Turbulent race in Diriyah – updated

ABB FIA Formula E Championship had their opening race in the 2019/20 season yesterday, and the drivers were on the track again today.

There was another round in Saudi Arabia, on the streets of Diriyah.

Alexander Sims had secured Pole Position for the second day in a row for BMW in Andretti Motorsport, while Sebastien Buemi was second for Nissan e.dams. Lucas di Grassi had qualified Audi Sport Abt Schaeffler car to third place, ahead of Jerome D’Ambrosio in Mahindra Racing, Antonio Felix da Costa in DS Techeetah and Mitch Evans in Panasonic Jaguar Racing.

Yesterday’s winner, Sam Bird in Envision Virgin Racing, would start from P7, which was really good, considering he was in the first qualifying group that had to drive when the track was still dirty. Andre Lotterer in TAG Heuer Porsche finished second yesterday but would start the race today from P10, two positions ahead of Stoffel Vandoorne in Mercedes-Benz EQ, who was third in the race yesterday.

The defending champion, Jean-Eric Vergne, had yet another bad day as he had to change the battery before the race, and had to start from last. Furthermore, he also had a ten-second Stop & Go penalty, so his chance to finish in the points was unlikely.

Jerome D’Ambrosio couldn’t start the car when he should leave the dummy grid towards the starting grid, thus he was unable to participate in the race.

Saudi E-Prix 2019 start
Photo: ABB FIA Formula E

Sims had a really good start, with a good gap to Sebastien Buemi already after a few corners.

Jean-Eric Vergne took the ten-second penalty as soon as possible, and could only hope for a Safety Car period that would bring the field back together.

De Vries had started the race from P23 but was quickly up to P20.

Brendon Hartley was centimetres away from hitting the Tecpro barrier when he braked a bit too late at the end of the straight, but he came back on the track, losing only one position.

Antonio Felix da Costa did a late dive on Lucas di Grassi and drove past the Brazilian.

Jean-Eric Vergne
Photo: ABB FIA Formula E

Daniel Abt got investigated for using an incorrect speeder setting, just as we saw with three drivers in the race yesterday. He got a drive-through penalty for the that.

Eight laps into the race Buemi was in big trouble when he had contact with Antonio Felix da Costa. Fortunately, he didn’t get hit by anyone, but he dropped down to P14.

Fifteen minutes into the race, the drivers started to take their first Attack Mode. It caused the field to panic, where people had different speeds.

Antonio Felix da Costa dived past Lucas di Grassi. Sam Bird also tried to get past, but instead, Mitch Evans dived om the inside of Bird. There was contact between Bird and Evans, so Evans got a puncture on a front tire, while Bird brushed the wall. He could continue, but then he got hit by Pascal Wehrlein, who pushed Bird into the wall. With a stranded car on the track, the race director had no choice but send the Safety Car out.

Sam Bird
Photo: ABB FIA Formula E

Mitch Evans pitted for new tires.

Vandoorne, de Vries, Buemi, da Costa, Lotterer were the five drivers, who got Fan Boost in today’s race.

When the Safety Car went back in, Sims chose to take Attack Mode right away. It caused some confusion in the field, where Maximilian Günther in third was about to hit Felix da Costa when he had to brake hard so that he wouldn’t overtake Sims under a yellow flag. It cost a front fender on Günther’s BMW in Andretti, but luckily nothing else.

Antonio Felix da Costa got a Drive-through for the contact with, and he was pretty much out of the podium.

Buemi also got a penalty when he came back to the track in an unsafe way, so the stewards added ten seconds to his race time.

Shortly afterwards there was another Safety Car period when Robin Frijns hit the wall and ripped the left front tires of the Envision Virgin Racing car. Thus both of the team’s car retired within minutes.

Sebastien Buemi
Photo: ABB FIA Formula E

Felipe Massa got a Drive-through penalty for a jump start, throwing his current seventh place away.

The clean-up after Frijns’ car took nearly ten minutes, and then things almost went wrong when the Safety Car pulled back in and the marshals weren’t done. Luckily, the race director managed to call for Full Course Yellow before the drivers reached the recovery vehicle, that was parked in the middle of the track.

When the race got restarted, it didn’t long before Evans’ penalty was announced: a drive-through for the New Zealander.

di Grassi was breathing down Günther neck, but he couldn’t drive past the German despite having activated Attack Mode.

There were potential penalties waiting for both Mercedes-Benz EQ drivers, where De Vries’ car got investigated for some battery problem, and Vandoorne was suspected to have been speeding under FCY. Felipe Massa in ROKiT Venturi Racing was investigated to have sped in the pitlane during his drive-through penalty.

Ma Qing Hua and Nico Müller had contact on the track, and it was also being investigated even though they were currently outside the points. But Müller had to retire a couple of laps before the chequered flag.

Stoffel Vandoorne
Photo: ABB FIA Formula E

After forty-five minutes plus one lap of the hectic race, Alexander Sims drove first over the finish line, ahead of BMW in his Andretti teammate Maximilian Günther, while Lucas di Grassi in Audi Sport Abt Schaeffler finished third.

Andre Lotterer got a Drive-through penalty, just when the cars crossed the finish line, as the stewards saw him do an overtake under the Safety Car. The same penalty was given to Robin Frijns, who we knew couldn’t take it, since he retired from the race earlier.

Felipe Massa got yet another Drive-through for speeding in the pitlane.

With this result, Alexander Sims has overtaken the lead in the championship, ahead of Stoffel Vandoorne, Sam Bird, Oliver Rowland, Andre Lotterer, Maximilian Günther, Lucas di Grassi, Edoardo Mortara and Nyck de Vries – all within twenty-one points.

The next round of ABB FIA Formula E Championship will be run on 18 January 2020 in Santiago, Chile.

Update:

Maximilian Günther was penalised with a 24-second time penalty as the stewards saw him do an overtake under the Safety Car. Thus he fell back to P11 and out of the points. Overall, nine drivers got penalties after the chequered flag, so the new result is as follows:

Alexander Sims, Lucas di Grassi, Stoffel Vandoorne, Edoardo Mortara, Oliver Rowland, Daniel Abt, James Calado, Jean-Eric Vergne, Brendon Hartley and Antonio Felix da Costa.

The upper part of the championship table consists of Alexander Sims, Stoffel Vandoorne, Sam Bird, Oliver Rowland, Lucas di Grassi, Andre Lotterer and Edoardo Mortara – all within seventeen points.

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