Bird wins in “The Safety Car E-Prix” – Formula E Review

This morning saw Round 5 of the new Formula E season 5 in Hong Kong. If you thought Mexico City’s E-Prix was entertaining, you obviously have not yet watched the Hong Kong E-Prix. It was insane. Let’s take a look at the day’s action.

Mahindra’s Disaster

To say that today did not go all that well for the Mahindra team would be an understatement. They headed into this race at the top of the constructor’s championship. After a bad race overall for Pascal Wehrlein last time out, with him losing out to Di Grassi from a time penalty and running out of available energy, Mahindra were hoping to get back into the swing of things, after an impressive first 2 or so races.

Unfortunately for the Indian team, luck would not be on their side at Hong Kong. The wet conditions in qualifying and practice lead to an appalling qualifying session. Both drivers finished 21st and 22nd respectively, meaning it would be a recovery drive at best for the title challenging team, though this wasn’t quite disaster yet.

The Hong Kong Circuit map.

Heading into the race, the Mahindra team was quite confident, hoping they could maybe snatch a few points from what was already going to be a poor race. Disaster struck, however, when Felipe Nasr had a car failure, crashing out of the race. The Mahindras, stuck behind, came around the tight corner of the track and couldn’t avoid striking the car of Nasr. This led to a full safety car, followed by a red flag and the retirement of both Mahindra cars, a pretty large blow to their title challenge, with Envision Virgin Racing taking the lead in both championships.

Consecutive retirements for Piquet Jr.

Mahindra was not the only team with poor luck this race, as a matter of fact – the race saw the most retirements this year, with only 14 cars finishing the race out of 22. One of these retirements was Neslon Piquet Jr. We all know that he had a pretty disastrous race last time out, with the biggest crash of the season in Mexico City. His luck seemingly wouldn’t improve after he had a suspension failure early into the race, also having to retire. This pushes him right down into 20th on the Driver’s standings.

Similarly, pole position Stoffel Vandoorne’s luck ran out with a Drive Shaft problem, causing him to also retire. Fortunately for HWA, Vandoorne’s team, Gary Paffett was able to score 7 points this race, scoring the first points for the team in Formula E.

2017/18 Panasonic Jaguar Car.

Bird and Lotterer Contact?

The last two laps of this exciting race saw Bird push for the overtake on the leader, André Lotterer. With safety cars having lost Bird his energy advantage, the Envision Virgin Racing driver started getting more and more desperate to make a move.

When he did, it did not end pretty for Lotterer. Bird had the inside line heading into the corner but locked up as he did so (Formula E cars do not have ABS making it easy to lockup). Lotterer made a move in the braking zone to squeeze Bird further and further onto the inside. With no control over the situation, Sam Bird clipped the wheel of Lotterer and caused a puncture, all but ending the race of André Lotterer. The German ended up finishing last of the remaining cars.

With the FIA investigating the incident and ruling that there was no need for a penalty to the Envision Virgin Racing car, it led to some debate on Twitter (and my post on the BBC, but you know – we won’t mention that). If we take a look at the incident, as I mentioned in the aforementioned Tweet, Bird was not at fault for the incident. The FIA say that you when a car is at a certain distance to you, you must allow them the room they need. Here, we can clearly see that Bird has the inside line, and should be allowed the room to use that line, as he had been trying this overtake for practically the whole race. If this was Formula 1, he would be in DRS range, which makes this (for me at least) the space where Lotterer has to acknowledge that Bird exists.

Though of course at the speed of racing, it is very hard to see Bird in the mirrors, it is still at the range where Lotterer has to be giving him the room. He made some pretty big movements in the braking zone, which is not allowed when you are defensively driving. Bird was committed to a line, and Lotterer should have gone wide to avoid a collision with Bird. As pointed out many times on Twitter, this was a “racing incident” that couldn’t really be avoided at race pace, especially with the insane speed of these cars.


Last year’s Hong Kong E-Prix.

If I was to break down every single incident in this race, it would be the longest article on this website. Formula E never fails to excite, there are never boring races. Though it hasn’t got the growl of F1 Cars, the history or the tracks, it is still probably one of if not my favourite racing series. This season has shown that above all, Formula E is the most unpredictable form of motorsport around today. You never know who is going to snatch the victory. We’ve just hit 50 Formula E races, let’s hope for 50 more races of this quality!

Will Mahindra fight back with a better result next time out in Sanya? We will have to find out on March 23rd. Let me know your take on the incident between Bird and Lotterer below, or if you want to read my other Formula E articles, check here. Thanks for reading!

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