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Race highlights - Hong Kong Round 1 // Red flags, pit lane incidents, drive through penalties and more

Published by Christine Blachford

The Formula E class of 2017/18

If you're looking for fast-paced racing action, Formula E is the place to go. The first round of the season kicked off with a disappointingly long red flag period caused by the FIA's continuing incompetence, but once the action got going, it was non-stop action. The lead changed hands halfway through, and we even saw a penalty for the race leader to add to the will-he-won't-he tension.

Elsewhere, there were a few hairpin issues, and one driver was left particularly vocal about driving etiquette. But to find out more, you just need to read on for lap by lap coverage of round one of the Formula E championship.

As it happened: Hong Kong E-Prix 2017 - Round 1

Event Highlights

  • First lap crash brings out red flag and delays the racing action
  • Championship contenders Buemi and Di Grassi drop out of contention early on.
  • Bird crashes in the pitlane and goes on to win the race
  • Heidfeld and Vergne battle lap after lap for the final podium places
  • Radio and traffic issues cause consternation throughout the race
  • 06:30

    Well, hello Formula E fans! Welcome to the 2017/18 season and the first of a double header in Hong Kong.

  • 06:30

    Not sure I've ever felt quite so underprepared for an FBFB before. I'm coming into this sport new and have slept through all the build up sessions. But hey, I'm here, you're here, they're ready to go. Let's do this!

  • 06:31
    Fanboost

    One of the fun things about Formula E is their FanBoost initiative, where you vote for your favourite to get extra power in the second half of the race. There's still time to vote for today's race, you can find out more here.

  • 06:37

    Jean-Éric Vergne took pole position for the race today, ahead of Sam Bird. Heidfeld, Abt and Rosenqvist also took part in the super pole shoot-out, and it was incredibly close. The top three were split by just 0.029 seconds!

  • 06:41
    Starting grid
    1J VergneTecheetah
    2S BirdDS Virgin Racing
    3N HeidfeldMahindra Racing
    4D AbtAudi Sport ABT
    5F RosenqvistMahindra Racing
    6L Di GrassiAudi Sport ABT
    7O TurveyNIO FE Team
    8A Da CostaMS&AD Andretti
    9S BuemiRenault E.Dams
    10N Piquet JrPanasonic Jaguar
  • 06:45

    TweetTweet from @FRosenqvist: Scrappy free practice and qualy for me today. Anyways happy with starting P5 after missing a lot of running. Excited for the race!!!

  • 06:46

    @DSVirginRacing: On the grid and ready to go racing!

  • 06:47

    Worth noting that Vergne actually took that pole position backwards, as he spun on the final corner just as he crossed the line. Doing it in style.

  • 06:50

    Another key moment during qualifying was a red flag brought out by Prost. The Renault e.Dams driver hit the barriers, doing some damage to the car. He also picked up a trail of banner advertising, which flapped behind the car as he crawled round to the pits.

    Unfortunately for D'Ambrosio, he tried to pass at exactly the wrong time, picked up the tail end of the banner which swapped cars and ruined Jérôme's lap too.

  • 06:54

    Live timing is available here. I've seen better looking tables but it's the numbers we care about.

  • 06:55

    Weather icon

    24°C
    Track28°C
    Humidity66%
    Wind speed0.86mps
  • 06:57

    Busy and crowded grid out there as the drivers get strapped in, and the crews make their final preparations. Good crowds waiting for the action to begin too.

  • 06:58

    TweetTweet from @TecheetahFE: Pole sitter is in the car - let’s go racing!

  • 07:00

    TweetTweet from @lookingspiffy: Ah so we've gotten rid of Grid Kids already. Classy. Really forward looking.

  • 07:01

    Grid is clearing, leaving just those colourful and shiny cars ready to race.

  • 07:03
    Circuit Data
    Hong Kong
    Local timezone+08:00 GMT
    First race2016
    Number of laps43
    Circuit length1.86km
    Race distance79.98km
  • 07:03

    Green flagRace started.

  • 07:04 Lap 1

    Heidfeld runs to the outside and hoped for second into the first hairpin, but drops back for being on the wrong line.

  • 07:04 Lap 1

    First couple of corners very clean, which is a great job. Traffic jam at the next corner though.

