Bird snatches late victory in controversial Hong Kong E-Prix
The race, which was initially predicted to be wet was held in dry, but overcast conditions as the predicted downpour ceased to appear.
Rookie Oliver Rowland led the early laps of the race after passing surprise pole-sitter Stoffel Vandoorne on lap one, and was soaking up pressure from fellow Brit Bird before a red flag was brought out when Felipe Nasr hit the wall in his Dragon Racing car.
The Mahindra pair of Jerome d’Ambrosio and Pascal Wehrlein were unable to avoid Nasr’s stricken car and both were eliminated as well through contact, with d’Ambrosio losing his championship lead as a result.
Shortly after the restart, Rowland appeared to accidentally trigger the full course yellow limiter and he agonisingly lost the lead, sliding down the order to 10th. From there on, the battle for the lead was set between the Techeetah of Lotterer and the Virgin Racing of Bird.
The latter initially gave up the race lead by running wide at the chicane allowing the WEC star to take the lead as he looked for his maiden FE win. Bird was not deterred and pressed the German throughout the race finally passing him on the penultimate lap to take victory.
However, the win was marred in controversy as Bird, in a desperate attempt to surpass his rival went careering into the back of Lotterer. This led to the Techeetah driver obtaining a puncture, causing him to trundle around for the final lap before eventually being forced to stop. Meanwhile, Bird’s victory has been out in doubt as the stewards investigate the move.
In all the ensuing chaos Venturi’s Edoardo Mortara managed to make it back-to-back podiums, clinching second following Lotterer’s issues having initially passed polesitter Vandoorne through the use of attack mode.
Former series champion Lucas di Grassi managed to recover from a slow get-away to prevail in the battle for the final spot on the podium as the Brazilian edged out Bird’s teammate Robin Frijns for the final spot.
Meanwhile, it was a double delight for both Audi and Venturi as Daniel Abt and Felipe Massa both followed their teammates home in fifth and sixth respectively which will allow team principals Allan McNish and Susie Wolff to leave Hong Kong in good spirits.
Mitch Evans produced a brilliant comeback drive from seventeenth to seventh, bringing home more valuable points for the Jaguar team. It was a day of mixed fortunes however for the Jaguar Racing team as Evans’ teammate Nelson Piquet was forced to retire his the car on the opening lap.
Gary Paffett slid back from his fourth-place grid slot but was able to score his first points for the HWA team, holding out for eighth. Sadly this was contrasted with the Vandoorne’s misfortune who pulled aside with a driveshaft failure, amidst a battle with Edoardo Mortara for the final spot on the podium.
The final points were awarded to NIO’s Oliver Turvey in ninth and BMW Andretti’s Antonio Felix Da Costa who climbed from 20th on the grid to take 10th place.
Reigning champion Jean-Eric Vergne’s torrid start to the season continued as he finished a lowly 13th, ahead of only the stricken car of his teammate.
Nissan e.dams’ Sebastien Buemi retired following contact with Virgin Racing’s Frijns, while BMW’s Alexander Sims was another non-finisher following contact with the wall at turn five.
Image Credit: Formula E
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