15 Nov 19

Envision Virgin Racing: Can the British squad finally secure top spot?

Envision Virgin Racing is one of the most experienced teams in the ABB FIA Formula E Championship, but the British-based outfit is yet to clinch a title despite several near misses. The formidable partnership of Sam Bird and Robin Frijns is back for another season, but is this finally the year for the perennial runners-up to become champions?

Virgin Racing has a rich history of success in Formula E, recording race victories in every single season since the all-electric championship’s inception in 2014. The team has racked up a total of 10 wins, with eight of these achieved by long-term driver Sam Bird, but squad has continually missed out on the Teams’ title.

A trio of third-place overall finishes is an impressive feat for a customer team, but there is ongoing frustration that Virgin have so far failed to make the jump from challengers to champions. A switch from DS to Audi powertrains before the start of 2018/19 was designed to bridge the gap, but the competitiveness of Formula E means this development is yet to bear fruit after the first year of the partnership. The British squad hope this will all change when the 2019/20 season culminates with a double-header in London, and they are surely already dreaming of a maiden title in front of home fans.

In Bird, Virgin boast one of just four drivers to have competed in every single Formula E race (Jerome d’Ambrosio, Lucas di Grassi and Daniel Abt the others) so the Brit’s experience and technical expertise are invaluable. The 32-year-old had a shot at the title in 2017/18, eventually finishing third behind Jean-Eric Vergne and Di Grassi, but tailed away last season after an underwhelming campaign. Victory in Santiago heralded a false dawn for the former LMP2 champion as a post-race penalty deprived him of another win in Hong Kong while reliability issues hampered the rest of his year.

Bird has now recorded championship finishing positions of fifth, fourth, fourth, third and ninth during his time in Formula E and is in danger of being labelled the ‘bridesmaid’ of the series. Teammate Robin Frijns outscored Bird in 2018/19, with the Dutchman picking up wins in Paris and New York as well as further podiums in Marrakesh and Hong Kong on his way to fourth in the standings. The ex-Blancpain GT Series champion is a gritty competitor and more than a match for the established frontrunners of the sustainable series, having proved his worth with several junior single-seater titles. The intra-team battle between Bird and Frijns is certainly one to watch this season.

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