Jean Eric-Vergne had been surprisingly absent from the podium in Formula E this season. But the defending champion is back in the winner’s circle after a masterclass at the Sanya E-Prix on Saturday. The DS Techeetah driver was on the front row for his team’s home race, and his season exploded into life, as did a previously quiet E-Prix, with around 21 minutes to go when he overtook pole-sitter Oliver Rowland. The Frenchman, who had six podiums and four wins in season four, held on to take the win in Formula E’s first race in mainland China since Beijing in season two, ensuring the Chinese national anthem would be played on the podium. Nissan’s Rowland was second ahead of BMW’s Antonio Felix Da Costa, who is the new championship leader. Vergne could have been stripped of the victory with the FIA investigating whether he did not respect the safety car procedure when the cars came back out after a red flag with just over 10 minutes to go. But he escaped a penalty, receiving just a reprimand, and shoots up to third from 11th in the drivers’ standings. The champ is back?! Watch the moment @JeanEricVergne overtook @oliverrowland to lead the 2019 FWD #SanyaEPrix ! #ABBFormulaE pic.twitter.com/8xcvBeGYOM — ABB Formula E (@FIAFormulaE) March 23, 2019 <!--//--><![CDATA[// ><!--\n\n\n//--><!]]> “It feels good, it’s been a long time not winning, I couldn’t ask for more today,” Vergne said. “It’s so good for the team, we had a very tough beginning of the season.” “We’ve been able to put our heads back up,” he added. “It’s our first win with DS. Today the win is going to Charlie Whiting, our race director we had in Formula One for so many years. He passed away. This one’s for him.” Wow! @RFrijns and @LucasdiGrassi collide which means the race ends under full course yellow... #SanyaEPrix #ABBFormulaE pic.twitter.com/3cl95hXGA8 — ABB Formula E (@FIAFormulaE) March 23, 2019 <!--//--><![CDATA[// ><!--\n\n\n//--><!]]> Vergne is the sixth different winner from six different teams in six races this season. It was a typically incident-packed race, with a full-course yellow deployed on the first lap after Felipe Nasr’s GEOX Dragon came to a stop. Virgin’s Sam Bird – the championship leader coming into Sanya, despite being stripped of victory in Hong Kong – then retired after just three minutes following a collision with the HWA Racelab of Stoffel Vandoorne, whose race was also ended. Hong Kong E-Prix: FIA strips Sam Bird of Formula E victory after Andre Lotterer nudge; Edoardo Mortara wins “It’s difficult, there’s no malice in what Stoffel did, it’s a shame,” Bird said. “The brakes are cold. He ran into the back of me and it’s the end of the race. It is what it is. That’s what happens when you qualify there.” Rowland narrowly led a tight pack of six chasing drivers at the front, until Vergne made a late move going up the inside into turn 11 and overtook the Briton. All hell then broke loose, with Rowland’s robust defence just about keeping Da Costa out, but knocking the Portuguese driver’s BMW into the barrier for good measure. Into the wall for @AlexanderSims whose race ended as a result of this moment #SanyaEPrix #ABBFormulaE pic.twitter.com/wlhRylc6WP — ABB Formula E (@FIAFormulaE) March 23, 2019 <!--//--><![CDATA[// ><!--\n\n\n//--><!]]> Vergne almost surrendered P1 just as soon as he had taken it, after activating attack mode and narrowly holding off Rowland. But the safety car then came out when Alexander Sims, who had been fifth, retired with a badly-damaged right rear tyre on his BMW after Andre Lotterer squeezed him into the barrier. That ensured a straight shoot-out for the finish when the race was finally restarted with just over 10 minutes to go. Almost every driver activated attack mode with the safety car still out. A full-course yellow came out when Robin Frijns collided with Lucas Di Grassi on the final lap and that brought an end to the race.