Sam Bird is set to make a surprise move to the Jaguar Racing team for the 2020/21 Formula E season after recently agreeing terms for a switch that will rock the championship.
The Race can reveal that Bird’s move to Jaguar has been agreed, meaning that he will exit the Envision Virgin team after the upcoming season finale races in Berlin.
He will begin testing for Jaguar soon after the end of the present campaign in readiness for the 2020/21 season.
The move for Bird to partner Mitch Evans at Jaguar, which is expected to be officially confirmed soon, ends six seasons with the Silverstone-based Virgin team in all its various guises.
It was a period in which Bird has so far taken nine Formula E wins and challenged for the 2017/18 title, where he eventually lost out to former Virgin team-mate Jean-Eric Vergne.
Bird is one of only three drivers who have been with the same team since Formula E’s inception in 2014, along with Lucas di Grassi at Abt/Audi and Sebastien Buemi at the e.dams-run Renault/Nissan operation.
James Calado’s option to stay as a race driver at Jaguar for a second campaign is believed to have recently not been activated by Jaguar, which has long coveted Bird.
The team made strong overtures to him when it began its Formula E programme in 2016 and has often held talks with him since then.
He was a strong contender to replace Adam Carroll at the team in 2017 but that seat eventually went to inaugural Formula E champion Nelson Piquet Jr.
Now, despite Bird having a further season option left on his Envision Virgin contract, Jaguar has finally got its man.
It will complete a long-held objective by the British entered manufacturer to secure further race-winning experience and complement Mitch Evans’ growing stature in the championship.
Bird’s deal is believed to be long-term with strong options and at least until the end of the Gen2 era of Formula E in 2022.
Jaguar’s plans after this period are expected to become clearer later this year when manufacturers will, internally at least, commit to Formula E for the new Gen3 rules beginning.
The Race understands that Jaguar is gearing up to extend its commitment beyond its initial programme.
This was originally until the end of the series’ seventh season (2020/21) but has since been extended until the final Gen2 campaign in 2021/22 to correlate with the FIA’s own one year extension of the current rules set.
Ironically, Bird will replace close friend and Ferrari GT stablemate Calado, who joined the team in September 2019, at Jaguar.
Calado has so far scored only 10 of Jaguar’s 66 points in the currently suspended 2019/20 season and has struggled to adapt to the all-important qualifying element of the series with a best starting position of 10th in the last round in Marrakesh.
The World Endurance Championship and Le Mans 24 Hours class winner could stay with the Jaguar operation in a test and development role in a similar fashion to Alex Lynn, who fulfilled a similar capacity this season until his recent move to Mahindra.
Neither Jaguar nor Envision would not be drawn on the subject of future drivers when contacted by The Race today.