Bird wins thrilling Rome ePrix after Rosenqvist retirement
Rosenqvist got away well from pole position and opened up a gap of just under 3 seconds over Bird in the first stage of the race. Bird was able to close within a second of Rosenqvist approaching the pitstops, but the Swede was able to pit and rejoin ahead.
A full course yellow briefly brought a pause to the race as Alex Lynn’s stricken DS Virgin car needed to be removed following contact with the wall on lap 18. Once the racing had resumed, Bird began to up his pace in an attempt to close down Rosenqvist, and he soon was in the lead as the Swede was forced out with suspension damage following a heavy hit on the kerbs on lap 23 of 33.
“In all honesty, if [Rosenqvist] hadn’t made that mistake he would have won,” said Bird immediately after the race.
“We’ve won some good ones. London, New York and now Rome. A lot of people tried a lap longer strategy today, which looked like the optimum strategy, but we hung on in there.”
Jaguar Racing’s Mitch Evans then became Bird’s main contender but he was passed by Audi’s Lucas Di Grassi with two laps to go as the Kiwi had used up too much energy chasing down Bird earlier on.
Di Grassi, running a conservative first stint, had more usable energy remaining and used it to close in and attack Bird. With both drivers dueling for their seventh career win, Bird had just enough to pique Di Grassi and took the chequered flag by just under a second.
Andre Lotterer finished third for Techeetah after passing Evans on the last lap. Lotterer was one of a few drivers to go conservative in the first stint before using his extra energy to attack in the closing stages. He and Evans went nose to tail for a few laps before Lotterer was able to squeeze past as Evans’ energy ran critically low.
Dabiel Abt took advantage of Audi’s decision to pit a lap later, ending up with the most usable energy of the front-runners in the closing laps. He closed in on the battle for third and inherited fourth when Evans faded.
Championship leader Jean-Eric Vergne had a quiet afternoon after starting the race in eighth. Vergne survived contact behind from Alex Lynn on the first lap, but his progress thereon was slow and he was never in contention for the lead. He made his way up to sixth after the pitstops before passing Renault e.dams’ Sebasien Buemi in the closing stages to take fifth.
Dragon’s Jerome d’Ambrosio was running last at the end of lap one and was the last driver in the field to pit, sacrificing track position to have more usable energy in the latter part of the race. The strategy paid off for massively for D’Ambrosio and he was able to cross the finish line in seventh place.
Venturi scored their first double points finish since race two in Hong Kong last December, with Maro Engel and Edoardo Mortara finishing in eighth and tenth place.
After seeing his podium hopes ended on the last lap, Jaguar’s Evans limped home to take the flag in ninth.
Andretti’s Antonio Felix da Costa recovered from a last row start and a time penalty to finish just outside the points in 11th. Jose Maria Lopez looked on course for a strong recovery drive from the back row for Dragon Racing, but retired with suspension damage just two laps to go and was classified 17th.
After two crashes during practice, DS Virgin’s Alex Lynn completed a wretched weekend with damage on the opening lap before retiring from the race on lap 18 after contact with the wall.
Image Credit: DS Virgin Racing
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