By Aaron Bearden, Contributing Writer
Saturday’s HKT Hong Kong E-Prix saw Sam Bird sit through a red flag and make a critical mistake in missing his garage while swapping cars mid-race.
In the end, it also saw the Briton in victory lane.
Bird crossed the start-finish line 11.575 seconds clear of second-place Jean-Eric Vergne to claim a dominant victory for DS Virgin Racing in the first of two season-opening races for FIA Formula E at Hong Kong.
The win was Bird’s sixth in Formula E competition, and made him the first driver to claim a victory in each of the all-electric tour’s first four seasons.
After starting in second, Bird found himself stuck behind Vergne for the 43-lap event’s opening stint. In search of his second-career FE win, the Frenchman held strong from the pole, fending off challenges from Bird through a lengthy red flag from a pileup caused by a failed battle between Andre Lotterer and Nelson Piquet Jr. that led Lotterer into the outside wall. Vergne continued to show the way while others such as Lucas di Grassi and Oliver Turvey suffered problems behind him.
But after many laps of applying pressure, Bird’s machine ultimately proved strong enough to take over the top spot. He dove under Vergne heading into Turn 6 on Lap 20, and prevailed with the lead on the other side.
— FIA Formula E (@FIAFormulaE) December 2, 2017
From that moment on, the battle for the win became one of strategy.
Looking for a way to reassume the lead, Vergne pitted on the ensuing lap for his second Techeetah car, while Bird stayed on-track in hopes of having fewer laps – and therefore more energy – to use with his second machine.
Bird’s strategy was ultimately the favored one, though it didn’t come without issue. The 30-year-old nearly threw the victory away when he missed his garage entry during his pit stop, running into team equipment and putting himself in jeopardy. But in the end Bird was able to use the minimum pit stop time to emerge from the garage five seconds clear of Vergne, avoiding any major issues with the stewards.
From there the drive was simple. Bird crossed the line 11.5 seconds clear of Vergne, who fended off a fierce challenge from Nick Heidfeld to claim second on the podium.
Heidfeld followed in third, with Nelson Piquet Jr. being credited with fourth after original fourth-place finisher Maro Engel was dropped to 14th due to a time penalty for excessive energy usage. Daniel Abt rounded out the top five, with Antonio Felix da Costa, Edoardo Mortara, Alex Lynn, Nicolas Prost and Luca Filippi finishing out the points.
The Formula E paddock will return for the second of two races at the HKT Hong Kong E-Prix on Saturday at 2 a.m. ET.
|1||2||Sam Bird||DS Virgin Racing|
|3||23||Nick Heidfeld||Mahindra Racing|
|4||3||Nelson Piquet Jr.||Panasonic Jaguar Racing|
|5||66||Daniel Abt||Audi Sport ABT Schaeffler|
|6||28||Antonio Felix da Costa||AS&AD Andretti Formula E|
|7||4||Edoardo Mortara||Venturi Formula E Team|
|8||36||Alex Lynn||DS Virgin Racing|
|9||8||Nicolas Prost||Renault e.dams|
|10||68||Luca Filippi||NIO Formula E Team|
|11||9||Sebastien Buemi||Renault e.dams|
|12||20||Mitch Evans||Panasonic Jaguar Racing|
|13||5||Maro Engel||Venturi Formula E Team|
|14||19||Felix Rosenqvist||Mahindra Racing|
|15||27||Kamui Kobayashi||AS&AD Andretti Formula E|
|16||16||Oliver Turvey||NIO Formula E Team|
|17||1||Lucas di Grassi||Audi Sport ABT Schaeffler|
|18||6||Neel Jani||Dragon Racing|
|20||7||Jerome d’Ambrosio||Dragon Racing|