Motor racing-Vergne wins behind the Formula E safety car in Rome

ROME (Reuters) - DS Techeetah's Jean-Eric Vergne won the first of a Formula E double-header in Rome on Saturday after a late crash on a slippery track took out both the Mercedes cars and left the field following the safety car to the chequered flag.

The Frenchman, a two-times champion in the all-electric series and now winner of 10 Formula E races, finished ahead of Jaguar's Sam Bird and the Briton's New Zealander team mate Mitch Evans.

Evans, like Bird a previous winner in Rome, gained a bonus point for fastest lap.

Bird leads the championship with 43 points after three rounds, nine clear of Envision Virgin Racing's Dutch driver Robin Frijns. Jaguar lead the teams standings with 74 points to Techeetah's 40.

Both Jaguar drivers wore black armbands following the death on Friday of Britain's Prince Philip and neither sprayed champagne on the podium on what was the team's first double podium.

"It was a pretty difficult race with the conditions being as they were with a lot of rain, at the beginning very slippery. More than once I almost hit the wall," said Vergne, who had started fifth.

"But I was able to survive in this chaos."

Mercedes driver Stoffel Vandoorne had started on pole position as the race was led away by the safety car after light rain on the streets of Rome's EUR district.

A failed lunge for the lead by Porsche's Andre Lotterer ended in a collision with Belgian Vandoorne dropping to 13th while Oliver Rowland briefly took the lead for Nissan e.dams before a drive-through penalty for using too much power.

Audi's Brazilian Lucas di Grassi took over at the front but he suddenly slowed with less than five minutes to go, triggering mayhem behind.

Vandoorne, who had made a good recovery, swerved to avoid the Brazilian and spun across the track, smashing into the barriers as team mate Nyck de Vries joined him in a shower of debris.

The same track hosts another race on Sunday, again without spectators due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

(Reporting by Alan Baldwin in London, editing by Pritha Sarkar)

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