Defending Formula E champ wins season opener in HK

Updated 2016-10-10 11:02:28 Chinadaily

Defending Formula E champ wins season opener in HK

Renault-eDAMS's Sebastien Buemi (C) of Switzerland celebrates on podium after winning the FIA Formula E Hong Kong ePrix in Hong Kong, China on Oct 9, 2016. [Photo/Agencies]

Defending champion Sebastien Buemi of Switzerland steered his electric Renault e.Dams team to victory in what was both the first race of the 2016-17 FIA Formula E season and the inaugural FIA Formula E Hong Kong ePrix.

Buemi, who won last year's Formula E Drivers' Championship, roared along the waterfront streets of Hong Kong's Central District, and his win saw him collect a maximum25 points.

Runner-up Lucas di Grassi from the German team ABT Schaeffler Audi Sport took 18 points, while Nick Heidfeld of the Indian team Mahindra Racing Formula E finished third, taking 15 points.

Ten teams headed out on the 1.8-km street circuit, which included a 555-meter straightway and two hairpin turns at Lung Wo Road and the Star Ferry Pier.

The electric racing cars are powered by giant lithium ion batteries, each of which packs the same punch as 10,000 AA batteries. Despite this, the batteries still lack the power necessary to carry the cars through the entire 45 laps of the race. Each driver was required to make a mandatory pit stop to change cars half way through the race.

After the vehicle change, the top three finishers dueled it out at the front before they finally started to run out of steam on the final lap, leaving both their teams and spectators to wonder anxiously whether one or all of them might fail to make it to the finish line.

All three of the top finishers were down to 3 percent or less battery power when they eventually crossed the finish line.

"I had to save a lot of energy, and then the temperature was really high at the end. I am not sure that I could finish another lap," Buemi told reporters after winning the race.

He added that though the track was relatively short this time, he looks forward to returning to Hong Kong to compete again in future.

Defending Formula E champ wins season opener in HK

Renault-eDAMS's Sebastien Buemi of Switzerland in action to win in the FIA Formula E Hong Kong ePrix in Hong Kong, China on Oct 9, 2016. [Photo/Agencies] 

Jose Maria Lopez from DS Virgin Racing was also in contention until the latter stages of the race. Along with di Grassi and Buemi, he was given a "Fan Boost" of an additional 100kj in his second car, thanks to an online vote a mong motorsports fans who voted to choose which drivers should receive extra juice.

Five cars were forced out of the race as a result of either battery or mechanical problems.

Sunday's race attracted an estimated 12,133 spectators, many of whom came from overseas, according to the event's organizers.

A motorsports fan from Shanghai, surnamed Chu, told China Daily that he thought the event had been a thrilling spectacle. "I've watched every Formula One race that has been held in my hometown," Chu said. "Formula E is a new trend in the motorsports industry, so I felt compelled to come and have a look."

Chu believes electric-powered vehicles will become a more mainstream mode of transportation in the future, and the global energy supply will become increasingly dependent on clean energy in the long term.

Hong Kong resident Maggie Lui accompanied her 5-year-old son to watch the race. "He loves car racing," she said. "He might not understand the concept of electric cars, but he looked stunned when he heard the totally different engine sounds compared with other racing cars."

Despite the fact that cars cannot exceed speeds of 225kph in Formula E (compared to 330kph in Formula One), the championship is a perfect blend of motorsports and entertainment, and the race will become another signature event in Hong Kong's sporting calendar, Chief Executive of the Hong Kong SAR Leung Chun-ying said at the opening ceremony of the event.

The 2016/17 FIA Formula E Championship is comprised of 14 races in 12 different cities across the world. The next race will be in Marrakech, Morocco on Nov 12, and the final race in this season's championship will take place on July 30, 2017, in Montreal, Canada.

Contact the writers at honeytsang@chinadailyhk.com and yinzeli@chinadailyhk.com

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