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3 April 2017

DS Virgin advance thanks to podium for Sam

DS Virgin Racing moved up to third in the Formula E standings thanks to a podium by Sam in a tense and dramatic race at the Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez in Mexico City.

Ferrari drivers celebrate on the Bahrain podium

The closing stages of the race saw Sam and team-mate Jose Maria Lopez in a chasing pack hunting down leaders Lucas di Grassi and Jerome D'Ambrosio, who had gambled on early pitstops under caution and were trying to stretch the energy capacities of their second cars far beyond normal limits.

While di Grassi was able to nurse his car home for the win, D'Ambrosio's attempt to follow him in was foiled by late-race overtakes from Jean-Eric Vergne and Sam.

The DS Virgin Racing team had suffered a challenging practice but bounced back to see Sam qualify fifth from the disadvantageous group one, which ran on a dusty track, ahead of championship leader Sebastien Buemi and di Grassi. Lopez qualified second from the other group.

Both emerged unscathed from a chaotic second lap, with Lopez leading the race until the late stops by di Grassi and D'Ambrosio shuffled him back to third. Good energy management allowed the DS Virgin pair to pit a lap later than many other teams, giving them a shorter stint in their second cars and allowing them to use energy more freely.

For a while it looked as though a one-two finish was possible as D’Ambrosio was struggling for energy in second place. After fighting with D’Ambrosio for a number of laps, Lopez tried an overtake but lost the rear of the car in the dust and spun off track, losing a number of places.

A drawn out battle between Sam and Vergne saw their cars coming very close at times. With D’Ambrosio losing more energy, Sam pounced on the penultimate lap with an superb drifting move around the outside into the Turn 3 right-hander to secure his podium place. Shortly after, a collision in the stadium section involving multiple cars meant that Lopez finished the race in sixth place.

Afterwards Sam said: “It was a good race for TV and for Formula E - a race like this was fantastic. All the drama, lots of things going on, ups and downs, you don’t know what’s going to happen next.

"I think it’s really good for the championship. I was happy with the move I pulled on Jerome. I watched the battle between Jerome and JEV and I was in the mix as well.

"The team have done a good job - we struggled in FP2, so to come back with a third place is pretty strong."

Team Principal Alex Tai said: “I’m delighted with the performance of the team today, despite the fact that a 1st and 2nd didn’t materialise. Challenging engineering and strategy decisions were correctly judged and both drivers showed their ability throughout the day. We can move forward to Monaco with a deserved increase in confidence.”

The result leaves Sam in fifth place in the championship, with the next race set for May 13 in Monaco - a venue that has proved a happy hunting ground for the Englishman in the past.