Sam Bird seals NEOM McLaren's first win with last-gasp stunner in São Paulo

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Sam Bird seals NEOM McLaren's first win with last-gasp stunner in São Paulo

Sam Bird sealed one of the most dramatic victories in Formula E history in the São Paulo E-Prix Round 4, with a stunning final-lap move on former teammate Mitch Evans (Jaguar TCS Racing) to secure NEOM McLaren's first victory in the World Championship and his first with the team.

Sam Bird wins McLaren's first Formula E race in Sao Paulo

Bird had hit the front early on, through the first round of ATTACK MODE activations, keeping polesitter and early leader Pascal Wehrlein (TAG Heuer Porsche) at bay to lead a pack with no breathing room between them - scarcely at any point through the encounter was there more than a handful of seconds between the top 15, and often just three second split the top 10 runners.

RESULTS: The São Paulo E-Prix Round 4 classification

The lead shuffled between Bird, the Porsches of Wehrlein and his Porsche teammate Antonio Felix da Costa, the Jaguar of Mitch Evans and Jake Dennis (Andretti) as the race ebbed and flowed. The chat pre-race was of an energy-critical encounter with the Anhembi Sambadrome Circuit's long straights and sweeping curves. Two Safety Car periods - including one for the recovery of standings leader Nick Cassidy's Jaguar when the Kiwi hit the wall in dramatic fashion on Lap 16 - turned the remainder of the race into a straight sprint to the finish.

As the laps ticked down, Bird and Evans looked to hold the advantage. Despite Dennis in third keeping 1.5% usable energy in-hand on the lead pair, his car was running too hot to capitalise. Inside the final seven laps, including three added on for those periods under the Safety Car, Evans appeared to have done enough with a move around the outside of Bird at Turn 3 for P1.

However, the McLaren driver was not done. All too aware he'd not won since Formula E's trip to New York City in 2021, he couldn't resist a last-ditch manoeuvre on his old sparring partner and Jaguar teammate for the top step of the podium. Bird went all the way around the outside of Turn 10 - his last chance to make something stick - and hung on to take the inside line and the lead into Turn 11, steering to the win with Evans just half a second back. Most certainly one of the best moves and best finishes to a race in Formula E's 10-season history.

Dennis' temperatures were critical, and the Porsche-powered Andretti had to manage things to the finish, allowing Oliver Rowland (Nissan) to capitalise as the reigning champion tried to fend off Wehrlein. Yorkshireman Rowland was able to slice by both at the last corner, beating the pair in a sprint to the finish to third, with Wehrlein edging Dennis for fourth.

Antonio Felix da Costa (TAG Heuer Porsche) rounded out the top six, while Brazilian home heroes Lucas di Grassi (ABT CUPRA) and Sergio Sette Camara (ERT) could only manage 13th and 16th respectively in a race that included 212 competitive overtakes.

All that meant Cassidy's lead at the top of the standings has been chopped into in a big way thanks to his crash and non-score. Wehrlein finds himself just three points back on 53 points, with Evans third on 39 in the Drivers' World Championship. In the Teams' Jaguar TCS Racing head TAG Heuer Porsche, 96 points to 61.

As it happened...

Wehrlein started sharply to lead with Vandoorne following as you were into Turn 1 in second, with Evans jumping Vergne for third. Porsche's da Costa made a demon launch, gaining two spots to sixth off-the-line and defending hard from Mortara's Mahindra to hold that spot over Lap 1.

Leader Wehrlein and second-placed Vandoorne were the first of the front-runners to jump for the first of their two mandatory 50kW ATTACK MODE power boosts on Lap 3. Both went for two of their eight minute allocation, meaning six to come for them next time around. Meanwhile, da Costa was able to clamber through the top six to inherit top spot, briefly, with NEOM McLaren's Sam Bird jumping by that same lap into P1 - taking ATTACK a lap later and holding da Costa and Wehrlein at bay as the Porsches fought between themselves.

The lead group squabbled constantly, as each looked to maximise their energy consumption while keeping pace with leader Bird. Evans had briefly taken third before losing it at Turn 1 on Lap 6 to Wehrlein, meaning it was Bird from da Costa, Wehrlein, Evans, Vergne, Vandoorne, Cassidy, Mortara, Dennis and Rowland the top 10 as it stood - until Bird took ATTACK on Lap 7, shuffling the Brit back to fourth and da Costa to the lead.

A Safety Car was required for the recovery of a rogue Andretti front wing as Nato hit di Grassi as the pack squeezed through the first chicane. The Brazilian also lost his front wing, while standings leader Cassidy gave the front of his car a nudge into the same corner at the start of Lap 8 - the racing beyond tight in the pack with less than three seconds splitting the top 10.

Just a lap later, the pack was released with green flag conditions once more, while a flurry of drivers took ATTACK MODE, including each of the top three, allowing Bird to filter into second. That would be P1 for the McLaren driver a lap later as prior leader Evans jumped for his first ATTACK MODE boost - the race unfolding nicely for Bird on Lap 10, with four places his gain from the start.

That gap between the top 10 runners wouldn't get any bigger than it was prior to the Safety Car, with less than three the gap between Bird out front and Mueller in 10th. 

Yet more lead changes followed as da Costa and Evans hit the front then dropped back into the mix with their second ATTACK MODE activations - but Jake Dennis had been quietly slicing his way through the from 10th on the grid at the start to the lead on Lap 12. The Andretti driver still had one ATTACK MODE to use, but did have energy in-hand on those around him according to his race engineer.

Lap 16 saw a huge moment, with Drivers' World Championship leader Cassidy's three-race podium streak coming to an abrupt end as the Jaguar driver smashed into the wall through Turn 9 as he slid wide at speed - his front wing finally falling loose beneath his front wheels. He had been on the cusp of the top six.

Through the clamour before the Safety Car, Bird managed to retake the lead and had a half-a-percent of usable energy in-hand over Evans, now in second. Max Guenther had recovered as high as ninth at the half-way stage, having served a stop/go penalty after also being sent to the back of the grid for the race after his gearbox and inverter were changed. Some effort.

Lap 20 saw the green flag fly again, with Bird heading Evans, Wehrlein, Dennis, da Costa, Vergne, Rowland, Vandoorne, Guenther and Buemi were the top 10 - with all bar the Swiss having used both 50kW ATTACK MODE boosts, making for a sprint to the finish.

As the laps ticked down, Bird and Evans looked to hold the advantage. Despite Dennis in third keeping 1.5% usable energy in-hand on the lead pair, his car was running too hot to capitalise. Inside the final seven laps, including three added on for those periods under the Safety Car, Evans appeared to have done enough with a move around the outside of Bird at Turn 3 for P1.

However, the McLaren driver was not done. All too aware he'd not won since Formula E's trip to New York City in 2021, he couldn't resist a last-ditch manoeuvre on his old sparring partner and Jaguar teammate for the top step of the podium. Bird went all the way around the outside of Turn 10 - his last chance to make something stick - and hung on to take the inside line and the lead into Turn 11, steering to the win with Evans just half a second back. Most certainly one of the best moves and best finishes to a race in Formula E's 10-season history.

Dennis' temperatures were critical, and the Porsche-powered Andretti had to manage things to the finish, allowing Oliver Rowland (Nissan) to capitalise as the reigning champion tried to fend off Wehrlein. Yorkshireman Rowland was able to slice by both at the last corner, beating the pair in a sprint to the finish to third, with Wehrlein edging Dennis for fourth.