Formula E race winner and Jaguar TCS Racing reserve driver Norman Nato will step into a race seat with the team at the Hana Bank Seoul E-Prix Rounds 15 & 16 with Sam Bird missing out through injury.
Bird was found to have broken his hand in a Lap 1 incident in the SABIC London E-Prix Round 14, following post-race medical checks. The Brit tangled in the pack as it concertinaed around the tight Turns 1 and 2, with Bird later learning that the impact had fractured the metacarpal in his left hand. Despite this, he did climb from 15th to eighth in the race.
Jaguar noted in a statement immediately after the London double-header that Bird would be assessed in the days to follow, but it has since been determined that he would be unable to compete in Seoul. It would mark the first races the 35-year-old has failed to start in Formula E’s 98-race history, as the championship approaches its centenary round to close out Season 8. The team has stated that Bird will now undergo an operation to correct the fracture.
“I’m devastated not to be driving in the final two rounds of the season in Seoul, particularly as it would have been my 100th race in Formula E,” says Bird. “I need to spend the next few weeks recovering from the operation on my left hand, so I am fully fit for testing and Season 9. I have confidence in Norman, he is a race winner and I’m sure he’ll bring some great points home for Jaguar TCS Racing.”
Nato capped a fine rookie 2020/21 campaign for ROKiT Venturi Racing with a collected race win in the Berlin finale. The Frenchman, who impressed throughout Season 7, could have counted himself unfortunate to miss out on a race seat this time around, with Jaguar quick to secure his services in a test and reserve role.
Nato will step into the breech for both races of the inaugural Hana Bank Seoul E-Prix weekend, 14 & 15 August, alongside teammate and title challenger Mitch Evans. Jaguar TCS Racing is also chasing third in the Teams’ World Championship, and currently sits 44 points shy of DS TECHEETAH.
“We are hugely disappointed for Sam and that he won’t be competing next weekend in Seoul,” says Team Principal James Barclay. “It should have been his 100th Formula E race and I have to say his drive in London was nothing short of heroic, to drive through considerable pain and a slow puncture shows how much of a fighter he is. The priority now though is for his operation and focussing on a full recovery ahead of Gen3 testing and racing again in January.”
“As a team we all have full faith in Norman to deliver valuable points for Jaguar TCS Racing. He won the season finale last year and is determined to help us fight for every place in the Teams’ standings.”
“Firstly I want to wish Sam the speediest of recoveries,” says Nato. “As a reserve driver, I’ve been with the team every step of the way this season. Although I haven’t driven a Formula E car for over a year, when I get into the Jaguar I-TYPE 5 next weekend, I’ll be fighting for as many points as possible. I want to make the most of this opportunity.”
[Note: The story is as per press release]