The season opener in Beijing proved to be a mixed bag for DS Virgin Racing. Many expected them to be a strong third in the championship, though with only six points bagged, how much can we read into their season prospects?
The day started strongly for the team, posting decent times in practice and qualifying. Jean-Eric Vergne proved himself as a one-lap specialist last year, and his DSV-01 helped him deliver the goods. He posted the second quickest time of the regular qualifying groups, putting him through to the Super Pole shoot-out. Team mate Sam Bird managed ninth place, leaving some speed on the table. Although ‘JEV’ ruined his Super Pole lap at the first corner, locking up in spectacular style, overall it showed their powertrain was more than quick enough to challenge the top teams.
The race, however, didn’t go to plan. Despite a good start and and some great overtaking manoeuvres, towards the end of the first car stint it became obvious that both drivers were struggling with energy management. Both were the first to drop below 30%, and at one point Bird was on 19% with close opponent Duval on 28%. This meant aggressive energy saving, losing positions, and a very close call for Bird, who came into the pits with just 1% left. JEV finished in 12th with Bird in seventh, collecting six points for the team.
But what can we read into this, and does this mean we should reassess the Virgin squad’s chances? Though the results could indicate poor-strategy and inefficient driving, the burning worry is that it’s something more serious. It could be that the team focused too much on “torque-density”, hence assisting with qualifying, though neglected efficiency. This could lead to overly intensive energy-saving, ultimately impacting on race pace. And with NEXTEV – the only other single-gear powertrain – struggling with qualifying and succeeding in the race, is it possible a one-gear system is all a bit too radical? Over the next few races some big questions will be asked, as the manufacturers look towards season three’s designs.
Joe Jones | e-racing.net
Photo: FIA Formula E Media