The second round of the FIA Formula E Championship 2017/18 was run on Sunday in Hong Kong, as a part of the double header event.
Felix Rosenqvist in the Mahindra Racing car had secured Pole Position ahead of Mitch Evans in Panasonic Jaguar Racing and Edoardo Mortara in Venturi. The winner from yesterday, Sam Bird, had qualified 4th, but he had a 10-grid penalty due to his driving in the pitlane yesterday, so birthday boy Daniel Abt got 4th instead. After the qualifying session there was even more changes. Evens lost second position because he had used more than the 200kW allowed in the Super Pole, so he would drop to 4th. So the actual starting grid was Rosenqvist, Mortara, Abt, and Evans.
Jean-Eric Vergne only started 7th while the final podium visitor from yesterday, Nick Heidfeld, started all the way back in 10th. But it was still better than last season’s Champion, Lucas di Grassi. The Brazilian was only going to start the race in 12th, while the 2015/16 Champion Sebastien Buemi, had to start dead last because of technical problems during the qualifying.
The start was delayed for several minutes, because the organizers had problems with the starting lights. So they chose to start the race behind the Safety Car instead, leading the field around to the green flag.
Felix Rosenqvist made the absolute worst possible start by spinning in Turn one, spinning in front of the whole field. He had to stay there parked until a big part of the field had passed him. He only managed to slot in again in 11th, so many places had been lost. Instead it was Edoardo Mortara who led his second ever Formula E race, followed by Daniel Abt and Mitch Evans.
Sam Bird had made a good start from 14th and was right up to 10th already on the first lap, and only 5 laps into the race, he was inside Top 10.
Nick Heidfeld had to stop on the circuit and reset the car due to a technical problem. That dropped him to last position in the race, but he was quickly about to catch the field again, since he was the fastest driver on the track at that moment.
The two former teammates Oliver Turvey and Nelson Piquet Jr. had a bit of wheel banging, creating a bit of a train behind them, with Sam Bird as one of the wagons.
Luca Filippi all of a sudden slowed down on the track and had to return to the pits. It turned out that he had some damage to the suspension, so he had to go into the secondary car.
Kamui Kobayashi in Andretti, Luca Filippi in NIO, and Daniel Abt in Audi Sport ABT Schaeffler were the three drivers receiving Fan Boost from the fans. It wasn’t however until the season part of the race, that they would be able to use it.
Nelson Piquet Jr. all of a sudden fell back the field with a very slow lap. He managed to lock into P14 and still continue the race.
Mortara was just taking it easy out front, with 3-4% more power on his battery than all the competitors. So not only did he drive fast – he was good at saving the power too.
Lucas di Grassi made it past Nico Prost on Lap 14 and finally made it into the points. But with 31 laps still remaining, a lot of stuff could still potentially happen.
Rosenqvist slowly moved up the field again and was all the way up to 7th, even before the halfway point of the race had been reached.
Antonio Felix da Costa and Lucas di Grassi were the two most energy efficient drivers in the field, so their goal was to do one more lap than all the other drivers.
Sebastien Buemi was the first driver to pit, one lap early, so he could do it on a completely empty pitlane. Everybody else, bar Antonio Felix da Costa, Alex Lynn, and Lucas di Grassi came in on the following lap, resulting in a lot of traffic down the narrow pitlane.
All of a sudden Lucas di Grassi slowed down on his in-lap. According to the graphics, he still had plenty of power on his batteries, but with so much electronic equipment on the cars, something can easily go wrong.
Felix Rosenqvist was one of the big winners after the car swap, since he jumped all the way up to third. However, there was still a gap of 13 seconds to the leading Mortara and Abt followed up 3 seconds behind the lead.
Andre Lotterer had a much better race today and was actually pushing Sebastien Buemi in the fight for 11th position.
Rosenqvist was slowly catching the two guys ahead, but the question was, if he was doing it fast enough. With 10 laps remaining, he still had 8 seconds to Mortara and about 5 seconds to Abt.
Abt slowed started to narrow down the gap to Mortara with 6 laps to go, but it’s one thing to catch somebody – another thing to pass them. It might have been down to the Fan Boost, since the gap was building again shortly after.
Just two laps before the chequered flag, the very thing that shouldn’t happen for Edoardo Mortara, actually happened. He locked his rear wheels up and spun around. Before he managed to restart the car, two drivers had already passed him. Post race he blamed himself for the fault, since he was trying to go for the fastest lap of the race.
So the victory went for Daniel Abt, who won his very first Formula E – on his 25th birthday!
Felix Rosenqvist finished second ahead of unlucky Edoardo Mortara.
But the drama wasn’t over. Further down the field, with only a few meters to go, Nelson Piquet Jr was driving very slowly, and a fast Andre Lotterer had to avoid him at the very final moment, sending the latter into the concrete wall. He was still able to sneak over the finishing line, and the P14 even before the crash remained after as well – but no points for the German.
Daniel Abt has taken the lead in the Drivers Championship ahead of Sam Bird, who finished 6th in the race today. Jean-Eric Vergne finished 5th in the race, and that was enough to be third in the Championship. Next up is Felix Rosenqvist, who still got a lot of good points in the bag, although he had hoped for a lot more prior to the weekend.
In the Teams Championship we have DS Virgin Racing leading Mahindra Racing and Audi Sport Abt Schaeffler.
Formula E is back on track on 13 January, when Round 3 of the FIA Formula E Championship 2017/18 will be run in Marrakesh, Morocco.
Post race scrutineering revealed issues with the car of Daniel Abt – read more here