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 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.
- 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