How Sam Bird Brought A McLaren Miracle to the Sao Paulo E-Prix

Sam Bird made one of the most incredible moves in Formula E history, but what does that mean for McLaren?
2024 Formula E Sao Paulo
2024 Formula E Sao Paulo / Anadolu/GettyImages

We are just a week past one of the most chaotic races in Formula E history.

For a series that is in its 10th anniversary season, toplining a race with that quote is easier said than done but the last lap pass by Sam Bird really opened up the door for the 2024 season in the series.

Bird, the former Jaguar TCS driver, has had success year in and year out but the past two seasons for the Englishman was quite challenging with the always dominant team he once called home.

In the prior two seasons, Bird scored only four podiums, all coming his third and final seasons, and no race victories in the span of what would be his final two seasons with the program.

So, it was fitting that the pass that he would have to make to win the race at Sao Paulo was against Mitch Evans, who had been Bird's teammate through the entirety of his three stint with Jaguar.

The win would notch McLaren's first victory in the series since switching from Mercedes to the iconic Orange & Black nameplate but this win may be the opening of the flood gates for the remainder of the 2024 campaign.

The Leadup

The build up towards Sao Paulo showed all signs that Jaguar TCS was going to be the team to beat on the weekend.

The Red Bull of Formula E through the first handful of races, Nick Cassidy and Mitch Evans had dominated the Free Practices and rolled into qualifying as the favorites to land pole.

Qualey would go in the opposite of which the team had hoped for with Cassidy completely missing out on the Duel Stage and Evans falling to Stoffel Vandoorne with DS Penske in Round 1 of the Duel Stage Qualyfying showdown.

Sam Bird himself didn't get past the first round of the Duel Stage, barely making it in, finishing fourth in Group B, but Bird at least showed he could have been a top 10 contender for the weekend.

The Race

The race at Sao Paulo began as hectic as any.

Sam Bird poked himself out towards the front of the pack by lap five using his "Attack Mode" in one of the early turns.

That lead would be short lived by lap ten, which saw multiple drivers position themselves onto the top of the grid, especially both Tag Huer Porsche drivers, Mitch Evans from Jaguar TCS and Jake Dennis with Andretti.

The major catasrophy came from the points leader Nick Cassidy at the mid-way point.

Cassidy slammed into the wall hard, resulting in a quick retirement for the strong New Zealander, who had been on podium for every race up til that point.

Fortunately, Cassidy was able to walk away from the incident. However, it widened the doors open to the potential for a unlikely race winner.

For the second half of the race, most of the track action remained quiet, featuring no major pinpoints. That is until the final few laps of the race.

Evans made a nifty pass on Bird, putting himself in a great position to put himself on the top of the podium but the last lap showed that Bird had other thoughts.

Bird was riding Evans rear end for the final handful of turns on the final lap until the tailend straightaway that allowed Bird to put himself side-by-side to Evans.

Bird had the outside lane, an unlikely outcome to overtake for the lead, but, Bird just had a stronger machine at that point in the race and pulled his way ahead to take the checkered flag at Sao Paulo, McLaren's first race win.

Overall Thoughts

As we approach this weekend's race in Tokyo, Bird's win may have been the straw that broke the camel's back.

Jaguar TCS has been the standard so far here in 2024 and with Bird's victory coming, it may have shown that the Jags are vulnerable.

The team should still be stout heading into a new track, but, there is some curiosity as to other teams that may be able to contend on the streets of Tokyo.

Bird will have a fun weekend in store as he looks to repeat in what was a wild Brazilian showdown to close out the most recent race.