Opening lap drama and a drive-through penalty couldn’t stop Sam Bird from taking the chequered flag. He was joined on the podium by Jean-Eric Vergne in the TECHEETA, and Nick Heidfeld in the Mahindra Racing car.
A chaotic race gave us plenty to talk about, as the 2017/18 Formula E season sprung in to life in Victoria Bay. After significant anticipation had grown around this race, the race certainly didn’t disappoint.
The chaos began at the chicane of turn 3/4, when Formula E rookie, Andre Lotterer, planted his car in the wall. This caused a pile up of cars, blocking the track and resulted in the first red flag in the sports brief history.
Before this pause in the action, British driver Oliver Turvey had a blistering start, leaping from 7th to 3rd position by taking a bold move around the outside of the field at turn 1.
Less drama was experienced by pole sitter, Jean-Eric Vergne, who’s race start was clean and chaos-free.
After a 30-minute halt to proceedings, the race restarted behind the safety car, with much less drama.
Last year’s championship rivals, Sebastian Buemi and Lucas DiGrassi came together, while fighting for 6th position. This contact forced Di Grassi in to the pits at the later stages of the race, having suffered right-rear suspension damage. He eventually finished the race in 18th, with his rival, Buemi, finishing in 12th.
Jerome D’Ambrosio came to a halt on lap 6 of the race, due to mechanical issue. He managed to get the car restarted, running in last place. However, he was forced to retire 3 laps before to the chequered flag fell.
Bird had kept the pressure on the race leader for much of the restart, and finally managed to snatch the lead away from Vergne on lap 20. He threw his Virgin DS Racing car down the inside of turn 6 hair-pin to take the lead.
This position loss sent Vergne straight to the pits, followed by the new race leader a lap later. However, Bird was handed a drive through penalty for starting his car swap outside of his garage. His car skidded across the dusty pitlane and caused him to hit the wall of his pit box.
The Brit was still able to hold the lead after serving his penalty, however he emerged only a car’s length ahead of Vergne. As the race drew to an end, Bird had managed to pull out a comfortable lead of 11.5 seconds.
Vergne nearly lost 2nd place to rival Nick Heidfeld, as he went wide on the lap 31. This let Heidfeld draw alongside the Techeeta but he was blocked from completing the pass. Heidfeld was very vocal, post-race, about Vergne’s defensive driving.
After coming out victorious in an entertaining battle for 4th place, Maro Egnel incurred a time penalty given for exceeding his power limits. This pushed him down to 14th.
Turvey was, it seemed, in line for a podium finish before mechanical issues caused him to slow out on track, and drew him in to the pits to swap cars earlier than hoped. He eventually finished in a disappointing 17th.
The field will be back out on the track tomorrow, as we enjoy a double header for the opening weekend of this new Formula E season.