It was a very dramatic day in Saudi Arabia, when the second round of the ABB FIA Formula E World Championship 2021 was run on the streets of Diriyah.
The drama started in FP3, where Edoardo Mortara in the ROKiT Venturi Racing car went off the track at high speed, so he had to make a trip to the hospital. That meant that all Mercedes-powered cars had to miss Qualifying, since the FIA had to investigate all the cars. Championship leader Nyck de Vries was one of the drivers missing out, so he would have to start the race from 20th only. Mercedes-EQ investigated the cause and found it to be a software issue. The initial error was a problem with the front brakes on the Mortara car, but then a safety system has to kick in, and get the car to a stop with the rear brakes – but that didn’t happen. All Mercedes-powered cars were allowed in the race, after a software upgrade. Mortara had to skip the race, since the car wasn’t ready and he medically wasn’t cleared to race, since he complained about pain all over his body, despite being released from the hospital.
Andre Lotterer had a crash in his TAG Heuer Porsche in the practice, but that was just a normal driving error, so he had to miss qualifying while the team was rebuilding the car, so he had to start from the rear of the field.
Robin Frijns in Envision Virgin Racing had grabbed his first Pole Position, ahead of Sergio Sette Camara in Dragon Penske, and Sam Bird in Jaguar Racing. Oliver Turvey and Tom Blomqvist in NIO 333 were the next two drivers on the grid, with Nico Müller putting the second Dragon Penske in the top 6 as well.
Alexander Lynn missed out on a top-10 starting position, since he had a three-place grid penalty from yesterday’s race, following the collision with Sam Bird. That meant that the Mahindra driver would start the race from the 12th.
Mitch Evans and Rene Rast missed out on their fast qualifying lap, since they were stuck behind Oliver Rowland, and didn’t cross the line before the 5 minutes of qualifying time had run out. Huge mistake from Jaguar Racing and Audi Sport ABT Schaeffler, since they tried to leave it to the very last minute – but a bit too far. So they would start 18th and 19th respectively.
The first corners of the race went smooth, with Sam Bird instantly grabbing the second spot from Sette Camara.
Stoffel Vandoorne had to pit for a 10 seconds Stop & Go penalty since there had been a technical irregularity on the car earlier in the day.
Jean-Eric Vergne was going forward in the field, with teammate Antonio Felix da Costa following closely behind. Both DS Techeetah drivers went past Tom Blomqvist, who wasn’t able to keep pace with the front group.
Vergne was the first driver in the field to use his first Attack Mode, giving him 35kW extra power for four minutes.
Frijns lost the lead when he went off the line to take his Attack Mode, putting Bird in the lead.
Sergio Sette Camara, Antonio Felix da Costa, Stoffel Vandoorne, Lucas di Grassi, and Nyck de Vries were the five drivers, who got Fan Boost in today’s race.
The lead of the race changed once again, when Frijns was able to overtake Bird, and when Bird headed for the Attack Mode Activation Zone, he lost second to Sette Camara too. Bird was quickly back into second again, with Sette Camara running out of the extra power shortly after.
The pair of Dragon Penske drivers starting losing pace, with Sette Camara down in fourth, and Blomqvist having dropped to P10.
Jake Dennis was sent into the wall after contact with Pascal Wehrlein. That broke the suspension of the BMW, and a Full Course Yellow had to be called, to the car removed. Fortunately, it was parked right by the pit entry, so it was easy to recover.
Robin Frijns took Attack Mode right before the FCY was called, which made him lose the lead to Bird – but right behind Bird, who still had to take his final Attack Mode.
Frijns got in front again, but started fighting hard with Bird, which slowed the pace of both cars. That resulted in the two DS Techetah cars with Vergne and Felix da Costa getting up right behind the pair. But they started fighting internally, and actually hit each other, when Vergne overtook Felix da Costa.
Wehrlein got a Drive-through penalty, for having sent Dennis into the wall. That didn’t mean much, since the Porsche driver was far away from the points anyway.
Bird managed to get the activation of his second Attack Mode timed perfectly, so he didn’t lose any spots, and was able to grab the lead from Frijns shortly after.
Sebastien Buemi stopped on the circuit, and that resulted in another Full Course Yellow, so his car could be recovered.
But that wasn’t the only thing happening, since there were two separate clashes between Maximilian Günther and Tom Blomqvist, plus Mitch Evans and Alexander Lynn. That resulted in a Safety Car, since the medical team had to get on the track, to check one or more of the drivers. The video showed Lynn skating down the straight, with the bottom of the car skywards. An update from Mahindra Racing thankfully reported Lynn being conscious and being sent off to the hospital for a check.
The race ended under Red Flag, since the recovery would take too long.
So Sam Bird won the race, ahead of Robin Frijns and Jean-Eric Vergne.
Nyck de Vries keeps the Championship lead, even though he didn’t score a single point today. Sam Bird moves into second, while Robin Frijns is third, ahead of Edoardo Mortara and Jean-Eric Vergne.
The next race in the ABB FIA Formula E World Championship will be on 10 April in Rome.
The race stewards were very busy post-race, handing out time penalties left, right, and centre.
Alexander Lynn and Alexander Sims both received a Drive-through for too much re-gen during braking.
Tom Blomqvist, Nick Cassidy, and Rene Rast all received a Drive-through for speeding under Full Course Yellow.
Jean-Eric Vergne got stripped off his podium position, since he had just used one of the Attack Modes during the race, and was handed a Drive-through. Rene Rast got the same penalty, and thereby lost a point finish, just as Tom Blomqvist was penalized for the same infringement.
Since all these penalties were assessed post-race, they were converted into 24 seconds penalties
Maximilian Günther was found guilty of hitting Tom Blomqvist, and got a 5-grid penalty for the next race.
So in all that mess, Antonio Felix da Costa moved into third, and yesterday’s winner, Nyck de Vries moved into the points. The top four in the Championship is unchanged, although with different points gaps, while Felix da Costa sits fifth in the standings instead of his teammate JEV.