  • 07:05 Lap 1

    Lotterer hit the wall and the rest of the cars following have all had to come to a halt.

  • 07:05 Lap 2

    Red flagSession stopped. Not a surprise, with four cars just sitting there.

  • 07:06

    Quite adorable, if disappointing for those drivers, to see how they just booped to a stop. Lotterer causing the issue, then the following cars didn't have the turning circle to undercut the parked car.

  • 07:08

    The rest of the field has been called into the pit lane, for the red flag, so the track falls silent whilst the situation is cleared up.

  • 07:09

    Oliver Turvey made a great start, from seventh on the grid, he moved up to third place.

  • 07:09

    TweetTweet from @LukeSmithF1: Rocket start from Turvey to go around the outside and rise from P7 to P3. Unclear if it will be a full restart though

  • 07:13

    Apparently Mitch Evans said before the race that the chicanes here are a lot tighter than they were last year, which might explain the difficulties experienced by the back runners.

  • 07:13

    The FIA are, according to a Dragon bod, just finalising the positions that the cars should restart in before we get going again.

  • 07:14

    TweetTweet from @TecheetahFE: All cars in the pitlane awaiting further instructions. Most likely a start under saftey car as it stands

  • 07:18

    TweetTweet from @LukeSmithF1: FanBoost has shut: Kobayashi, Abt and Filippi have won the in-race power boost

  • 07:19

    QuoteAlain Prost on changing the front wing on Nico's car: "Maybe we were not obliged to change but we did. A lot of cars have changed the front wing, but don't worry. We hope we're okay for the second start. I think we have a start behind the safety car, which in my opinion is better, because we can see it's a narrow track."

  • 07:21

    QuoteMark Preston, team principal of Techeetah: "It was a really good start, got away well, looked like he was holding Sam off for at least the lap we did. The incident happened, now we're all back in pit lane and we're just waiting for Race Control to give us an idea how they want to switch everyone around."

  • 07:25

    QuoteFrom inside the car, sitting at the front of the queue in the pit lane, Vergne chats whilst also trying not to get distracted: "Trying to have a good restart and then trying to have a good race. Keep that position would be nice. Should be fine. Obviously the riskier start is the normal start. Should be fine, but you never know. Need to stay focused."

  • 07:25

    For a sport that prides itself on an almost manic pace at getting everything done, this delay is a bit embarrassing.

  • 07:26

    TweetTweet from @msadAndrettiFE: In case you missed that green flag... we promise it really was there for a hot minute.

  • 07:28

    Race controlRe-start behind the safety car.

  • 07:29

    QuoteAlejandro Agag: "These things happen in racing, it's frustrating how long it's taking to restart. It's complicated FIA rules, but you have to follow the book. We need to get the race going, people are waiting. It's very competitive, we have a lot of great drivers, they all want to win and we could see they are all really fighting for it. Street race, very narrow track, things happen."

  • 07:32

    The cars are making their way slowly back out onto track now and rounding their way to the grid.

  • 07:34

    Scratch that, they haven't gone to the grid but returned to the pit lane - now in the right order, and the safety car leads the way.

  • 07:34 Lap 3

    Yellow flagThe safety car leads the way and we are back slowly racing.

  • 07:36 Lap 3

    Green flagThe safety car has pulled in, Vergne backs up the field and we are go.

  • 07:37 Lap 4

    Back up to speed, Vergne has a clean first hairpin, and the rest of the field follow along behind.

  • 07:37 Lap 4

    Di Grassi and Abt bump into each other, the teammates jostling for position. Abt got ahead there for fifth place.

  • 07:38 Lap 5

    Sam Bird is putting pressure on Vergne for the lead, and the pair are pulling out a gap to the rest of the pack.

  • 07:38 Lap 5

    Rosenqvist has been turned round by Filippi at a hairpin, he was facing the wrong way but has got back on the racing line now.

  • 07:39 Lap 6

    Yellow flagYellow flag. Jérôme D'Ambrosio has stopped out on track, the red car halted alongside the barriers.

  • 07:41 Lap 7

    Green flagTrack is clear.

  • 07:43 Lap 9

    Abt muscles past Heidfeld and has moved up to fourth. The Audis are the cars everyone thought would have race pace, so far so true.

