The entry of new driver Bird has raised the Formula E game for McLaren – James

The entry of new driver Bird has raised the Formula E game for McLaren – James


NEOM McLaren team principal Ian James feels Sam Bird has had an immediate positive impact on the team following his move from Jaguar ahead of the current ABB Formula E season.

Bird is one of the most experienced drivers in the history of the all-electric racing series, having missed just two races since the category’s inception, and that experience has helped the team adapt to the differences in racing in the third generation of Formula E cars compared to the the previous one, when – in its previous guise as a factory Mercedes outfit – McLaren claimed the championship twice.

“Sam has been very open – it’s part of the reason why we were interested in bringing him into the team as well,” James said. “We changed last year when we started Season 9 – we had Rene (Rast) at the time, who brought experience to the team but was out of Formula E for a short time, and I think one of the things we saw was that we had a change in the way we needed to approaching the race from Gen2 to Gen3. This is something that Sam picked up and held on to. Very quickly when he got on the team he was able to communicate with the engineers.

James feels Bird’s skills have also helped second-year McLaren driver Jake Hughes.

“I think Jake benefited from that experience,” James added. “This is something that we always look for in drivers – you can have drivers who will turn up on the day and be very fast and incredibly talented, but they don’t have to be part of the team and work together with the team. I think with Jake and Sam, they are both complete opposites.They are both part of the team and are passionate about moving the business forward.

Three races into the season, the change is paying off as McLaren’s has maintained the strong single lap pace it showed last year while its overall race management has also shown signs of improvement.

“If I look at our one-round pace, that’s been consistent and strong throughout Season 9,” James said. “We saw that again in Mexico to some extent, but really the race management I think has been, as a result of the contribution that Sam had to the team … we’re already seeing that benefit.

“That partnership between Jake and Sam and how they connect with the team will also be very important to our success.”