Sam Bird and Felix Rosenqvist have drawn first blood in the 2017-2018 FIA Formula E Season by taking wins in the season-opening Hong Kong doubleheader.
Bird’s victory for DS Virgin Racing came after a red flag period early in the race, and a botched pit stop, which resulted in a drive-through penalty, for the British driver.
However, by the time the penalty was assessed, Bird had built up enough of a gap to maintain his lead over second place Nick Heidfeld and third place, and polesitter, Jean-Eric Vergne.
The second Hong Kong ePrix saw just as many twists and turns, but the drama didn’t stop with the checkered flag.
A pair of spins from the lead first from polesitter Felix Rosenqvist and then from Venturi’s Edoardo Mortara put Audi Sport Abt Schaeffler’s Daniel Abt in the catbird seat to pick up his maiden Formula E victory on his 25th birthday, no less.
However, the perfect gift for the German driver was not to be as his car was found to be in violation of the technical regulations.
Each team must declare the exact components used on each competitor’s car, cataloged by a barcode. For Audi Sport Abt Schaeffler and Daniel Abt, the declared components did not match those found on the car in post-race tech.
Abt’s disqualification gave the race victory to Mahindra’s Felix Rosenqvist. Venturi Formula E’s Edoardo Mortara was promoted to second and Mitch Evans secured the first podium finish for Panasonic Jaguar Racing in third.
“We haven’t really had an idea of what our M4 car is like on a street circuit until now, but this weekend really showed that we have the pace to be very competitive,” Rosenqvist said.
“For sure, we made a few mistakes, but we also got a lot of things right. I struggled with my brake balance through the weekend, and I feel we could have been even better, but for now, I’m happy to start the season like this.
“The pole position, win and fastest lap shows that we can mount a serious challenge this year, and that we’re ready to work hard and go for both championship titles.”
Abt, pending appeal, has been stripped of his victory and the accompanying 25 points.
Things were just as gloomy on the other side of the Audi garage, where reigning driver’s champion Lucas Di Grassi failed to score a single point during the doubleheader weekend.
Di Grassi’s rival for the 2016-2017 crown, Renault e.dams’ Sebastien Buemi, picked up just a single point on the weekend with a 10th place finish in race two at Hong Kong.
— Audi Formula E (@audiformulae) December 3, 2017
Heartbroken 💔 I‘m struggling to find words for this. All I know is that I did my best to make you proud. We intend to appeal the decision. Sending love to all of you…. #AllTheWayABT pic.twitter.com/Dg0HJcYuFC
— Daniel Abt (@Daniel_Abt) December 3, 2017
— Jaguar Racing (@JaguarRacing) December 3, 2017