Bird and Nato power to ABB Driver of Progress in Portland

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Bird and Nato power to ABB Driver of Progress in Portland

Tight pack racing was the order of the day for both legs of the 2024 Hankook Portland E-Prix as Sam Bird and Norman Nato handled the dicey energy critical races to come through the order and secure the ABB Driver of Progress honours.


Portland is possibly the pinnacle of pack racing in the ABB FIA Formula E World Championship – creating massive opportunities to progress, but only if a race is judged well from start to finish.

Nothing shows that better than the two ABB Driver of Progress Award winners in the United States, Sam Bird and Norman Nato. Though both finished seventh, having started 19th and 20th respectively in Rounds 13 and 14, they were each in the lead mix in both races. Bird even ran as high as second in Round 13. How many championships can boast that kind of opportunity from the 10th row of the grid?


The fact neither driver was able to finish quite as high up the order as they managed to progress in each E-Prix is a legacy of how they got there in the first place, because both drivers were all about energy management and strategy. They were conservative early on before using a burst around mid-distance to vault up the order, where they would then be able to fight with others on a similar state of charge. 

Bird consistently used less energy compared to the median throughout the race, with a very clear peak from laps 11 to 14, which included his second ATTACK MODE activation. This is when he charged from 19th to second, a period that accounted for more than half of the 31 competitive overtakes Bird made in this E-Prix.

bird energy % median portland

Spending an energy advantage of around 2% to the frontrunners actually turned into a small deficit to them by the time he was in the mix, so it’s, therefore, no surprise that Bird did actually slip back a little. 

But his energy levels still compared well to the grid as a whole, and getting himself into the lead part of the pack meant he was jostling for good points positions instead of coasting around the top 15. Bird never dropped out of the top 10 and was part of the lead group that benefitted from race leader Nick Cassidy’s shock late mistake, having avoided falling back into the second pack further behind. 


And key to this was the fact Bird’s approach meant that outside of his brief peak, he had a gradual and consistent use of energy that ensured he remained competitive without fading late in the race. His pace was generally stable, with no dramatic drops or spikes, suggesting that his conservative energy use did not negatively impact his average speed but rather maintained it consistently.

Banking energy to use later on

Nato employed a slightly more dynamic energy usage strategy, conserving more early on and then using a significant amount slightly earlier than Bird did to gain positions.


In the initial seven laps, Nato's energy usage banked him around 3% more energy compared to what would normally be expected, an excess he had spent entirely by lap 15 – by which point he had gone from as low as 21st to well inside the top 10. 

The safety car intervention meant in the latter stages, Nato was able to increase his energy usage, but so were the others. This led to a relatively stagnant order, which is why Nato’s rise looks so efficient. He didn’t yo-yo in the pack in this race, he gained places and then maintained them.

nato energy % portland

That’s why he only had to make 14 overtakes in the entire race to finish 13 positions higher than where he started! That number can be an awful lot higher if, like Bird, a driver is racing harder. 

But the way this race played out was perfect for Nato, as had already committed to using his energy surplus to rise up the order when the race was neutralised, which actually allowed him to complete the race with competitive energy levels. 

Pre-safety car, Nato maintained a fairly consistent speed, typically ranging between 141 to 147 km/h. But after the caution, Nato’s average speed peaked consistently at around 151 km/h, a notable increase that aligns with sustainable, increased energy usage. 


This allowed him to push hard in the final laps, and while he could not turn that into further progress it consolidated what he had. Nato ran comfortably inside the top 10 for the remainder of the E-Prix, and thus benefitted from the critical moves he made early on.

Essentially, Bird and Nato deployed two slightly different versions of the same strategy to make more progress than anyone else in each of the Portland races, which both finished in seventh heaven.

As it stands...

Both Andretti drivers were the biggest movers in the ABB Driver of Progress leaderboard as Jake Dennis took the top spot from Nissan's Oliver Rowland, while the reigning champion's teammate and Round 14 Driver of Progress winner Nato moved into third position.