Two Brits take the honours at the Diriyah E-Prix
The Formula E is back for its sixth season, presenting a whole a new battle between German carmakers as Mercedes and Porsche join Audi and BMW in the all-electric racing series.
At the season opener, two British drivers dominated headlines; Sam Bird (Envision Virgin Racing) and Alexander Sims (BMW i Andretti Motorsport) claimed victories at the double-header in Saudi Arabia.
Sims scooped pole positions on both days. After failing to convert on Friday, Sims dominated from pole to finish on Saturday, clinching his first victory in Formula E. BMW almost celebrated a one-two-win as Sims’ teammate Maximilian Günther crossed the finish line in tandem. Following a post-race 24-second time penalty Günther dropped from P2 to P11. The 22-year-old German came under investigation after the race for overtaking Audi Sport ABT Schaeffler’s Lucas di Grassi while the BMW i safety car was out.
Mercedes-Benz EQ delivered a strong debut with two podium finishes of Stoffel Vandoorne each on P3 and P6 for rookie driver Nyck de Vries on Friday. Constant scores on both days secured Mercedes the lead in the team standings with 38 points.
British driver Sam Bird was flying through the field on Friday from fifth on the grid to seal victory in the season opener. “Last year was difficult and I went through a sort of transformation involving plenty of thinking and mental stuff. It’s very special to win today”, said Bird. “I felt confident going into the race. Envision Virgin Racing gave me an amazing car. I think some of it is down to the new beard!”
The TAG Heuer Porsche FE Team also picked up a podium spot on their first race ever as Andre Lotterer secured P2 on Friday. Six minutes before the end of the race Lotterer moved passed Vandoorne, while the Mercedes driver went through the Attack Mode activation zone. Unfortunately, Vandoorne couldn’t use his additional 35 kW power boost due because a BMW i Safety Car was deployed a few seconds later.
Benefiting from Saturday’s after race penalty to Günther were the two Audi drivers Lucas di Grassi and Daniel Abt who moved up the ranks to P2 and P6 respectively. A frustrating race on Friday turned into 26 points for the Audi Sport ABT Schaeffler Formula E team a day later.
Reigning champ Jean-Eric Vergne experienced a miserable first race with an early retirement. In the second race, the Frenchman started dead last from the grid after receiving a grid penalty for battery change after a collision with the wall in the morning’s practice. Nevertheless, Vergne managed to finish 8th and at least take home four points.
It became crystal clear in Saudi Arabia that the four German carmakers will be dominating the electric racing series this year, as also Envision Virgin Racing is using the Audi E-Tron FE 06 powertrain and Venturi is powered by Mercedes.
The Formula E season will resume in 8 weeks with round 3 from Santiago de Chile.
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