Sam Bird marked a perfect start to the fourth season of Formula E, the FIA’s all-electric single seater series, after taking victory alongside Felix Rosenqvist in the 2017/18 season-opening double header on the streets of Hong Kong.
A bold overtaking move to the inside of Jean-Eric Vergne through the chicane at Turn 6 ensures DS Virgin racer Bird maintains his record of scoring a race win in each of the four seasons of Formula E thus far, whilst Rosenqvist’s triumph after a late spin for debutante Eduardo Mortara handed Mahindra a first victory of the season after Daniel Abt’s exclusion for a technical infringement.
Race 1 – Bird wins, despite a penalty
When you consider that 14.2% of all Formula E races held have ended in victory for Britain’s Sam Bird, it seems almost ridiculous that he has never been seriously involved in a championship battle, but he staked an early claim to the 2017/18 title fight with a dominant victory in the season opener – despite a drive-through penalty.
Bird made an opportunistic move on polesitter Vergne before the race struck half distance, before an error whilst turning into his garage to change cars at the pit stop caused him to slide wide to an abrupt halt in the dusty pit lane. He recovered and retained his lead – even after being called in to serve his penalty for the incident.
Vergne would eventually settle for second ahead of Mahindra’s Nick Heidfeld and Jaguar’s Nelson Piquest Jr. Daniel Abt was the quickest of the Audi pairing with reigning champion Lucas di Grassi languishing a lap down in 17th. Ertswhile series champion Sebastian Buemi also struggled at the opening event and failed to register any points in 11th.
Race 2: Eduardo Mortara spins away victory on debut
Perhaps inexperience showed as Eduardo Mortara spun away his maiden Formula E victory on his debut weekend in the championship with only a handful of laps to go in the second contest, but pole-sitter Felix Rosenqvist is far more experienced, and did likewise at the first corner.
Daniel Abt looked a little too far behind in second in the closing stages but duly came through to register maximum points on his 25th birthday, and in doing so handed Audi their maiden win as a manufacturer in the sport as the series’ profile continues to rise.
However, the German was excluded from the results for a technical infringement after the race, handing the victory in a roundabout fashion to Felix Rosenqvist.
Mortara could console himself with the second spot on the podium in third behind a recovering Rosenqvist, but will doubtless reflect on a lost first victory for both himself and the Venturi team – who have competed in every ePrix on record without success.
Mitch Evans was subsequently promoted to third, handing Jaguar their first-ever podium in the series in their sophomore season.
The net result of both races gives Bird the lead in the standings, with Vergne a further two points behind. In the Teams’ Championship, DS Virgin Racing hold a single point in hand over Mahindra, with Audi another point back.
The championship heads next to the streets of Marrakech in Morocco in the New Year.