Post-race penalty hands Bird’s Hong Kong E-Prix win to Mortara

Image by Alastair Staley/LAT

Post-race penalty hands Bird’s Hong Kong E-Prix win to Mortara

Formula E

Post-race penalty hands Bird’s Hong Kong E-Prix win to Mortara

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Venturi Racing’s Edoardo Mortara has been awarded the victory in a controversial ABB Formula E Championship Hong Kong E-Prix, after the winner on the road — British driver Sam Bird — was assessed a 5-second penalty for clouting race leader Andre Lotterer from behind in the closing moments of the race.

Lotterer was left stranded on track after his DS Techeetah entry ground to a halt with a flat tire and damage from the collision, and Envision Virgin Racing’s Bird duly led home Mortara by 1.694s at the checkered flag, with Audi Sport Abt Schaeffler’s Lucas di Grassi in third. With several Safety Car periods having kept the pack close, however, the subsequent penalty was enough to shuffle Bird down to sixth in the final order. Despite losing out on maximum points, Bird still moved to the top of the standings, scoring an extra point for fastest lap.

Mortara’s win — the first for both the Swiss-Italian driver and his Venturi team — comes in the 50th race for the all-electric series.

In a statement announcing the decision following their investigation of the  matter, the stewards said:

“The driver of Car 2 (Bird) had a direct hit with the right-rear tire of Car 36 (Lotterer) resulting in an immediate puncture. It is acknowledged that the track was damp in certain areas, however Car 36 left more than a car width to the inside. As a result, we find that the driver of Car 2 was predominantly to blame for the incident.”

Nissan e.dams’ Oliver Rowland took the lead off the line as the pack made it around Turn 1 and through the chicane, leaving poleman Stoffel Vandoorne (HWA Racelab) in second until Bird — who’d fought his way up from seventh on the grid — took his position.

Just minutes in, the race came under a full-course yellow as Geox Dragon’s Filipe Nasr’s damaged car carried on into the wall on Turn 2, with both Mahindra Racing’s Jerome d’Ambrosio and Pascal Wehrlein then colliding with the stricken car. Under the Safety Car, the pack regrouped until the race was temporarily stopped under a red flag while the cars were salvaged. After the incident was cleared, 13 minutes were added to the clock to make up for the lost time under the red flag.

Out of Turn 1, Rowland fell to 10th when his car slowed, handing Bird the lead with an aggressive Andre Lotterer behind. Seconds later, Lotterer exploited Bird’s wide line around Turn 2, slipping into the lead. Vandoorne in third was holding off Venturi’s Mortara in fourth.

At the front, Bird was biding his time behind Lotterer, keeping close on his tail while the German held the lead. Heading into Turn 2, the British driver made a move, passing Lotterer before the German reclaimed his lead through the chicane. The two continued to battle hard between a couple more Safety Car periods to retrieve the stalled cars of Vandoorne and Rowland, with the race restarting for the final time with less than two minutes to go.

As he closed in for another shot at the leader, Bird made contact with the back of Lotterer’s car, puncturing a tire and leaving the DS Techeetah driver helpless as his car ground to a halt with smoke pouring out the back. Bird cruised home to take the win, only to have the victory taken away hours later.

“The race was fair up to that point but it is what you would call a disgusting move, because it is not really the way we should race,” said Lotterer. “I lost it thanks to him. Even if they disqualify him my race is done, so honestly it is just sad.”

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