Bird takes controversial win in Hong Kong ePrix

                            2019-03-11 02:27:34 GMT2019-03-11 10:27:34(Beijing Time) Xinhua English
                            Britain's Sam Bird (C), Switzerland's Edoardo Mortara (L) and Brazil's Lucas Di Grassi pose on the podium during the awarding ceremony after the ABB Formula-E Championship Hong Kong E-Prix in Hong Kong, China, March 10, 2019. (Xinhua/Lo Ping Fai)  Britain's Sam Bird (C), Switzerland's Edoardo Mortara (L) and Brazil's Lucas Di Grassi pose on the podium during the awarding ceremony after the ABB Formula-E Championship Hong Kong E-Prix in Hong Kong, China, March 10, 2019. (Xinhua/Lo Ping Fai)

                            By sportswriter Michael Butterworth

                            HONG KONG, March 10 (Xinhua) -- Sam Bird moved into the lead of the 2018-19 Formula E championship with a controversial win at the Hong Kong ePrix, after a race-long battle for the lead with Andre Lotterer resulted in a puncture for the German driver after Bird had nudged the rear of his car on the penultimate lap.

                            Race day for the 50th Formula ePrix dawned with decidedly mixed conditions, with rain showers before and during qualifying making life difficult for the drivers. Reigning series champion Jean-Eric Vergne notably finished his flying lap backwards after having lost control of his Techeetah coming out of the final corner.

                            Conditions had improved somewhat by the time the race got underway at 4pm with much of the standing water having evaporated, though the track was still very slippery, and the race was red-flagged on lap 2 when Felipe Nasr hit the wall and was collected by the Mahindras of Pascal Wehrlein and championship leader Jerome D'Ambrosio.

                            By this point, Bird had moved up into second place having overtaken five cars on the first lap alone. Things soon got even better for the Virgin Racing driver when fellow countryman Oliver Rowland, who had been leading, suddenly slowed with a software issue, putting Bird in the lead with Lotterer in hot pursuit. However, those positions were soon reversed when Lotterer passed Bird after the Englishman had run slightly wide exiting turn 2 on lap 7.

                            Drawing on every ounce of his considerable experience, the German was able to keep Bird at arms' length lap after lap, with Bird seemingly having the quicker car but proving unable to pass on the twisty Harbourfront circuit. Twice Lotterer ran wide under braking, but on neither occasion was Bird ideally positioned to take advantage.

                            While the two leaders were in a league of their own up front and pulling out a lead of up to ten seconds over Switzerland's Edoardo Mortara in third, several other established names were having an altogether tougher time of things. Lotterer's teammate Vergne started towards the rear of the field after his qualifying mishap, and failed to make much of an impression in the race, running wide at the chicane on one occasion and finishing in 13th place to continue his stuttering defense of his series title.

                            Stoffel Vandoorne would have been hoping for a better showing this weekend after having struggled in his debut Formula E campaign so far, and the Belgian driver started well by bagging pole position in tricky conditions. But the HWA driver faded during the race, losing out to Rowland, Bird and Lotterer in the opening laps and eventually retiring with a mechanical issue on lap 23. Sebastien Buemi and Alex Sims were two others who failed to see the chequered flag, both retiring after contact.

                            A late safety car period after Rowland also fell victim to the unforgiving walls bunched the pack up for a two-lap sprint to the finish, and with time running out, Bird attempted an audacious move on Lotterer which resulted in him nudging the German's right rear tyre. This ultimately proved fatal for Lotterer, whose tyre deflated as quickly as his hopes of winning his first ePrix. It was tough on the Techeetah driver, who until then had given a masterclass in defensive racecraft, and Bird's victory celebrations were decidedly muted as he lamented the unfortunate nature of the circumstances that had allowed him to take the win.

                            Rounding out the podium places were Mortara and Brazil's Lucas Di Grassi, with Robin Frijns, Daniel Abt, Felipe Massa, Mitch Evans, Gary Paffett, Oliver Turvey and Antonio Felix da Costa rounding out the top ten. The result sees Bird move into an 18-point lead at the top of the standings, though stewards announced shortly after the race that his move on Lotterer would be placed under review, meaning the Englishman may yet be stripped of his win.

                            The next round of the 2018-19 Formula E season is in Sanya, capital city of China's Hainan Province, on March 23.

                             

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