BMW i Andretti’s António Félix da Costa has won the Ad Diriyah ePrix, the first race of Formula E’s new era.

Having qualified on pole, da Costa lead away from the start of the 45 minutes-plus-one lap race, ahead of Sébastien Buemi who jumped into second past José María López through the first turn.

Behind the leading trio, DS Techeetah’s Jean-Éric Vergne also found his way past Stoffel Vandoorne into fourth on the opening lap, while Edoardo Mortara found the barriers. The Venturi driver resumed running with visible damage to his car, ultimately losing a lap across the balance of the race.

Vergne was soon joined by teammate André Lotterer in hunting down López, with the pair finding their way past the Argentine in quick succession. With da Costa comfortable out front, Buemi now faced the dual attack of the DS Techeetah pair – Vergne completed a daring pass around the outside of Turn 18 on the ninth lap, while Lotterer made a move stick down the inside of the same corner three laps later.

Jose Maria Lopez, GEOX Dragon and Jean-Eric Vergne, DS Techeetah - 2018 Ad Diriyah ePrix

Lopez and Vergne twice staged an intense battle for track position during a frenetic Ad Diriyah ePrix

Clearly the fastest car on circuit, Vergne set about hunting down da Costa. By Lap 14 the reigning champion was on the tail of the BMW, again using the outside of Turn 18 to gain the lead of the race. Lotterer was next on the scene to challenge da Costa and despite the Portuguese driver’s defences Lotterer activated Attack Mode and soon found his way past for second place.

At this point, the DS Techeetahs appeared to be the class of the field and looking likely for a sweep of the top two positions, but this was soon to change as both drivers were handed drive-through penalties for exceeding the maximum permitted power level while using energy regeneration. The penalties handed the lead back to da Costa, although in a sign of how much pace the leading pack had been carrying Vergne re-joined the race after serving the drive-through in fourth position with Lotterer in seventh.

Vergne soon found himself battling López once again for third place, making the pass as the Dragon driver appeared to twice miss the Attack Mode activation zone. Not long after losing the position López stopped on circuit with a left rear suspension failure, prompting initially a full-course yellow and then a Safety Car deployment.

At the restart da Costa led the pack from the Mahindra of Jérôme d’Ambrosio, who had snuck past both Buemi and López as they battled earlier in the race, with Vergne in third place. As the Safety Car pulled into pit lane with only three minutes of the race left to run, da Costa and Vergne (along with seven other cars) activated their second Attack Mode period just before the racing resumed.

This gave da Costa an immediate gap over the field, while Vergne used his advantage to pass d’Ambrosio for second on the main straight. With Vergne looking to make one final challenge for the lead, da Costa activated FanBoost, giving enough of an advantage for the Portuguese driver to claim a historic victory by 0.462 seconds, breaking a Formula E victory drought dating back to Buenos Aires in the inaugural season of the championship.

D’Ambrosio held on for third place ahead of Jaguar’s Mitch Evans, the Kiwi climbing into the lead group during the late stages of the race. Lotterer found his way back past Buemi during the Safety Car restart, with the pair finishing in fifth and sixth place. Buemi’s Nissan e.Dams teammate Oliver Rowland crossed the line in seventh place, ahead of the Audi Sport pair of Daniel Abt and Lucas di Grassi. Nelson Piquet Jr rounded out the top ten in the second Jaguar.

Speaking after the race, da Costa spoke of how the victory was a relief after two seasons of lean results.

“The last two years have just been so hard. I was far from giving up – I’m a fighter, after all. But it’s hard – I’m also a winner and I hate to lose,” he said.

“To finally do it today is just amazing. The DAC is back!”

When asked about the late race restart and the impending attack from Vergne, da Costa reflected on his use of Attack Mode – the new strategy feature introduced for season five at this race.

“My heart rate was a little bit higher as they got closer again. I used Attack Mode, just like JEV [Vergne] did, and I managed to keep the win at the end. It was a really clever way to use it.”

Thanks to Vergne and Lotterer’s strong show of speed, DS Techeetah lead the Teams’ Championship standings with 29 points after the opening race, a one point lead over BMW i Andretti Motorsport. Mahindra Racing sits in third place on 15 points, also one point ahead of Nissan e.Dams, with Jaguar another single point further back in fifth place. Audi Sport ABT Schaeffler are the only other team yet to score, currently sitting sixth with six points.

From a brand-new event in Saudi Arabia, the championship now moves to Morocco in early 2019 for what will be the third running of the Marrakesh ePrix on Saturday 12 January.

2018 ABB Formula E Ad Driyiah ePrix – Final Classification
Driver Team / Entry Laps Result Pts
1. António Félix da Costa BMW i Andretti Motorsport 33 46:29.377 28
2. Jean-Éric Vergne DS Techeetah 33 + 0.462 18
3. Jérôme d’Ambrosio Mahindra Racing 33 + 4.033 15
4. Mitch Evans Panasonic Jaguar Racing 33 + 5.383 12
5. André Lotterer DS Techeetah 33 + 5.579 11
6. Sébastien Buemi Nissan e.dams 33 + 6.625 8
7. Oliver Rowland Nissan e.dams 33 + 9.105 6
8. Daniel Abt Audi Sport Abt Schaeffler 33 + 9.819 4
9. Lucas di Grassi Audi Sport Abt Schaeffler 33 + 10.936 2
10. Nelson Piquet Jr. Panasonic Jaguar Racing 33 + 11.564 1
11. Sam Bird Envision Virgin Racing 33 + 11.747
12. Robin Frijns Envision Virgin Racing 33 + 12.189
13. Oliver Turvey NIO Formula E Team 33 + 13.104
14. Tom Dillmann NIO Formula E Team 33 + 14.273
15. Maximilian Günther Geox Dragon Racing 33 + 16.161
16. Stoffel Vandoorne HWA Racelab 33 + 20.013
17. Felipe Massa Venturi Formula E Team 33 + 43.610
18. Alexander Sims BMW i Andretti Motorsport 33 + 47.712
19. Edoardo Mortara Venturi Formula E Team 32 1 lap behind
Not Classified Team / Entry Laps Reason Pts
DNF. José María López Geox Dragon Racing 25 Suspension
DNF. Gary Paffett HWA Racelab 9 Accident
DNF. Felix Rosenqvist Mahindra Racing 8 Mechanical

Post Race Penalties:

  • Felipe Massa – who was provisionally classified 14th – was issued a 5-second post-race time penalty for activating his FanBoost too early and a further 25-second post-race time penalty for exceeding the maximum permitted 100KJ of energy deployed while using FanBoost.
  • Alexander Sims – who was provisionally qualified 18th – was issued a 10-second post-race time penalty.

Championship Points:

  • Championship points are awarded on the results of the ePrix to the top-ten finishers on a 25-18-15-12-10-8-6-4-2-1 sliding scale.
  • António Félix da Costa earned 3 bonus championship points for securing the Julius Baer pole position.
  • André Lotterer earned 1 bonus championship point for posting the fastest lap of the ePrix.

Images via ABB FIA Formula E Championship

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Mitch Timms

Journalist at MotorsportM8
Professional motorsport engineer and all-round tech head.