settle for third – for the time being.
Frijns – another driver to suffer a grid penalty – was conserving energy in the hope of leap-frogging the field while Di Grassi had taken Dillman for sixth and now had his sights on usurping Turvey for fifth. The Brazilian made his move on the NEXTEV driver within a lap, but now had to gap Gasly who was a further eight seconds up the road.
Maro Engel rolled the dice with an early car change on lap 15 but in doing so had dropped to eighteenth. Meanwhile Vergne was now flying and up to twelfth while Rosenqvist pegged Bird to the tune of 1.3 seconds.
Alex Lynn suffered the ignominy of stopping on track, but his misfortune initiated a flood of pit-stops with drivers taking advantage of the less time that would be lost during a car change.
Those caught out were Sarrazin and Vergne, but could at least console themselves with having more energy at the run to the flag. Bird and Frijns chose to stay out however, with both drivers building a gap and taking advantage of using less energy under the virtual safety car. Which strategy would be the ace in the hole would remain to be seen.
At the fall of the green Di Grassi was the quickest driver on track, but Bird used the restart to his advantage by pulling out a three-second gap over Rosenqvist without eating too much into his energy reserves. Life wouldn’t get any better for Felix, with Heidfeld once again stealing a position from his team mate to take second. The ease of the move however suggested that team orders might be at play in an attempt to hunt down Bird.
Ironically, in completing the move, it enabled Bird to pull out another second on the Mahindra pair and was never headed to take his second victory of the weekend. A double fifth place for Di Grassi may not have been the weekend he was looking for whilst Sebastien Buemi was away, but nevertheless were crucial points (halving the gap to Buemi) in what will undoubtedly be a tight championship battle.
Images: FIA Formula E and Techeetah
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