There was complete havoc in Hong Kong for the 50th E-Prix as only 14 drivers managed to bring it home. We saw cars being nudged left, right and centre, drivers coming to a complete standstill and a puncture at the last minute causing 3 safety cars throughout the race.
At lights out, we saw Oliver Rowland make a fantastic leap on Stoffel Vandoorne who had secured pole position putting him up into 1st place. Sam Bird, who started in 7th, managed to soar up into 3rd passed Andre Lotterer without any damage. Bird then fancied gaining another place and overtook Vandoorne at turn 1, shooting up 5 places in the opening lap. Bird was not the only one to change position as it was revealed there had been 42 position changes on lap one of the 50th E-Prix. At the end of lap 1, we had Rowland, Vandoorne & Bird as our top 3.
Just as we thought everybody had got round safely, we saw 3 car pile up at turn 2 involving Felipe Nasr and both Mahindra Racing drivers, Pascal Wehrlein and Jerome D’Ambrosio. Nasr went straight on and hit into the wall and unfortunately for Wehrlein, there was no space for him and he knocked into the back of him, which in turn caused his teammate to bump into both of them. This, of course, caused a full course yellow flag which turned into a red flag, meaning we needed a safety car, the first of many we would see in Hong Kong. You could see how visibly angry D’Ambrosio had become where he shoved off help from two track marshalls when getting out of the car. Speaking to Nicki Shields during the red flag time, D’Ambrosio was asked what happened from his point of view, “I think it’s ridiculous, you know if you get a guy like Nasr, you know having something obviously really wrong on his car causing a huge amount of smoke, we couldn’t see on the straight line, his car was going to breakdown at one point which is what happened in the middle of a corner, caused a collision, both his team, you know [Geox] Dragon and him should have just told him to pit”.
A race restart was hailed at 4:25pm local time (8:25am GMT) and you saw a massive rush for Attack Mode, being used by all except two drivers in Robin Frijns and Daniel Abt. Lotterer managed to get a good start after the safety car and got passed Vandoorne, pushing him down into 4th position. Whilst this was going on, Rowland and Bird were having a tussle for 1st position with Bird nudging Rowland at the back. Very shortly after this position fight, we saw Rowland slowing down and we thought it was all over after he had such a phenomenal day but luckily, he kept the car going but it was not meant to be as we saw Rowland with damage to both front and rear wheels at the end of the race, causing the third safety car of the race with just 5 and a half minutes remaining. This then meant that Bird and Lotterer could begin the first place battle and what a battle it was!
On lap 9 of the E-Prix (approximately 30 minutes remaining) Bird went in too deep at turn 2, giving Lotterer the pass on him but Bird kept right on his tail, something that Bird continued to do right up until the end of the race. At one point, both Bird and Lotterer were 8 seconds in front of the rest of the pack and were setting fastest laps next to each other, that award in the end going to Lotterer with a 1.02:317. Bird had many chances to have a go at the lead but it was like de ja vu on certain laps where silly mistakes were made over and over again. Despite small errors, Bird was pushing to the absolute limit behind Lotterer, knowing full well they had more energy percentage that the DS Tcheetah driver, but that didn’t stop Lotterer from staying in front. It all came crashing down on the last lap, with just 25 seconds remaining, Bird nudged Lotterer round one of the turns and we then saw Lotterer slowing down with a puncture. An investigation was launched regarding the collision but no final decision has been made which means, for now, Bird took the win in Hong Kong.
Commentators Jack Nicholls and Dario Franchitti spoke to Bird literally moments after he had crossed the line to gain his perspective on the accident, “For me, Andre was over defending quite a bit, I went for a gap and then he closed the door and I slid into him, it’s a big shame”. Nicki Shields also caught up with Bird after he got of his car to see if he would be starting the celebrations, “Yeah, very good, I need to see what happens”, Bird giving half-hearted smiles until the investigation is cleared.
Today was to be redemption day for HWA Racelab with Vandoorne putting his car onto pole position but due to a drive shaft issue, Vandoorne had to retire which caused the second safety car as his car came to a stop on track, but he did give himself and the team 3 points for Super Pole. Gary Paffett did manage to bring his car home, and even though both drivers made it to Super Pole and a better result was surely achievable, Paffett finished in 8th giving himself 4 points meaning the team now have 7, placing themselves up into 9th place for the championship, ahead of NIO Formula E team and Geox Dragon. Another driver who seems to be steadily improving is Edoardo Mortara, bringing his Venturi Formula E car home in 2nd place. Mortara spoke to Shields after the race to share his excitement, “I mean wonderful, fourth in Santiago, third in Mexico, now second. I mean, hopefully next race we end up getting the first victory for Venturi”. Lucas Di Grassi rounds up the top 3 in 3rd position.
Looking at the championship standings after Round 5 in Hong Kong, Bird is in the lead with 71 points meaning D’Ambrosio has slipped into 2nd with 53, this race being the first one for the season that D’Ambrosio scored no points. For the team championship, Envision Virgin Racing has pulled a substantial lead over Mahindra Racing with 111 points to 83. Make sure to check back in with Overtake Motorsport for all the latest Formula E news and we find ourselves in China on Saturday 23rd March.
UPDATE: It has been announced that Bird is to receive a 5 second time penalty, pushing him down into 6th place, awarding Mortara the victory for Venturi Formula E Team. The penalty is given due to Bird causing Lotterer to gain a puncture and missing out on the race win. Di Grassi is awarded 2nd and Frijns takes 3rd. Bird is now only 1 point ahead of D’Ambrosio and Envision Virgin Racing drops to 97 points for the team.
Feature Image Credit: Envision Virgin Racing Twitter