Sanya ePrix: Vergne is Victorious Despite Late Penalty Scare

To the delight of crowd and the team, it was Jean-Eric Vergne that took DS Techeetah’s first victory of Season five at this morning’s race in Sanya, on the home ground of Techeetah. Despite gaining Pole Position in qualifying and leading the race halfway through, Oliver Rowland for Nissan eDams took his first podium in Formula e with second, while BMW i Andretti’s Antonio Felix DaCosta rounding the podium up in third.

Despite a brief delay with the start light procedure, Rowland led Vergne from pole, with DaCosta pressuring Audi’s Daniel Abt for third place. Mahindra’s Pascal Wehrlein had an awful start off the line, while Geox Dragon’s Felipe Nasr was left behind on the grid, with a problem that would later see him retire. Both Stoffel Vandoorne and Sam Bird retired early on after contact with each other, with Nasr’s teammate Jose Maria Lopez also retiring early on.

Audi Sport’s Lucas DiGrassi missed attack mode on several occasions, possibly to the fact that he was coming in too fast for all three timing sectors to pick up the car. On his third attempt, he finally activated attack mode, putting to bed any concerns that it was a problem with the car. He would lose seventh to a quick Robin Frijns, as the Dutchman barged his Envision Virgin Racing car around the outside of the season three champion at turn ten.

Vergne eventually got past Rowland to take the lead with a quick move into turn eleven, while DaCosta, now in third also tried to take Rowland in the later corners. A harsh chop into the front of DaCosta’s car by Rowland in an attempt to defend his second put the pair under investigation, but the Safety Car and subsequent Red Flag was called out after DaCosta’s teammate Alex Sims hit the wall and stopped on the main straight after battling with Vergne’s teammate, Andre Lotterer. It was the third Red Flag in as many races in Season Five, but was only brief as marshals moved Sims’ stricken BMW from the circuit.

The race got underway with only ten minutes remaining and despite a lightning getaway as the track went green, Vergne was in trouble as he was placed under investigation for not fully respecting Safety Car procedures. Vergne crossed the line as the eventual winner as it was confirmed that he would only receive a reprimand for the incident. There was late drama for Frijns and DiGrassi, as the pair had a big crash at turn eight when Sebastien Buemi pushed Frijns, sending his Virgin walloping into the side of DiGrassi. With DiGrassi leaving the car on track a Full Course Yellow was deployed on the last lap, effectively ending the race.

After today’s race, Antonio Felix DaCosta takes the lead of the championship as the series gears up for a return to Europe as they ready up for the next round in Rome on the 13th April.

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