Formula E: 'You never know what's going to happen' 02:18
- DS Virgin Racing driver wins season opener
- Bird now has six career wins in Formula E
- Drivers will be back racing on Sunday
- 2016 F1 champion Nico Rosberg hails 'impressive' Hong Kong race
(CNN)Sam Bird survived a drive-through penalty to take the checkered flag at the opening race of the 2017/18 Formula E season in Hong Kong on Saturday.
THe DS Virgin Racing driver started the 43-lap race in second place behind pole sitter Jean-Eric Vergne and looked to be in control after passing the Frenchman on Lap 20. But his race hit a snag when he skidded into the side of his team's pit garage during the mandatory car swap.
The error cost him minimal time and he returned to the track in the lead before race stewards hit him with a penalty for not stopping inside the garage.
With Vergne and third placed Nick Heidfeld waiting to pounce, Bird was in danger of losing his lead when he served his drive-through penalty but emerged from the pit lane meters ahead of his rivals.
Drama in the pit lane as @sambirdracing misses his garage... #HKEPrix pic.twitter.com/56TaD6ppVV— FIA Formula E (@FIAFormulaE) December 2, 2017
Now with a clear track ahead, Vergne and Heidfeld were powerless to stop Bird from streaking away and the Briton eventually came home nearly 12 seconds ahead.
Techeetah driver Vergne held on to second -- a good start to his season after winning the closing race of season three in Montreal -- with Heidfeld taking third, his eighth podium finish in Formula E.
"What an amazing result," Bird said afterwards. "I served my penalty. I thought I'd (come back out) in P6 or P7.
"The car was great ... we didn't know what to expect when we came here but what a great start to the year."
Saturday's ePrix got off to a chaotic start when the race was red-flagged on Lap 1 as Vergne's new teammate Andre Lotterer bumped into the barriers blocking several drivers behind him.
A lengthy delay ensued before the race resumed behind the Safety Car.
Bird's sixth win in Formula E lays the foundation for what could be a serious title push after finishing fourth in the drivers' championship in the last two seasons.
Formula E's magical destinations 01:53
Rosberg hails 'impressive' Hong Kong race
The first of 14 races scheduled for season four was watched by 2016 Formula One world champion, Nico Rosberg.
The German, who retired after beating his Mercedes teammate Lewis Hamilton 12 months ago, was impressed with what he saw.
"It's great to be in Hong Kong and be in a special location -- it's impressive to have a race in the middle of town," Rosberg told CNN's Supercharged Nicki Shields.
"It's been great to see the cars. I'm sure Formula E has a great future because it's so relevant. There's such an e-mobility hype and the technology in these cars is gonna be in our everyday road cars."
Di Grassi and Buemi struggle
The previous two years were dominated by last year's champion Lucas di Grassi and 2015/16 winner Sebastien Buemi, but both may have their work cut out this season.
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Di Grassi finished down in 18th place after he had to swap cars early in the race following a collision with his Audi Sport ABT Schaeffler teammate Daniel Abt.
The news wasn't much better for Buemi who started the race in ninth and finished outside the points in 11th place.
Both men will have a chance to make amends on Sunday as drivers return for the second race of the weekend.