  • 07:44 Lap 10
    Gap Analysis
    PosDriverGap
    1stVER1:05.518
    2ndBIR+0.393
    3rdTUR+4.255
    4thABT+4.722
  • 07:44 Lap 11

    Abt is already putting serious pressure on Bird, who is sticking his elbows as best as possible.

  • 07:45 Lap 11

    TweetTweet from @HSouthwellFE: Daniel Abt is absolutely on one today - out qualified Lucas, brilliant move on Nick Heidfeld just then, hunting down Oliver Turvey. No kind of second driver work here.

  • 07:45 Lap 12

    Bit further back, big rivals Di Grassi and Buemi are 6th and 7th with just under a second between them.

  • 07:46 Lap 13

    D'Ambrosio is back out on track, a lap down on the rest of the field.

  • 07:48 Lap 14

    TweetTweet from @eracing_net: If you're watching along, you might have noticed there are no energy percentage graphics - it's because the sensor information was lost during the restart, teams also don't know what drivers have left. With disrupted radio due to the buildings here, it's in the dark.

  • 07:48 Lap 14

    Race controlLuca Filippi - drive through penalty - caused a collision.

  • 07:51 Lap 17

    Lucas di Grassi has come into the pit lanes early, looks like a problem on that car. He jumps out and climbs into his second car. It'll be a struggle to get that to the end, surely.

  • 07:51 Lap 17

    Oliver Turvey is dropping down the order rapidly, he was doing so well! He's called into the pit lane, if he can get there he can also change cars.

  • 07:52 Lap 18

    Turvey has made it back to the pit lane, so he'll be in a similar position to Di Grassi from here.

  • 07:55 Lap 21

    Sam Bird has swept ahead of Vergne for the lead, P1 for the DS Virgin after a great overtaking move.

  • 07:56 Lap 21

    Team radioTeam radio to Vergne: "Box this lap. Box, box, box. BOX THIS LAP."

    "Okay, okay, okay."

  • 07:56 Lap 22

    Race controlAndré Lotterer - drive through penalty - cutting the chicane.

  • 07:57 Lap 22

    Vergne discards one car and is strapped into the second. Bit of dust flies up as he speeds out of the garage to start his second stint.

  • 07:58 Lap 22

    Sam Bird comes into the pits at a bizarre angle, pit equipment and at least one person is knocked over. Bird carries on his way, jumping from one car to the next, and off he goes.

  • 07:58 Lap 23

    Person looks okay, upright again. Replays show he dived out of the way just in time.

  • 08:00 Lap 24

    A Renault has stopped out on track, it looks like its Buemi! He gets going again, shouting that the car shut down.

  • 08:00 Lap 24

    TweetTweet from @toomuchracing: Buemi stopped on course briefly.. bad day for likely title contenders

  • 08:02 Lap 27

    Sam Bird has retained his lead in amongst all the pit stops, but the stewards are looking into that pit lane incident so there could be a penalty to come.

  • 08:03 Lap 28

    There's a big fight now between Vergne and Heidfeld for second place. Heidfeld hustling the Techeetah.

  • 08:04 Lap 28
    One to Watch
    J Vergnevs.N Heidfeld
    2nd+0.47s3rd
  • 08:04 Lap 28

    Abt had a slow pit stop and has dropped down the order, he's currently running P8.

  • 08:05 Lap 29
    Top ten
    1S BirdDS Virgin Racing
    2J VergneTecheetah
    3N HeidfeldMahindra
    4M EngelVenturi
    5N PiquetJaguar
    6F RosenqvistMahindra
    7A Da CostaAndretti
    8D AbtAudi Sport ABT
    9A LynnDS Virgin Racing
    10E MortaraVenturi
  • 08:05 Lap 30

    Race controlSam Bird - drive through penalty - unsafe pit stop.

  • 08:06 Lap 30

    Disaster for Bird, but now that makes the Heidfeld/Vergne battle for the win.

  • 08:07 Lap 31

    Bird takes his penalty, driving through the pit lane. Sam Bird has done a great job to come out ahead! He keeps the lead!

  • 08:08 Lap 32

    The power graphics are back!

  • 08:09 Lap 32

    Filippi has used his FanBoost. He's running down in 12th at the moment.

