Sam Bird: 2018/19 Formula E changes guarantee new challenges
Envision Virgin Racing's Sam Bird believes that Formula E's changes for its fifth season of competition will bring additional driving challenges ahead of the opening round of the 2018/19 campaign.
For Season Five, Formula E sees a technical revolution, starting a new chapter in its relatively short history, with the first generation Spark SRT 01E car being replaced by the all-new Gen2 machine.
While a change in racing machinery is one thing, the format of the championship has been redefined, with the car's more durable battery meaning that drivers will no longer have to swap cars mid-race, placing increased emphasis and importance on battery management while a change to timed races of 45 minutes + one lap adds further unpredictability.
Through the introduction of the all-new Attack Mode feature to the championship, the series heads to the inaugural Ad Diriyah E-Prix facing a world of unknowns and for Bird, when pairing this with the prediction of seeing a more competitive grid in Season Five, will be nothing short of a challenge:
“I still find it hard to believe this weekend is going to be my 46th Formula E race!” he said.
“Having said that, I’m just as excited as I was ahead of the inaugural race in Beijing four years ago as it signals the start of the next chapter in electric racing.
"Since the summer, the team has been working so hard to get everything prepared for the opening race.
"Pre-season testing showed this series is even more competitive than ever, and with a new race format and elements like Attack Mode to contend with, it’s certainly going to be a challenge.
"However, it’s one the whole team is looking forward to an I know Robin [Frijns] and myself can’t wait to get behind the wheel and see what we can do," he added.
In Season Three, Bird was a strong candidate for the Drivers' Championship, keeping Techeetah's Jean-Eric Vergne within reach up until the penultimate round of the season in New York City, with the Frenchman ultimately taking the title while the Briton dropped to third in the standings after a difficult weekend.
Following the departure of Alex Lynn from the team's driver lineup, Bird will be partnered by Formula E returnee Robin Frijns while, following an end of season split with DS Automobiles, Virgin will be a customer team of Audi, using the German marque's e-tron FE05 powertrain for the 2018/19 season.
“It’s great to be returning to Formula E and I’m looking forward to my first race with the Envision Virgin Racing Team, said Frijns.
"We’ve just completed three days of simulator work which has gone well, and the track looks good, but for sure it’s going to be an interesting first round for everyone with so many new elements to get on top off. Either way, it should be a great spectacle for the fans.”
The 2018/19 Formula E campaign will commence on December 15 with the inaugural Ad Diriyah E-Prix.