Slow start ended with great finish

The first round of the ABB FIA Formula E Championship 2019/20 was run today in Diriyah, Saudi Arabia.

Alexander Sims had taken Pole Position for BMW i Andretti Motorsport, ahead of the two Mercedes-Benz EQ Formula E Team drivers, Stoffel Vandoorne and Nyck de Vries. There was even more Mercedes driver train in P4, with Edoardo Mortara putting the ROKiT Venturi Racing in P4, in front of Envision Virgin Racing with Sam Bird, and Jerome D’Ambrosio in Mahindra Racing.

James Calado in the Panasonic Jaguar Racing and Nico Müller in the GEOX Dragon racing cars had to start the race from the back, since both drivers hit the concrete wall during qualifying – the same corner, only seconds apart. Other than that, it had been a very calm qualifying session. The GEOX Dragon mechanics however didn’t manage to repair Müller’s car, so he didn’t take the start of the race, and has to wait for the race tomorrow.

The start itself was very calm through most of the field, without any kind of collisions on Lap 1. Sims was a bit wide at the first turn, but managed to stay in the lead.

Alexander Sims
Photo: ABB FIA Formula E

Sam Bird quickly started putting Edoardo Mortara under a lot of pressure for fourth position. A two-second gap to top 3 was opening up very rapidly, since Mortara was busier checking his mirrors than running fast. Bird was all the way up the outside of Mortara, but had to fall behind again.

Attack Mode still had to be used twice per race, but had been boosted from 25 to 35 kW per usage, so that would hopefully result in a bit more overtaking. James Calado was the first driver to try it out.

Sebastien Buemi had to retire already on Lap 3, since his car got a technical issues. Thankfully it was dealt with under a local yellow flag zone.

Oliver Rowland was the next driver to use Attack Mode, but he didn’t win any positions until Andre Lotterer had to take the detour, to active the extra power. But then Lotterer had the advantage of more power, for a few extra minutes.

This started to heat up a little after 10 minutes of running. Mortara was almost past de Vries, but the Dutchman managed to fend off the treat. Bird instantly went for his Attack Mode, losing a couple of spots, which he however quickly regained with the extra power. Shortly after he could pressure Mortara once again, and made the overtake stick down the backstraight.

Vandoorne and de Vries took their Attack Modes simultaneously, but held onto second and third in the race.

Andre Lotterer
Photo: ABB FIA Formula E

Maximilian Günther, Brendon Hartley and Ma Qing Hua were all under investigation for a technical infringement with their cars.

Oliver Turvey lost two positions in the race, after 20 minutes of running. Both Audi drivers, Daniel Abt and Lucas Di Grassi went past, but all three of them had a long journey into the points, sitting P15, P16 and P17 respectively.

Stoffel Vandoorne, Nyck de Vries, Antonio Felix da Costa, Sebastien Buemi and Andre Lotterer were the five drivers, who were awarded Fan Boost in today’s race.

Lotterer had made it into 5th position in the race, even after using both of his Attack Modes. That left him with just the Fan Boost remaining, with 17 minutes of racing to go.

The defending champion, Jean-Eric Vergne, had to retire with suspension damage.

Things were really heating up with 15 minutes left. Sam Bird fought his way past de Vries, and shortly after that, he put Vandoorne and Sims under a lot of pressure. Sims had to give up first position, when Vandoorne made quite the lunge, but it was a clean pass. Bird made it past too, since Sims had lost so much speed. When Sims went for Attack Mode shortly after, he also lost third to Lotterer.

De Vries were dropping further and further down, now in 6th, behind Oliver Rowland.

Sam Bird took the lead of the race with 10 minutes left, when he managed to overtake Vandoorne in a braking zone. Lotterer was right behind the Belgian driver, but wasn’t able to dive past him.

Sam Bird
Photo: Envision Virgin Racing

Alexander Sims kept dropping and dropping, with Oliver Rowland advancing into P4.

The Safety Car was called on the track with just 7 minutes of running left, since Daniel Abt had hit the wall hard, and the car had to be craned away. The stewards instantly started investigating a potential contact between Abt and Antonio Felix da Costa.

Hua, Hartley and Günther all received a Drive-through penalty for having run with some wrong settings regarding their electronically controlled throttle. It was worst for Günther being in 10th when the penalty was handed out, while Hartley was 18th and Hua 20th.

The race went green with just over a minute plus one lap left.

De Vries fought his way past Sims, with Mortara following past too.

Lotterer made a move on Vandoorne, passing him before the end of the race too.

But first to cross the finish line was Sam Bird with Envision Virgin Racing, ahead of Andre Lotterer with a debut podium for TAG Heuer Porsche, in their very first Formula E race. Stoffel Vandoorne grabbed the first podium for Mercedes-Benz EQ, in their debut. Oliver Rowland, Robin Frijns, Nyck de Vries Edoardo Mortara, Alexander Sims, Jerome D’Ambrosio and Mitch Evans closed out the top-10. Mitch Evans was the driver in top-10, who posted the fastest lap, scoring a bonus point for that.

The second race of the ABB FIA Formula E Championship season will be run tomorrow, at the same venue.

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