Hong Kong Hosted Two Days of Wild Racing
FIA Formula E kicked off its 2017-2018 electric car racing series over the weekend on the city streets of Hong Kong. The two days of racing on Saturday and Sunday provided fans of the Formula E Hong Kong ePrix plenty of excitement. This is the forth season for Formula E and the second time the opening race was staged in Hong Kong.
Sam Bird Snags Surprise Saturday Victory
At the half-way point of the Hong Kong ePrix, when drivers change race cars, all bets were off that the Virgin Racing driver had a chance to win the opener. Bird entered the pit lane anxious to retain the advantage he’d built over Techeeta’s Jean-Eric Vergne, but attacked his marks too aggressively on the dusty surface and slid to a halt outside the front of his garage.
He managed to jump out and into his second car without losing too much time. However, Bird didn’t make his mandatory car change in the box allocated to the driver — picking up a drive-through penalty in the process. But it wasn’t enough to stop him.
There were several contenders in a hotly-contested battle as Bird faced his former team-mate Vergne for the majority of the opening stint. Vergne led the way from Julius Baer’s pole position, fending off the fast-starting Mahindra of Nick Heidfeld.
As the cars filtered through the tight chicane of turns 3 and 4, Formula E rookie Andre Lotterer collided with the wall—blocking a gaggle of cars behind. Lotterer was avoiding the bottleneck and pitched into the barriers on the outside, holding back Mitch Evans, Nico Prost, Edoardo Mortara and Neel Jani. The ePrix came to a halt as the incident brought out the red flags. After a 30-minute delay, the race got back underway.
On the restart, Vergne was in the lead but found himself immediately under pressure from Bird. Vergne’s mirrors were filled with Bird’s car and couldn’t hold him back after a lunge up the inside of the turn 6 hairpin. Bird then cruised to a 1.1-second win over Vergne, with Mahindra Racing’s Nick Hatfiesl placing third.
Felix Rosenqvist Spins and Wins on Sunday
Mahindra driver Felix Rosenqvist started in the pole position for Sunday’s race, then spun out of the lead at the first corner. That put rookie driver Edoardo Mortara, driving for Venturi, in the lead. The Swiss driver then led every lap and had the win in hand with a three-second advantage. But, with three laps remaining, he spun just as he turned into the right-hand hairpin in a mistake from pushing too hard to earn the extra point for the fastest lap. He quickly recovered after pirouetting into the run-off area and re-joined to finish in a disappointing third.
This allowed Audi Sport ABT Schaeffler driver Daniel Abt to sail past and take the checkered flag on his 25th birthday. Rosenqvist had made his way back through the pack after his spin to place second, followed by Mortara in third place. But, “it’s not over until the fat lady sings,” or in this case until the race cars go through post-race inspection.
An inspection of Abt’s car revealed that the FIA security stickers on the inverters and motors did not correspond with those declared on the car’s technical passport. The breach of technical and sporting regulations meant Abt was disqualified, ending his victory celebration and handing the win to Swedish rival Felix Rosenqvist, the second victory of his Formula E career.
Abt’s exclusion moved Mortara to second place, and New Zealand’s Mitch Evans was promoted to third to give Jaguar their first podium finish in the all-electric series they joined last year.
Saturday’s race winner Sam Bird now heads the drivers’ standings for DS Virgin Racing, with 35 points, as they head to the next Formula E race in the Moroccan city of Marrakesh on Jan. 13.
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