Motor racing: Bird hoping to fly high on fresh start with Jaguar


FILE PHOTO: Sam Bird poses at the world premiere of the documentary "And We Go Green" at the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) in Toronto, Ontario, Canada September 8, 2019. REUTERS/Chris Helgren/File Photo

LONDON (Reuters) - Sam Bird is the only driver to have won a race in every Formula E season so far but, after six years in the electric series, the Briton wants much more as he prepares for a fresh start with Jaguar next month.

Formula E now has full FIA world championship status and Bird, 33, believes he can fly high after moving from Envision Virgin Racing.

"I'm not just satisfied with getting a win every year," he told Reuters from Spain where Formula E has had pre-season testing.

"It's a nice accolade that I am the only driver to do that but that's all it is. It's just a nice little accolade. I want to be able to take home a world championship. That is the ultimate goal."

Bird said he felt he was joining Jaguar at the right time after first having talks with the manufacturer in season three.

Jaguar ended the 2019-20 season seventh of the 12 teams but tasted victory with New Zealander Mitch Evans in Mexico last February.

Bird, who won last season's opening race in Saudi Arabia but ended up 10th overall at the end of a year disrupted by the COVID-19 pandemic, hoped for a more sustained challenge this time.

"I hope that this year is the turning point," he said. "There'll be ups and down throughout the season but let's see what we can do. The aim was to come here and challenge for wins with Jaguar straight away."

STRONGEST GRID

A Mercedes F1 reserve driver in 2013, the year now-seven times world champion Lewis Hamilton came on board, Bird felt Formula E could hold its head up in any comparison with grand prix racing.

"When I look at that (Formula E) grid I genuinely believe hand on heart that it's the strongest grid in the world," he said.

"Some people may disagree, some people clearly would think that Formula One is and that's absolutely fine. But I genuinely believe that Formula E right now, with the grid they've got, is the strongest pound for pound grid on the planet.

"It makes for spectacular racing, it's super-difficult to be competitive all the time and that's why I love being in Formula E. It isn't a graveyard for ex-F1 drivers that have lost a couple of tenths."

Bird cited the example of 2019 Formula Two champion Nyck de Vries who moved straight to Formula E as a Mercedes works driver.

Other rivals include Belgian Stoffel Vandoorne, a former McLaren driver now with Mercedes in Formula E, world endurance champion Sebastien Buemi and triple German Touring Car (DTM) champion Rene Rast.

There were eight different winners in 11 races last season.

"Lewis and (Red Bull's) Max (Verstappen) and (Ferrari's) Charles (Leclerc) and some of the guys in F1 are outrageous, super-talented," said Bird.

"But below that there's no reason why the 24 guys in Formula E could not do the same job as a lot of the guys in Formula One."

Hamilton, absent from this weekend's Sakhir GP after contracting COVID-19, has won 11 of 15 races this season in F1 and six of the last seven championships.

Bird doubted fans would ever see that degree of dominance in Formula E, even if Techeetah have won the last three drivers' titles.

"We've had races where there's three or four tenths between pole and last. So I think it's very, very tricky to dominate Formula E," he said.

The season starts in Chile on Jan. 16.

(Reporting by Alan Baldwin, editing by Christian Radnedge)

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