‘A race in London is very special’: Formula E driver’s excitement for Royal Docks finale
PUBLISHED: 12:07 24 January 2020 | UPDATED: 12:07 24 January 2020
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“It’s a game of chess played at 150mph.”
That's how Formula E driver Sam Bird views the series he has seen grow from fledgling electric racing championship to one attracting some of motorsport's top teams and talent within just a few years.
And it's that talent that will be on show in front of thousands of fans when the series makes its long-awaited return to London in July with a new track in and around the ExCeL.
"I started in Formula E at the beginning," Bird, speaking during a visit to Manor Park's Salisbury Primary School, explained.
"I was a reserve driver for Mercedes in Formula 1, working with people like Michael Schumacher, Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg.
"It got to a point where being a reserve driver wasn't enough for me."
So Bird decided to join Formula E, a new series aimed at demonstrating the potential of sustainability in motorsport.
"In F1, unless you drive for Mercedes or Ferrari you won't win a race," he said.
"In Formula E, there are 24 cars that can win a race."
Bird has remained with the same team - Envision Virgin Racing - since the series' first race in Beijing back in 2014, but things have steadily changed around him.
Manufacturers Porsche and Mercedes have joined the championship for 2019-20, joining brands such as Audi, Nissan, BMW and Jaguar in having a presence in the series.
His fellow drivers include motorsport veterans such as Felipe Massa, who won 11 races during his F1 career, as well as up-and-coming stars such as reigning Formula 2 champion Nyck De Vries.
Bird's decision to join Formula E at the start has paid off - the 33-year-old is the holder of a unique record.
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"I'm the only driver to have won a race in every season of Formula E," he said.
He's on a total of nine wins, putting him third in the all-time standings, and has another nine podium finishes to his name.
Bird will be hoping to add to that number as the season progresses, visiting cities such as Paris, Jakarta and New York before the final two races take place in London in July.
He is currently third in the championship, just 10 points off the lead - and if he can remain near the top of the standings he will likely be in title contention when the global series rolls into the Royal Docks in the summer.
July's double header will see thousands of fans descend on the ExCeL for two days of action on a circuit that goes both indoors and outdoors - a world first.
"I'm a London boy, I grew up in south London, so to have a race in London is very special," he said.
"We had a race for the first two seasons in London [in Battersea Park] and I was lucky enough to win one of them so to come back to London is amazing.
"It's going to be one of the biggest - if not the biggest - events Formula E has ever seen."
Bird hasn't been able to experience the London E-Prix track on a simulator yet, but has walked around the ExCeL to get an idea of how the circuit will look.
And while driving the tracks on a simulator is a key part of his pre-race preparation, racing requires a lot of physical effort as well.
"I need the strength of a boxer yet the endurance of a runner, but trying to be as light as possible," he said.
"I run 15 to 20km, and then do core and stability and things, and that's six days a week."
It takes around 45 minutes to recharge a Formula E car's batteries using aquafuel - an environmentally friendly fuel that is virtually emission-free.
"It's a sustainable fuel that charges the generators for our batteries," Bird said. "Everything is reusable in the championship."
Tickets for the London E-Prix, on July 25 and 26, start from £15 per day. For more information and to purchase, visit fiaformulae.com
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