Bird storms to Opening Win Despite Penalty


Credit: Formula E

Sam Bird won the first round of the Hong Kong ePrix at a canter despite having to overcome a drive-through penalty.

The DS Virgin Racing driver started second, and was still there as the race was red flagged early on after Andre Lotterer went into the barriers on the first lap and blocked the track.

After a lengthy delay the race got going again and the Brit but pulled off a brilliant move on Jean-Eric Vergne down into the turn six hairpin to take the lead.

He then pitted a lap after Vergne, but an error in his pit stop made was to make things harder, as he missed his garage entry after out braking himself on the dusty surface, and as part of his car swap was completed outside of the garage he was awarded a penalty.

His pace advantage was big enough though to ensure that he emerged in the lead by the smallest of margins over Vergne, and from there he pulled out another huge lead to cross the line eleven seconds ahead.

He was partly helped by a titanic tussle between Nick Heidfeld and Vergne behind him, with the Frenchman coming out on top only after some very strong defending that drew criticism from the German.

A stunning drive from Maro Engel saw him stage a remarkable comeback to finish fourth from fourteenth on the grid, however it was all for nought as he was given a time penalty for exceeding his usable energy.

That meant Nelson Piquet Jr completed a fantastic debut for Panasonic Jaguar Racing to finish just off the podium in fourth place, with Daniel Abt finishing in fifth.

It has been a strong start from Abt who ran as high as third, but he lost out on a possible podium position thanks to a problematic pit stop that dropped him down the order.

His team-mate and reigning champion Lucas di Grassi had a race to forget, having been forced to pit early after fierce rival Sebastien Buemi launched an ambitious move into turn one that damaged the suspension of the Audi Sport Abt Schaeffler car.

It wasn’t much better for last year’s runner-up Buemi, who was forced to stop momentarily after a problem with his first car, and it means that both of last year’s title challengers finished the first race without a point to their name.

Antonio Felix da Costa finished a promising sixth for MS&AD Andretti, with Felix Rosenqvist recovering well to finish seventh after being spun early on by debutant Luca Filippi, who was handed a penalty for the offence.

Edorado Mortara ended up being first of the debutants as he drove from the back of the grid to finish eighth, with Alex Lynn and Nico Prost finishing off the top ten.

Further back it was disappointment for Oliver Turvey, who after pulling off a great move into turn one to move up from seventh on the grid into third, was forced to stop with a technical issue.