Rome ePrix: Bird resists di Grassi in thrilling finish
Sam Bird scored his second victory of the 2017/18 Formula E season after resisting a spirited late charge by reigning champion Lucas di Grassi in the closing stages of an eventful inaugural Rome ePrix.
Poleman Felix Rosenqvist had been in control of the race from the outset, and held a narrow lead over Bird when he stopped on track on lap 22 of 33 after clouting the kerbs at the Turn 18/19 chicane and breaking his rear-left suspension.
That left Bird with a three-second advantage over Mitch Evans, but the Jaguar driver closed up to the race leader within a matter of laps, with Audi's di Grassi following the Kiwi to make it a three-way dice for honours in the closing laps.
Evans made a brave attempt to dive up the inside of Bird at Turn 9 with four laps to go, but the Briton managed to hang on and was able to stretch out a small advantage in the closing laps as Evans turned his attentions to defending from di Grassi and Andre Lotterer.
Two laps later, di Grassi picked off Evans for second at Turn 9, but ran out time to catch Bird, who hung on for a first race win since the Hong Kong season opener by a margin of 0.970s.
Di Grassi finished the race facing an investigation for his car swap procedure, but was later cleared of any wrongdoing.
Video explainer: Mahindra powertrain...
Evans plummeted from third to ninth as he ran out of useable energy on the last lap, promoting Techeetah driver Lotterer to the final spot on the podium.
Daniel Abt was fourth in the second Audi, while Jean-Eric Vergne (Techeetah) limited the damage to his points lead in fifth place ahead of Sebastien Buemi (Renault e.dams).
Jerome d’Ambrosio (Dragon) rose from 18th on the grid to take seventh, ahead of Maro Engel (Venturi), with Edoardo Mortara (Venturi) rounding out the top 10 behind Evans.
Alex Lynn, who damaged his front wing on the opening lap after hitting Vergne, became the race's first retirement when he hit the wall at half-distance.
Nelson Piquet Jr (Jaguar) came to a stop in the pitlane after changing cars, while Jose Maria Lopez (Dragon) ground to a halt out on track late on having caused an earlier pile-up involving Nick Heidfeld's Mahindra and the two NIO cars of Luca Filippi and Oliver Turvey.
Bird moves ahead of Rosenqvist into second in the championship with his win, 18 points behind Vergne.
|1||Sam Bird||Virgin Racing||33 laps|
|2||Lucas di Grassi||Team Abt||0.970|
|4||Daniel Abt||Team Abt||10.167|
|7||Jérôme d'Ambrosio||Dragon Racing||24.379|
|9||Mitch Evans||Jaguar Racing||37.709|
|11||Antonio Felix da Costa||Andretti Autosport||42.680|
|12||Oliver Turvey||NIO Formula E Team||48.833|
|13||Luca Filippi||NIO Formula E Team||49.331|
|15||Tom Blomqvist||Andretti Autosport||1'31.832|
|16||Nick Heidfeld||Mahindra Racing||1'44.774|
|Ret||Jose Maria Lopez||Dragon Racing||-|
|Ret||Felix Rosenqvist||Mahindra Racing||-|
|Ret||Nelson Piquet Jr.||Jaguar Racing||-|
|Ret||Alex Lynn||Virgin Racing||-|
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