02 Dec 17
"That was a really crazy race - I'm finding it hard to process what just happened," said Virgin DS Racing's Sam Bird, still fresh from the race. Claiming the first victory of Season Four of the FIA Formula E Championship here in Hong Kong, Bird defied all odds and worked his way around a number of obstacles - including a hefty eight-second penalty - to finish on top of the standings.
"It was a simple error," claimed Bird, who picked up the time penalty after overshooting the pitbox when switching to his second car. "It was a drivethrough, I served my penalty and I thought I'd come out in P7 or P8, or something like that but I got on the radio ...and they said you're in P1... I'd never in a million years expected that."
Having started in second place, Bird managed to sneak past poleman Vergne in the first half of the race. "He's a super tough competitor and he's not going to let me past easily but it was fair and there was enough room, so I was able to get through," he said. After a delay in the opening minutes due to a red flag, caused by Vergne's teammate Andre Lotterer hitting a wall on Turn 3, the racing was back underway, with only a minor stall on track for Renault e.dams driver Sebastien Buemi following a technical failure.
Watching all the action from the wings was former Formula One World Champion Nico Rosberg, who made a guest appearance at the circuit. "I've been following Formula E - it has an amazing future," said Rosberg. Despite having retired from racing after winning the 2016 Grand Prix for Mercedes, Rosberg admitted he's "open to explore" what the possibilities are in Formula E, "I'm very interested."
Back on track, Vergne's frenzied hot lap during the Super Pole shoot-out in Qualifying, saw him clip the wall, spin round and cross the line backwards but - believe it or not - he still managed to walk away with the Julius Baer Pole Position. Hats off to the Frenchman who ended up claiming a well-deserved second place for the Chinese TECHEETAH team on home soil. "I'm second in the championship and I'm here for the long run, so I wasn't going to do anything silly with sam," said Vergne. With Bird out in the lead, Vergne and Mahindra Racing's Nick Heidfeld were left to battle it out between them but Hiedfield failed to pass, despite his best efforts.
For Audi Sport Abt Shaeffler driver and reigning champion Lucas di Grassi, it wasn't quite the race he'd hoped for. Picking up damage during the first half of the race, di Grassi was forced into an early car swap to finish the race just two places from the bottom.
With a total of five new faces on the grid, Round One proved to be a steep but encouraging learning curve for newcomer Andretti Formula E driver Kamui Kobayashi. "I was struggling with radio communication and I left a lot of energy. It was not brilliant but this race was very important ahead of tomorrow," he said. Having claimed 29 per cent of the votes on FANBOOST, the Japanese ex-Formula One driver had won over the crowd before he'd even left the pits. For NIO Formula E Team's new rookie driver Luca Filippi, "it was quite a chaotic race but good fun for the people watching." After a good start, Filippi was hampered by a drivethrough penalty, which set him back, finishing eleventh overall.
Both Venturi Formula E's Maro Engel and Mahindra Racing's Felix Rosenqvist picked up 22-second time penalties - to be applied after tomorrow's race - for using 190kW during the race - 10kW over the 180kW allowance for Season Four.
"We didn't expect to dominate Round One, but I'll take that," said Bird, merrily - before the news of his ten grid penalty, clearly. Tomorrow, the British driver will need to summon everything to claw his way back to the front. But, of course, tomorrow is another day and all 20 drivers will be fighting for a place on the podium as we prepare for Round Two of the HKT Hong Kong E-Prix.
Missed today's race? It's okay - we've got you covered with our broadcast guide. Don't forget to tune in for tomorrow's race at 3:00pm (local time).