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Formula E hits the streets of Hong Kong with crowds, crashes and heartbreak

Well it was always going to be a exciting race weekend at the opening round of the new Formula E season in Hong Kong and we weren’t disappointed. It all started in qualifying with Jean-Eric Vergne’s frenzied hot lap during the Super Pole shoot-out in Qualifying, which saw him clip the wall, spin round and cross the line backwards but – believe it or not – he still managed to walk away with the Pole Position. So lets have a look at the 2 races in detail:-

 

Race 1 – Sam Bird clinches victory in Hong Kong

The FIA Formula E Championship sparked into life for the start of the new season with a gripping opening contest in Hong Kong, where Sam Bird sealed a surprise victory despite picking up a penalty for not stopping in his allocated space during the mid-race car swap.

Bird entered the pitlane eager to retain the advantage he’d built over TECHEETAH’s Jean-Eric Vergne, but attacked his marks too aggressively on the dusty surface and skated 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 pole position, fending off the fast-starting Mahindra of Nick Heidfeld.As the cars filtered through the tight chicane of Turns 3 & 4, Formula E debutant 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 behind.

The E-Prix came to an abrupt halt as the incident brought out the red flags and after a delay the race got back underway behind the Qualcomm Safety Car. Vergne looked immediately under pressure from Bird in his mirrors and couldn’t hold him back after a lunge up the inside of the Turn 6 hairpin. Despite serving his penalty, Bird emerged narrowly in front of the chasing pack. The British driver must have breathed a huge sigh of relief after a botched pitstop cost him a chance of fighting for the win in Hong Kong last year.

Speaking about the shock result, Bird added: “That was a really crazy race, I’m still trying to process what happened really. It’s unreal for me winning after a driving-through penalty in Formula E. I’d like to thank the team, we knew it would be tough this year with lots of close competition. When I came out the pits there was a TECHEETAH in front of me and thought it was JEV, so I was pushing hard to catch him! It turned out I was in the lead and I never in a million years expected that.”

Reigning Formula E champion Lucas di Grassi and main rival Sebastien Buemi both failed to score. Di Grassi was forced to pit early and switched to his second car after sustaining damage to his right-rear suspension, while Buemi stopped on track with a technical glitch.

Race 2 : Heartbreak for Abt as Rosenquest promoted to to the top step

Felix Rosenqvist was elevated to first place in Hong Kong and earned his second victory in the FIA Formula E Championship, after Daniel Abt was disqualified for a technical infringement. The Audi Sport ABT Schaeffler driver was denied his first-ever win in Formula E on his 25th birthday following a post-race penalty, which found that the FIA security stickers (barcodes) on the inverter and MGU units didn’t correspond with those declared on the technical passport provided by the competitor for the event.

The result remains provisional subject to an appeal to the FIA International Court of Appeal by Audi Sport ABT Schaeffler, against the stewards’ decision to disqualify Abt from the race. Abt pumped his fist as he crossed the finish-line, only to be stripped of victory hours later. The German chased debutant Edoardo Mortara for the majority of the race and inherited the lead with just two laps to go after the Venturi driver spun at Turn 2.

Street circuit specialist Mortara put on an impressive display in only his second-ever E-Prix, but made a mistake pushing too hard to obtain the extra point for Visa Fastest Lap. He quickly recovered after pirouetting into the run-off area and re-joined to finish in a disappointing third – later promoted to second.

Rosenqvist led the field from the start behind the Qualcomm Safety Car as a hardware issue caused the start-lights not to come on. However, the Mahindra Racing driver didn’t utilise his advantage of avoiding a standing start and carried too much speed into the first corner, spinning in the process with the entire field facing him.

Unable to get back on the racing line with a stampede of cars approaching, Rosenqvist had to wait patiently for an opportunity to safely join the queue. The Swede slowly made his way back through the field and benefitted from the movers and shakers ahead of him to claim the maximum points on offer – with the additional points for Julius Baer pole position and Visa fastest lap.

Despite not being able to stand on the top step – Rosenqvist will take it as it comes, as will Kiwi, Mitch Evans, who made history with a first podium finish in Formula E for Panasonic Jaguar Racing and a return to the podium for Jaguar in motorsport for the first time in 15 years.

Felix Rosenqvist, Mahindra Racing, said: “There’s been a lot of ups-and-downs all weekend, but I’m happy with taking away 29 points – for pole, winning the race and fastest lap – it’s a lot of points! But I feel sorry for Daniel as well, he won the race on track, but I don’t know the reason. It’s not the way you want to win and I don’t feel like I’ve won the race. But I’m happy with the points. Sometimes you’re happy and then you’re sad, like yesterday we were in P15 and turned it around – getting fastest lap but it got taken away, so there’s been a lot like that but I’ll take maximum points and third in the championship.”

Credit – FIA Formula E