Bird tops opening day of Formula E testing as Mercedes, Porsche struggle
Virgin Racing’s Sam Bird set the pace on the opening day of Formula E pre-season testing in Valencia, less than a tenth of a second clear of Maxi Günther who impressed on his debut for the BMW Andretti team.
Despite the Circuit Ricardo Tormo not being fully representative of a regular Formula E race track, the usual names you’d expect to see still featured heavily at the top of the timesheets.
Behind Bird was Antonio Felix da Costa making his debut for the DS Techeetah team, and he placed just ahead of new team-mate and defending champion Jean-Eric Vergne with Jaguar’s Mitch Evans sandwiched in between them in fourth.
Elsewhere the Nissan pair of Sebastien Buemi and Oliver Rowland demonstrated their car’s potential with the sixth and seventh quickest laps, just ahead of Mahindra returnee Pascal Wehrlein, Robin Frijns in the second Virgin car and Audi mainstay Daniel Abt.
Andre Lotterer was the lead Porsche car but his time was only quick enough for 14th place, with team-mate and Formula E returnee Neel Jani down in 21st ahead of the Mercedes pair of Stoffel Vandoorne and Nyck de Vries.
The other debutants in Valencia were former Toro Rosso F1 driver Brendon Hartley who was 18th in the Dragon Racing car and Jaguar’s James Calado who was 20th despite clocking up 48 laps – the third-highest total of the day.
It was a challenging return for last season’s bottom team NIO who revealed a new livery this morning and the return of Chinese driver Ma Qing Hua to race alongside Oliver Turvey.
The Englishman’s best lap of 1:16.867 was only good enough for 19th quickest, while Ma was rooted to the foot of the timesheets with a time four seconds off the overall pace.
It’s worth noting that historically the times on day one of pre-season testing are rarely representative of the overall competitive order, and a slow start doesn’t necessarily mean a slow car.
The likes of Mercedes and Porsche will be keen to have a trouble-free day and continue their learning when testing resumes for a second day tomorrow at the Circuit Ricardo Tormo.
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