HONG KONG (Reuters) – Britain’s Sam Bird won Formula E’s 50th race and took back the overall lead in the all-electric series in Hong Kong on Sunday, subject to a stewards’ investigation into a penultimate-lap collision.
FILE PHOTO – Motor racing – Formula E – Santiago ePrix – Santiago, Chile – January 26, 2019 Envision Virgin Racing’s Sam Bird in action during the race REUTERS/Rodrigo Garrido
If the results of the season’s fifth round are confirmed, Bird will have 71 points with an 18-point advantage over Mahindra’s Belgian Jerome d’Ambrosio, who failed to finish.
Virgin Racing’s Bird made contact with race leader Andre Lotterer’s DS Techeetah at Turn Two, the impact puncturing the German’s tyre and putting the three-times Le Mans 24 Hours winner out of the race.
Lotterer had led from the eighth lap with Bird close behind but unable to get past on a narrow track in slippery conditions after earlier showers, with the race stopped early on and featuring three safety car periods.
The final result remained uncertain even as the podium presentation went ahead with Swiss driver Edoardo Mortara second for Venturi and Brazilian Lucas Di Grassi third for Audi.
“It’s a shame,” Bird said of the incident. “I tried to go down the inside and Andre late-defended. It’s very slippery down the inside, I braked, locked up and hit him a little bit like what he did with JEV (Jean-Eric Vergne) in Santiago last year.
“My heart goes out to him; he drove a great race. It’s a shame it ended up that way.”
Victory would be his second of the season and ninth of his career.
D’Ambrosio and German team mate Pascal Wehrlein failed to finish after both ran into Brazilian Felipe Nasr’s crashed Geox Dragon car.
That brought out the safety car for the first time and then red flags.
When the race resumed, Britain’s Oliver Rowland — who had seized the lead at the start – slowed and Bird took the lead until he made a mistake that allowed Lotterer to go past.
The safety car was again deployed when Belgian Stoffel Vandoorne, who had been on pole position, stopped on track with a technical problem.
It came out for a third time with five minutes to go when Rowland hit the wall and damaged his rear axle, the action picking up again with two minutes to go.
Reigning champion Vergne finished 13th.
Reporting by Alan Baldwin, editing by Clare Fallon