Formula E: Sam Bird soars to victory in Putrajaya ePrix (VIDEO)

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A nifty early move for the lead and masterful power conservation was the formula for success for Virgin Racing’s Sam Bird, who took tonight’s FIA Formula E race in Putrajaya, Malaysia.

Bird hounded Dragon Racing’s Oriol Servia for the lead following the end of a safety car period at Lap 4. A short time later, Bird made a strong inside cutback on the IndyCar veteran coming out of Turn 3 to get position and take the lead at the right-hand Turn 4.

Another safety car at Lap 9 for an incident involving Andretti’s Franck Montagny and Venturi’s Nick Heidfeld slowed the race once more, but when the green came back out at Lap 12, Bird stretched his lead over TrulliGP’s Jarno Trulli to more than seven seconds and was able to make his power last until Lap 19, when he pitted to swap cars.

When the cycle was complete, Bird found himself second behind Audi Sport Abt’s Daniel Abt, who had a horrible start and swapped cars himself at Lap 12.

At a considerable disadvantage on power, Abt could only hold onto the point for so long and with five laps to go, Bird seized P1 for good. Abt ultimately faded to 10th having to nurse his car home.

“That was mega,” Bird said following the race. “The guys did an amazing job this weekend. We’ve really turned it around from pre-season, and I’ve got to say thanks to these guys for giving me what was an unstoppable car today.

“The first stint, we did the damage, and the second car, I just got it around really – there was no real need to push. I just conserved the energy and I knew other people were pushing and getting closer, but we had it well under control.”

Following Bird in second was Beijing winner/Audi Sport Abt driver Lucas di Grassi and in third, e.dams-Renault’s Sebastien Buemi. di Grassi and Buemi both had to start from the rear of the field; the former for not setting a time due to a qualifying crash, the latter for being penalized (underweight).

The runner-up finish enables di Grassi to keep hold of the points lead by three points over Bird, 43-40, going into the next race in Uruguay on Dec. 13.

“I did a much better race than Beijing,” said di Grassi, who had the September season opener fall into his lap after a last-lap crash involving Heidfeld and Nicolas Prost. “The car performed really well. I had a lot of fights from the beginning of the race to the very end, and to finish second from last is something unbelievable…Coming out as championship leader is a great feeling.”

Prost won the pole for tonight’s race but had to start from 11th place due to a 10-spot penalty for instigating the aforementioned Beijing crash. But like his teammate Buemi, Prost had a good recovery drive to fourth. Ditto for Jerome d’Ambrosio, who also started from the back because of a penalty – in his case, exceeding the maximum power usage in qualifying – but finished fifth.

Karun Chandhok, Oriol Servia, Antonio Felix da Costa, Jaime Alguersuari (who earned bonus points for fastest lap), and Abt rounded out the Top 10. Despite involvement in several incidents during the race, Indy Lights pilot Matthew Brabham gutted out a 13th-place finish for the Andretti camp.

The hard-luck award of the night goes to Bruno Senna, who had passed Prost late for fourth place but then had a big crash at Turn 9 on the final lap of the race. Senna was shown walking away from the accident, but a solid result went by the boards for him; he ended up 14th.

Also being done wrong was Nelson Piquet Jr., who was knocked out at Lap 22 after Trulli pushed him into the wall near Turn 1. This came shortly after Trulli was penalized for energy infringement, for which he had to serve a drive-through (he finished 17th).

Five things to watch for in Bommarito Auto Group 500 at Gateway

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There have been five different winners in the last five weeks of the NTT IndyCar season and driver that kicked off that streak in Elkhart Lake is in desperate need of a victory to help close the points gap to the leader. After being involved in the Lap 1 accident at Pocono Raceway last week, Alexander Rossi sits 35 points behind Josef Newgarden. Rossi’s two victories this season have come on road courses.

This week’s Bommarito Auto Group 500 the World Wide Technology Raceway at Gateway is the third race on this track since IndyCar first revisited it in 2017. Newgarden took the checkers in 2017; Will Power grabbed the glory last year. Gateway also hosted races from 2001-2003.

Here are some of the storylines to watch this Sunday:

  1. For most of the drivers in the field, this will mark only their third time to race at Gateway, but two drivers were around in 2003 when IndyCar visited this track previously. Scott Dixon finished 15th in that race. He found the handle when Indy returned in 2017 to finish second and then third last year. Tony Kanaan was second in 2003; unfortunately he went the other direction and has not scored a top-10 at Gateway since.
  2. If one is looking for perfection on this track type, Simon Pagenaud is the only driver to sweep the top 10 on ovals in the past two years. In his last 10 starts on them, he has garnered an average finish of 5.2; his last five attempts have been sixth or better including a win in this year’s Indy 500. Pagenaud finished third at Gateway in 2017 and was fourth last year.
  3. The top two drivers in the points standings should also challenge for a top-five this week. Rossi was perfect alongside Pagenaud on ovals until his accident last week at Pocono with a sweep of the top 10 and seven top-fives in his last nine races. Newgarden also has nine top-10s and a worst of 13th on ovals in the past two years.
  4. Don’t count Dixon out of the points battle yet. While he currently sits 52 points out of first, Dixon is the hottest driver on the circuit with a current streak of five top-fives to his credit including his victory at Mid-Ohio two weeks ago. His oval record is a little spottier with two runner-up finishes and two 17th-place finishes in the last four races.
  5. Last week’s first-lap carnage ended Rossi’s top-10 streak at seven, but one other driver was able to sneak through and extend his. Graham Rahal will vie for his ninth consecutive top-10 this week, but that success is questionable in light of his Gateway record. Rahal finished 12th in 2017 and was barely able to crack the top 10 in 10th last year.

See More: IndyCar championship contenders seeing fortunes rise and drop

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