Mar 14, 2019 - 5min read
Following heavy rain, the Hong Kong E-Prix took place in wet conditions, which made for the ultimate street race showdown, and the excitement seen so far this season continued! The morning qualifying session saw the drivers wrestle their cars around the slippery track and ended with ex-McLaren and fan favourite Stoffel Vandoorne pulling out a stunning lap to gain pole position! Oliver Rowland of Nissan e.dams and Edoardo Mortara of Venturi followed in second and third with all the championship contenders right down the pack.
So, what happened in the race?
As the lights went out on the Hong Kong harbourside, Rowland shot off the line and managed to squeeze ahead of Vandoorne through the inside of Turn 1. Hurtling down the track behind them were five cars in a tight hustle, fighting and bumping into each other. Amongst all this, Sam Bird managed to jump ahead of the queue and move up to third place by Turn 4, having started in seventh.
The other hotshot off the line was our own Alexander Sims. Having started 13th on the grid, he’d managed to overtake a whopping five cars to find himself in eighth position as he finished the first lap. However, with the track dying out, Sims braked too late into Turn 1, locked up and found himself at a standstill in the wall. To compound the error, 2018 Formula E champion Jean-Éric Vergne also locked up, sandwiching our unlucky Sims into the corner until Vergne had managed to reverse out. Each now found themselves right at the back of the field.
Further up the order, Bird was still pushing and managed to overtake Vandoorne on lap 21 to claim second place. Only a lap or two down and the drama doesn’t stop there!
Felipe Nasr of GEOX Dragon picked up an issue and went into the barriers at Turn 2. Being a street circuit, the track is narrow. As Nasr went into the wall both Mahindras couldn’t evade the car and both went into the back of the GEOX Dragon car, breaking their suspensions. This incident stopped play - three cars out and the red flags were brought in.
However, as soon as the safety car came in, it was game on - every car dived into attack mode and stepped up the pace!
Within a lap of the restart, André Lotterer managed to dive down the inside of Vandoorne to climb up to third. As Lotterer continued to pressure the top two, Bird clipped the rear of Rowland as they came out of Turn 1 causing Rowland to limp his way down the long straight. However, karma chased Bird as he overshot into Turn 2 allowing Lotterer through into first place!
For the remaining 20 minutes, Bird followed Lotterer closely as other racers peeled off. Sébastien Buemi out. Vandoorne out. Sims out. Rowland out. With just 30 seconds on the clock, Bird clipped Lotterer this time, puncturing his type as they started the final lap. Lotterer was out and Bird flew away to finish in first place! The others chased hard but he couldn’t be caught - Mortara came in second and Mexico City winner Lucas Di Grassi coming in third.
As it happens, way after the race and celebrations had finished, Bird was handed a five second penalty for his aggressive moves, bringing him down into sixth and Mortara up to first!
Bird looks strong, but needs composure
Sam Bird has been mighty impressive all season, competing in almost every race and currently sits top of the Drivers’ Championship. However, this weekend it boiled over. Twice he clipped the car in the lead, causing them to drop down the pecking order. He was ultimately penalised for his actions, but if he can bring together a complete race, he must surely be the most consistently competitive driver on the grid and favourite to win the championship this year.
Energy management out of the lime light
Mexico was marred with a fiesta around energy management as cars limped over the line. However, Hong Kong’s combination of two safety cars, a red flag, and a slower, wet track meant energy management wasn’t really on the radar as a spectator. This goes to show the challenges the engineers face. Anything and everything from humidity, temperature to the speed of the race, the number of crashes and accidents can cause the cars to run low.
Venturi on the rise?
After the first two races the Venturi team seemed to be struggling and stuck on zero points. However, the results of the last three races has seen them whiz up to fourth in the Teams’ Championship - with Mortara claiming fourth, third and now first place, and Massa also collecting points in the last two races. Admittedly favourable circumstances went their way in both races with cars peeling off in Mexico and a slower pace in Hong Kong, but positive signs nonetheless.
From Alexander Sims himself:
In our race preview, we hoped that Alexander would manage to duck the back luck he’s been through recently. Initially, Alexander looked strong. Climbing a jaw-dropping five places in the first lap shows the pace he’s capable of, but an unlucky mistake into Turn 1 and a mistake later in the race lead in an eventual retirement. On to Sanya!
‘“I had a fantastic opening lap in the race. The car felt good, I was aggressive but considered and it really paid off as I made up a good number of places,” said Sims. “But I out-braked myself on the second lap. It was just a bit too late and I locked up and missed the corner. It was a miscalculation that unfortunately meant we lost a lot of places, so the race was pretty much over at that point. The contact and retirement later on was obviously disappointing, but as always we take the positives from this and aim to come back more knowledgeable, faster and better for the next race.”
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