Envision Virgin Racing’s Sam Bird beat DS Techeetah’s Andre Lotterer in a race-long scrap for the lead of the 50th Formula E race in Hong Kong.
It was Nissan e.dams driver Oliver Rowland who led off the line, beating polesitter HWA Racelab’s Stoffel Vandoorne to the Turn 1 hairpin, while Bird climbed from seventh on the grid to fourth.
He picked up a further place on the subsequent lap, passing Lotterer on the inside of the Turns 3/4 chicane. He then got into second after getting a better run out of Turn 1 than Vandoorne and completing the move into Turn 2.
A red flag period followed as Geox Dragon’s Felipe Nasr crashed at Turn 2 while attempting to limp his damaged car back to the pits, with both the Mahindra drivers being collected in the incident.
That meant both Pascal Wehrlein and pre-race championship leader Jerome d’Ambrosio were out of the race.
The race restarted with 36 minutes on the clock remaining, and Lotterer picked off Vandoorne into Turn 1 straight away to put himself into a podium position.
Leader Rowland suddenly slowed on the exit of the same corner on the following lap, supposedly after accidently turning on his full course yellow speed limiter, dropping him to 10th.
Bird himself then relinquished the lead to Lotterer with a mistake at Turn 2, which prompted the start of a defensive drive from the Techeetah driver.
He survived a further two safety car restarts, the first for Vandoorne stopping at the Turn 6 hairpin with a driveshaft problem, the latter for Rowland retiring with left-rear suspension damage.
On the penultimate lap of the race Bird made an attempt at Turn 2 but slid into the rear of Lotterer’s car, giving the German a right-rear puncture. Bird went on to win but the incident is currently under investigation.
Edoardo Mortara picked up his second consecutive podium for Venturi with 2016/17 champion Lucas di Grassi third for Audi Sport Abt Schaeffler.
Robin Frijns was fourth in the second Virgin with Daniel Abt fifth. Felipe Massa was sixth ahead of Mitch Evans’ Jaguar while rookie Gary Paffett slipped back to eighth from fourth on the grid to score HWA’s first top 10 finish.
Oliver Turvey scored his second points finish of the season for NIO in ninth, while Antonio Felix da Costa rose from 20th on the grid to score a point in 10th.
Reigning champion Jean-Eric Vergne struggled to make progress from 18th on the grid after he crashed in qualifying. He went off at Turn 1 on the first restart and couldn’t do better than 13th, only finishing ahead of team-mate Lotterer.
2015/16 champion Sebastien Buemi retired after contact with Frijns, while BMW Andretti driver Alexander Sims came into the garage after hitting the wall on the exit of Turn 5 and damaging his suspension.