Bird nets first Formula E win for NEOM McLaren with last-lap pass at Sao Paulo

Sam Bird took NEOM McLaren’s first win in Formula E with a spectacular last-gasp pass on Mitch Evans in the Sao Paulo E-Prix.

Bird swept round the outside of Evans at Turn 10, the penultimate corner, on the final lap of the race after hounding the Jaguar TCS Racing driver after the second safety car restart, which came about after a crash for Evans’ teammate Nick Cassidy.

It was one of two safety car periods in the race, the first coming on lap eight for debris at the first turn after a concertina of the pack claimed the front wings of Norman Nato, Lucas di Grassi, Mortara, and Cassidy — and it would be that damage that directly influenced the second yellow flag spell, with what remained of Cassidy’s win being dragged under his car on the entry of Turn 9 on lap 16, sending him into the wall.


Much of the pre-race talk centered around “peloton-style” racing, with the field expecting to keep in the pack slipstreaming and shying away from the race lead in a bid to save energy until the latest-possible moment, and that was largely the case.

Polesitter Pascal Wehrlein broke from the field immediately, but was back with the pack by the start of the second lap, and what followed was a series of laps with him, his TAG Heuer Porsche teammate Antonio Felix da Costa, Bird and Evans all trading places at the front of the lead. The two safety car periods allowed for additional energy saving, aiding the Nissan-powered McLaren of Bird and Evans, who had both been outdone on efficiency by the Porsches for much of the race. And despite the race being extended by three laps to compensate for the safety car periods, the predicted flat-out finish materialized, with Bird and Evans the ones breaking away from the pack in the final laps.

It was a similar story behind them for the final podium place, with Oliver Rowland in a factory Nissan able to sneak up the inside of Wehrlein at the exit of the final corner.

“Peloton-style” racing and a couple of safety cars kept the field close. Simon Galloway/Motorsport Images

Bird’s win was not only McLaren’s first and his first since 2022, but it was also the first victory for powertrain supplier Nissan in the GEN3 era, while for Rowland it was his second consecutive podium after finishing third in the second part of the Diriyah E-Prix at the end of January.

Jake Dennis had climbed from 11th on the grid to feature in the win conversation in the second half of the race, but he ultimately came home fifth, behind Wehrlein, with da Costa sixth after fading late on.

Jean-Eric Vergne avenged his qualifying defeat to DS Penske teammate Stoffel Vandoorne by beating him to seventh, while Maximilian Guenther was a fine ninth despite starting from the back of the grid and served a 10-place stop-and-go penalty on the opening lap for respective gearbox and inverter changes. The Maserati MSG driver was aided by the two safety car periods, which effectively neutralized his massive penalty deficit, bringing him into the pack which he was then able to pick his way through.

Sebastien Buemi completed the top 10 for Envision Racing, on what was a tricky day for the Jaguar customer team as it struggled to get on top of tire wear issues, although his best lap time of 1m15.717 was the fastest of the race.

Factory Jaguar driver Cassidy was one of two retirements from the race, ending his 100 percent podium streak for the season so far. He was joined on the sidelines by Abt Cupra driver Nico Mueller, who retired on lap 26 with a mechanical issue, and McLaren’s Jake Hughes whose race ended on lap 31, the originally designated final lap, due to an overheating battery.

Despite his retirement, Cassidy remains the points leader, with a three-point advantage over Pascal Wehrlein, and Dennis a further 13 points back.


Story originally appeared on Racer