Sam Bird soaked up late pressure from Mitch Evans and Lucas di Grassi to clinch his second victory of the 2017/18 Formula E season in Saturday's Rome E-Prix, catapulting himself up to second place in the drivers' championship.

After qualifying second, Bird spent the first half of the race holding position behind pole-sitter Felix Rosenqvist, who managed to retain his lead until after the car swaps at mid-distance for Mahindra.

Rosenqvist's hopes cutting the gap to drivers' standings leader Jean-Eric Vergne with victory were dashed when he suffered a failure on his rear-left wheel after hitting one of the kerbs too hard, forcing him to park up at the side of the track and retire from the race.

The incident allowed Bird to move into a healthy lead at the front of the pack, only for the DS Virgin Racing driver to soon come under pressure from Jaguar driver Evans and defending champion di Grassi of Audi, both of whom had extra usable energy after going one lap longer before pitting.

Evans attempted a pass on Bird on multiple occasions, but was soon more occupied with the faster di Grassi, who ultimately made a pass for second place to demote the Jaguar driver to third.

The battle gave Bird some breathing room at the front, and while di Grassi was able to close the gap to just nine-tenths of a second by the chequered flag, he could not make it through for victory.

The result lifts Bird to second place in the drivers' championship, putting him 26 points shy of Vergne, who recovered from a tough qualifying session to take fifth place at the finish.

Vergne's Techeetah teammate Andre Lotterer completed the podium positions after Evans hit the limit of his usable energy on the final lap, forcing him to slow down in order to make it to the finish in ninth place.

Audi's Daniel Abt finished fourth ahead of Vergne, while Renault's Sebastien Buemi failed to capitalise on the drama at the front, finishing sixth.

Jerome d'Ambrosio recovered from a crash in the pit lane in qualifying to take seventh, benefitting from a Full Course Yellow called just before his pit stop that slowed the field following a muti-car pile-up involving NIO drivers Oliver Turvey and Luca Filippi, and Andretti's Tom Blomqvist.

Maro Engel finished eighth for Venturi with teammate Edoardo Mortara finishing 10th, the pair split by Evans at the finish.

Antonio Felix da Costa just missed out on points, taking 11th for Andretti ahead of Turvey and Filippi, while Renault's Nicolas Prost struggled to 14th. Blomqvist finished 15th ahead of Nick Heidfeld, who was the last classified finisher for Mahindra in P16.

Besides Rosenqvist, Jose Maria Lopez and Nelson Piquet Jr. also retired from the race due to varying issues. Lopez's car stopped on-track with three laps to go, while Piquet had to stop in the pit lane due to an issue with the seatbelts in his car, squandering a possible points finish.

DS Virgin Racing's Alex Lynn was the fourth retiree after crashing twice in the race, ending a tough weekend early after prangs in both FP1 and FP2.

The Formula E season continues with the Paris E-Prix in two weeks' time.

 

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