Jean-Eric Vergne breathed life into his Formula E drivers' championship defence by scoring his first win of the season on Saturday in Sanya, beating Nissan's Oliver Rowland.

After going three races without scoring a point, Vergne managed to run from second place on the grid to take his first victory since the New York E-Prix last July after passing pole-sitter Rowland mid-distance.

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Rowland managed to retain the lead for Nissan throughout the opening stages, soaking up pressure from Vergne and a train of other cars behind all the way through the first half of the race.

But Vergne was able to seize the lead on Lap 19 after diving down the inside of Rowland at Turn 11 before pulling out a buffer to the gaggle of cars behind.

Following a red flag called following a crash for Alexander Sims, Vergne had 10 minutes to hold on once the race resumed, but was under investigation for leaving too much of a gap to the Safety Car once the race resumed.

Vergne crossed the line less than two seconds clear of Rowland, with news following moments later that he had received a reprimand for the incident, making him the race winner.

The result marked a first victory for the new DS Techeetah partnership for the 2018-19 season, and also saw Techeetah take home victory upon Formula E's return to China after over three years away. Vergne also became the sixth different winner in as many races to start the season.

Rowland held on to score his first podium in Formula E as Nissan secured a decent points haul, with Sebastien Buemi recovering from a qualifying penalty to finish the race sixth in the sister car.

Antonio Felix da Costa moved into the lead of the drivers' standings after finishing third for BMW ahead of Techeetah's Andre Lotterer in fourth.

Daniel Abt took fifth for Audi ahead of Buemi and the Mahindra duo of Jerome d'Ambrosio and Pascal Wehrlein, while Mitch Evans and Edoardo Mortara completed the top 10. Felipe Massa finished 11th ahead of Oliver Turvey and Tom Dillmann of NIO.

Robin Frijns and Lucas di Grassi both dropped out of the points following a clash on the penultimate lap of the race, seemingly caused by contact between Frijns and Buemi further back. The incident remains under investigation. 

Sims was eliminated from the race on Lap 20 after glancing the wall when going wheel-to-wheel with Lotterer in the battle for position behind Vergne and Rowland. Damage to the right-rear of his BMW car left him stranded on-track, resulting in the mid-race red flag.

Having led the championship on arrival in Sanya, Sam Bird's hopes of extending his points lead were dashed early on after a clash with Stoffel Vandoorne forced him to retire on the opening lap. Vandoorne was also sidelined following the incident that saw him run into the rear of Bird on the first lap, continuing the ex-McLaren Formula 1 driver's difficult start to life in Formula E. Vandoorne's HWA Racelab teammate Gary Paffett also retired in the opening half of the race.

GEOX Dragon suffered a double retirement as Felipe Nasr and Jose Maria Lopez were both forced to park up due to issues, while Jaguar's Nelson Piquet Jr. was also sidelined by an issue.

Formula E now takes a three week break before returning with the Rome E-Prix on April 13, the first European round of the season.