23 Mar 19

Vergne victorious in Sanya showdown, championship blown wide open

After three 'pointless' races, DS Techeetah driver and reigning champion Jean-Eric Vergne clinched his first win of the season on the streets of Sanya. The Frenchman was followed by Nissan e.dams' rookie Oliver Rowland and BMW i Andretti Motorsport's Antonio Felix da Costa in third, who climbs to the top of the championship standings. 

Here's how it all unfolded...

Nissan e.dams Oliver Rowland, starting from Pole, was quick off the line with DS Techeetah's Jean-Eric Vergne chasing him down in second and BMW i Andretti Motorsport's Antonio Felix da Costa in third.

Within the opening minutes, Envision Virgin Racing's Sam Bird came off the track at Turn 5, ending the Championship hopefull's race. Shortly after Bird's retirement, HWA Racelab's Stoffel Vandoorne also retired from the race reporting damage to the car. Both drivers came under investigation shortly after for causing a collision.

Once the ATTACK MODE Activation Zone was in action, the drivers started filing through. Each driver must arm ATTACK MODE at least twice, with each activation giving them an additional 25kWh for four minutes. 

Rowland, still out in front, led the pack with 30 minutes left of the race. Meanwhile, both Geox Dragon drivers retired from the race, bringing the total number of drivers who succumbed to the testing 2.236 km Sanya street circuit to four. 

With his teammate out of the running, Envision's Robin Frijns overtook Audi Sport Abt Schaeffler's Lucas di Grassi to move into seventh, while the former champ struggled to activate ATTACK MODE, missing the Activation Zone twice. 

Hungry for his first win of the season, reigning champ Vergne made a break for the lead on Turn 11, sending Rowland down to second. With JEV in the lead, rookie Rowland battled with the seasoned Formula E driver for the lead. Further down the pack, BMW i's Alex Sims clipped the wall, causing damage to the rear of his car which left him stranded on track. With the red flag out, the clock was stopped with 12 minutes left while Sims' BMW was salvaged.

Once the racing restarted under the BMW i8 Safety Car, the battle for first between Rowland and Vergne continued. Working his way up from starting in 10th, di Grassi reclaimed sixth from Frijns. Back at the front, race leader Vergne came under investigation for not respecting the Safety Car procedure, putting the Frenchman's chances of a much-needed win in jeopardy.

With two minutes left, Techeetah's Andre Lotterer had made his way up to fourth, hunting down da Costa in third. The final minute of the race saw chaos unfold as di Grassi, running in sixth, was taken out as Frijns careered into the Brazilian driver on Turn 8. With di Grassi stranded, the race finished under a full-course yellow, as Vergne took the chequered flag, followed by Oliver Rowland in second and da Costa in third.  

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