Sam Bird is one of the most successful drivers in Formula E history, and the Brit has a sensational record of winning the first race at various locations across the globe. Bird won Formula E’s inaugural races in Putrajaya, New York City, Hong Kong and Diriyah, and added Rome to the list on 14 April 2018.
With over 45,000 fans watching at the Circuito Cittadino dell'EUR, the residential and business district of Rome, Bird qualified second behind polesitter Felix Rosenqvist, before taking the lead on lap 22 after his Swedish rival was forced to retire from the race with a broken rear-left suspension.
Bird’s future teammate, Rome specialist Mitch Evans, threatened the lead with four laps to go, before a depletion in energy saw the New Zealander overtaken by Lucas di Grassi and Andre Lotterer in the final stages of the race.
The win for Bird was his second of Season 4, a season where he would eventually finish third in the championship behind Lucas di Grassi and Jean-Eric Vergne.
The first Rome race of the Gen2 era took place a year later on 13 April 2019, and more history was made when Mitch Evans won his - and Jaguar’s, first Formula E race. After showing his pace in Season 4, Evans continued his Italian momentum by qualifying second, behind Techeetah’s Andre Lotterer.
Forget a cat and mouse battle, the eventual race turned into a jaguar chasing a cheetah through the streets of Rome, with Evans and Lotterer showcasing their electrifying speed to a packed crowd.
After both drivers stayed away from a huge collision between multiple cars at the beginning of the race, Evans stalked Lotterer in the opening laps before making his move with an overtake on lap 18. The Kiwi kept cool to hold off Lotterer and earn his first win in Rome.
After a break in 2020 due to the COVID-hit Season 6, Formula E returned to Rome for a double-header on 10 + 11 April 2021. In the first round of action, Stoffel Vandoorne claimed the Julius Baer Pole Position, but soon lost the lead after a collision with Andre Lotterer.
What followed was one of the best races of the season, with multiple overtakes and thrilling action taking place all over the track. When Oliver Rowland was forced to take a drive through penalty from first place, it was left to Formula E legends Jean-Eric Vergne and Lucas di Grassi to battle for the lead.
Both showed their considerable skill both offensively and defensively, and it looked like di Grassi, the Season 3 champion, was going to collect yet another win after overtaking Vergne with seven laps to go.
A dramatic final ensued however, as a suspected driveshaft failure saw di Grassi drop down the grid, while just behind, the Mercedes cars of Nyck de Vries, and polesitter Vandoorne collided to force both out of the race.
With chaos happening all around, Vergne remained calm to earn his 10th Formula E victory. Just behind, Jaguar pair Sam Bird and Mitch Evans joined up on the podium, having made up a combined total of 18 places in the race.
The next day, Vandoorne earned Rome redemption after yet another drama-filled race. Nick Cassidy earned his first pole position to start first, but his lead lasted just moments into the race after he locked up and spun just past the first corner.
Vandoorne, who had achieved his first Formula E podium in Rome two years before and had suffered a miserable day just 24 hours previously, seized momentum to earn one of the most significant wins of his career.
Using the power of ATTACK MODE, plus his own racing ingenuity, the Belgian reeled in Norman Nato and Pascal Wehrlein and proceeded to boss the race before finishing first despite a frenetic final lap.
After his first Formula E win in 2019, Mitch Evans had emerged as one of the very best drivers in the championship in the subsequent three years. Despite this, few believed Evans would dominate both Rome races in Season 8, especially given the new Duels qualifying format in Formula E.
Starting ninth on the grid, Evans navigated through a race which was extended by over five minutes due to safety car incidents early on in the action. Combining both patience, opportunism and just raw speed, Evans carved through the field to eventually win 5.7 seconds clear of nearest rival Robin Frijns.
While his Saturday win was indicative of excellent energy management and supremely well-timed ATTACK MODE activations, the victory on Sunday showcased Evans’ excellent defensive qualities too.
Evans won from fourth this time around, with several unforgettable attacks allowing him to reach first place despite the wealth of talent above him. After once again using ATTACK MODE to his advantage, Evans was required to use his defensive nous on the final lap against a charging Jean-Eric Vergne.
After coming into Rome with just a solitary point from the opening races of the season, Evans eventually left with 50 points to become a bona fide championship contender.
With three wins and four podiums from four Rome races, can Mitch Evans succeed again in Italy this weekend at the 2023 Hankook Rome E-Prix? Keep up to date with the first GEN3 Rome races on fiaformulae.com.