Envision Virgin Racing’s Sam Bird opened the 2019-20 ABB FIA Formula E Championship in style, charging from fifth on the grid to claim victory in the opening Diriyah ePrix. His car powered by a customer Audi powertrain, the Briton led an all-German-powered podium ahead of Porsche’s Andrê Lotterer and Mercedes-Benz EQ’s Stoffel Vandoorne in third.

Starting on Pole, BMW i Andretti Motorsport’s Alexander Sims pulled away as the lights went out on the season opener in Saudi Arabia, leaving both Mercedes-Benz EQ drivers Vandoorne and his teammate Nyck de Vries in second and third.

After five minutes, the ‘Attack Mode’ activation zone opened up – located off the racing line – in order to pick up a 35kW power boost during the race.

Just five minutes into the race, disaster struck for Nissan e.dams’ Sébastien Buemi who stopped on track. Unable to restart his car, the Swiss driver retired from the race. His Swiss countryman Nico Müller failed to make the start, with his GEOX Dragon too badly damaged to be repaired in time after his heavy crash in qualifying.

After a number of unsuccessful attempts by Sam Bird to pass Venturi Racing’s Edoardo Mortara and move towards a podium finish, the Brit finally passed the Swiss-Italian driver with 30 minutes left on the clock.

Sims continued to keep the two Mercedes drivers at bay, but closing fast was Bird who was being chased by Porsche’s Lotterer.

Out of the points and unable to make any headway was reigning double champion Jean-Éric Vergne. The Frenchman was battling with progressively heavy steering on his DS Techeetah and later joined long-time rival Buemi on the retiree list with 17 minutes of the race to run.

Vandorne launched his attack on Sims down the start/finish straight and caught the Englishman by surprise with a lunge at the Turn 18/19 chicane. Forced wide, Sims well behind an opportunistic Bird and Lotterer, who had both made their way past rookie de Vries.

Brimful of confidence and aggression, Bird passed Vandoorne for the lead with ten minutes on the clock, with Lotterer slipping ahead a few laps later in an impressive debut for the Porsche marque.

Sims’ hold on fourth place didn’t last long, with the Englishman passed by his compatriot Oliver Rowland in the sole remaining Nissan e.dams. The pole-sitter would later fall behind Robin Frijns (Envision Virgin Racing), de Vries, and Mortara to finish a frustrated eighth.

There was late drama when Abt retired after hitting the wall following a collision with António Félix da Costa. The Safety Car was deployed so Abt’s car could be safely retrieved and the green flag waved with just over a minute left on the clock,

Bird survived the tense finish to claim victory and an early lead in the Drivers’ Championship standings, while Lotterer capped off Porsche’s excellent debut weekend in second place ahead of Vandoorne.

As one of two double-header events on the 2019-20 calendar, Saturday will see a repeat of Friday’s schedule with Group Qualifying, ‘Super Pole’ and Race 2 to come.

2019 Formula E Ad Diriyah ePrix – Race 1 Final Classification (34 laps)
Driver Team / Entry Result Pts
1. Sam Bird Envision Virgin Racing 46:17.371 26
2. André Lotterer TAG Heuer Porsche Formula E Team + 1.319 18
3. Stoffel Vandoorne Mercedes-Benz EQ Formula E Team + 1.672 15
4. Oliver Rowland Nissan e.dams + 1.944 12
5. Robin Frijns Envision Virgin Racing + 3.983 10
6. Nyck de Vries Mercedes-Benz EQ Formula E Team + 4.560 8
7. Edoardo Mortara ROKiT Venturi Racing + 5.122 6
8. Alexander Sims BMW i Andretti Motorsport + 5.715 7
9. Jérôme d’Ambrosio Mahindra Racing + 6.628 2
10. Mitch Evans Panasonic Jaguar Racing + 7.048 2
11. Pascal Wehrlein Mahindra Racing + 7.460
12. Felipe Massa ROKiT Venturi Racing + 8.166
13. Lucas di Grassi Audi Sport ABT Schaeffler + 8.404
14. António Félix da Costa DS Techeetah + 8.853
15. Oliver Turvey NIO 333 FE Team + 10.172
16. James Calado Panasonic Jaguar Racing + 11.572
17. Neel Jani TAG Heuer Porsche Formula E Team + 15.429
18. Maximilian Günther BMW i Andretti Motorsport + 25.662
19. Brendon Hartley GEOX Dragon + 52.219
20. Ma Qing Hua NIO 333 FE Team 1 lap behind
Not Classified Team / Entry Reason Pts
DNF. Daniel Abt Audi Sport ABT Schaeffler Accident
DNF. Jean-Éric Vergne DS Techeetah Steering
DNF. Sébastien Buemi Nissan e.dams Technical
EXC. Nico Müller GEOX Dragon Damage

Championship Points:

  • Championship points are awarded on the results of the Final Classification of each ePrix to the race’s top-ten finishers on a 25-18-15-12-10-8-6-4-2-1 sliding scale.
  • A bonus point is awarded to the driver (Mitch Evans) and their corresponding team (Panasonic Jaguar Racing) who posts the fastest lap of the race.
  • Three bonus points are awarded to the driver (Alexander Sims) and their corresponding team (BMW i Andretti) who claims pole position.
  • A bonus point is awarded to the driver (Sam Bird) and their corresponding team (Envision Virgin Racing) who is the fastest driver in the group stages of qualifying.

Post-Race Penalties:

  • Brendon Hartley was issued a 10-second time penalty for failing to fulfill the complete time of the second ‘Attack Mode’.
  • Ma Qing Hua was issued a drive-through penalty (converted to a 24-second time penalty) for not respecting the homologated throttle pedal map.

Images via ABB FIA Formula E Championship

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Richard Bailey

Founder & Chief Editor at MotorsportM8
Hasn't missed a Grand Prix since 1989. Has a soft spot for Minardi. Tattooed with 35+ Grand Prix circuits.