  • 08:09 Lap 33

    TweetTweet from @FormulaEZone: There will be a lot of moaning team principals after Bird's penalty. he only lost 9 seconds. At some tracks, a drive-through penalty will be about 20 seconds

  • 08:10 Lap 33

    Di Grassi is running on 37%, compared to the rest of the field up in the 50s.

  • 08:12 Lap 36

    These cars are proper tanks. Rosenqvist looking for a way past Engel, contact between the two. There's a train of cars behind Engel in fact.

  • 08:15 Lap 38

    At some point, D'Ambrosio came into the pits again and retired.

  • 08:15 Lap 39

    Great slipping and sliding from Vergne and Heidfeld as they run side by side through at least one corner.

  • 08:17 Lap 40

    TweetTweet from @virtualstatman: Nick Heidfeld: Most podiums without a win in Formula 1... most podiums without a win in Formula E.....

  • 08:18 Lap 41

    Race controlM Engel - Max power overuse.

  • 08:19 Lap 42

    Di Grassi has been doing his best coast and energy saving, he's now on a similar energy % to the rest of the field. But it's not doing him any favours, because he is down in 18th place.

  • 08:19 Lap 42

    Piquet dived his way through to move up to fifth, taking no prisoners. Rosenqvist tried to keep out the way and lost a place to Abt as well!

  • 08:20 Lap 43

    Mortara takes a nice, smooth, penultimate lap overtake on Lynn to move into ninth place.

  • 08:21

    Chequered flagSam Bird wins Round 1 in Hong Kong!

  • 08:21

    Vergne and Heidfeld follow in that order to take the remaining two podium spots.

  • 08:22

    Race controlM Engel - Drive through penalty converted time penalty - max power overuse.

  • 08:23

    TweetTweet from @JaguarRacing: That's the chequered flag and it's P5 for Nelson with Mitch coming home in P14.

  • 08:27

    QuoteSam Bird: "What a stress that was. There's just no grip in the pit lane. I turned in, just went straight on. Amazing result, I served my penalty, I thought he was in front. The radios were so bad. But we dominated the race, it was great. The car was great, thanks to all the DS team for working so hard. We didn't know what to expect when we came here, but what a great start to the year. That was stressful."

  • 08:28

    QuoteJean-Éric Vergne: "I did not fully understand everything about that race. I think I had a huge issue in the car, all the strategies were wrong, no communication... It was just a nightmare race, but a nightmare race finishing second is a really good thing. So I'm happy about that."

  • 08:28

    QuoteNick Heidfeld: "Probably one of the most disappointing third places I've ever hand. I've just spoken to JEV, I don't think he stuck to the rules in changing direction when blocking once... I was furious in the car, to be honest. The pace was fantastic, this is why I'm a bit disappointed. There was more in it but it was a crazy race. I had a great start, like last year, but there was nowhere for me to come in, so I had to brake to avoid a big crash."

  • 08:28

    TweetTweet from @toomuchracing: Engel demoted from 4th to 14th with a time penalty, max power overuse

  • 08:29
    Gap Analysis
    PosDriverGap
    1stBIR1:06.012
    2ndVER+11.575
    3rdHEI+12.465
    4thPIQ+15.324
    5thABT+17.205
  • 08:30

    Da Costa, Rosenqvist, Mortara, Lynn and Prost round out the top ten.

  • 08:31

    The top three have boarded the party bus, Heidfeld and Vergne don't seem to be about to tussle so all is well.

  • 08:40

    Drivers are making their way to the podium. Sam Bird jumps up to the P1 spot. Also Bibendum is there.

  • 08:40

    National anthem plays out.

  • 08:43

    Trophies, Sam Bird raises his above his head, big smiles.

    Champagne! Bibendum is loving it.

  • 08:43

    It was a dodgy start, with the red flag delay, but once the action got going that was a pretty good start to the year.

  • 08:44

    Interesting to see the two championship rivals Buemi and Di Grassi both dropping down the order, leaving the top five with some new faces.

  • 08:44

    As a new viewer, the jostling for position was a pleasant surprise, those cars are pretty robust considering what they go through!

  • 08:44

    Lots still to learn, but I'll be back here tomorrow to find out more. Do join me then!