Formula E: Bird wins season-opening Diriyah E-Prix
New entrants Porsche and Mercedes both finish on the podium
Envision Virgin Racing’s Sam Bird claims the top spot on the podium, while TAG Heuer Porsche’s Andre Lotterer and Mercedes-Benz EQ’s Stoffel Vandoorne finish in second respectively third after a spectacular season opener in Saudi Arabia.
Starting from pole position, Alexander Sims of BMW i Andretti Motorsport pulled away as the lights went out on the first race of the 2019/2020 season, leaving both Mercedes-Benz EQ drivers Stoffel Vandoorne and Nyck de Vries in second and third.
After five minutes, the Attack Mode activation zone opened up, giving all 24 drivers the option to pick up an additional 35kW power boost.
Following a number of attempts from Bird to pass Rokit Venturi Racing’s Edoardo Mortara and move towards a podium finish, the Brit passed the Swiss driver with 30 minutes left on the clock. After his initial Attack Mode activation ended, Bird was able to stay with the Mercedes pair ahead, as they in turn chased leader Sims.
Leading the way, Alex Sims kept the two Mercedes drivers at bay in his BWM as the German manufacturers battled for the win. Bird then took his second Attack Mode activation on lap 20, staying ahead of Lotterer - who had climbed to fourth from seventh on the grid and was also in his second Attack Mode activation.
With 17 minutes left of the race, reigning champion Jean-Eric Vergne retired, returning to the pits with damage to his DS Techeetah car.
Coming off the start/finish straight, a patient Vandoorne made his move on race leader Sims, taking the lead through Turn 18 and 19. At the same time, Bird attacked, passing Sims to move into second. Dropping back further still, Lotterer moved into third, knocking Sims off a potential podium finish.
Not content with a second place, Bird attacked Vandoorne with ten minutes remaining. Taking the lead, the Brit was now in front of the new entrants Mercedes and Porsche as Lotterer remained in third.
After working his way up the grid, Nissan e.dams’ Oliver Rowland advanced on Sims in fourth, passing the BMW driver with six minutes to spare.
Coming into Turn 5, Audi Sport Abt Schaeffler’s Daniel Abt failed to stop his car after a collision with Antonio Felix Da Costa (BMW i Andretti Motorsport) and was left stranded after colliding with the wall.
With only a few minutes left on the clock, the Safety Car was deployed while the German’s car was swiftly recovered. The race restarted with just over a minute to go.
Bird, maintaining his lead, held out to collect the first win of the season - his ninths overall - after a spectacular race from the Envision Virgin Racing driver. Trailing the Brit was Porsche’s Andre Lotterer in second, followed by Mercedes’ Stoffel Vandoorne in third.
Sam Bird, Envision Virgin Racing
"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! 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. There are 23 other amazing drivers out there, so to come out on top means a lot. It’s a great start to the year, but the hard work doesn’t stop. We have another race tomorrow. There’s potential in the car so we need to maximise what we can."
Andre Lotterer, TAG Heuer Porsche Formula E Team
"Tomorrow we have another race and it’ll be much harder. Either way we take today as it was, which is an amazing debut for the Porsche team. We all worked very hard, we came here, and we did our best. Second place is a great way to start and boost the confidence of the team… it was awesome. I thought about having a crack at Sam [Bird] to give him payback for Hong Kong last season! We weren’t sure on how much energy we had left, so I decided to bring it home safely. I’m sure our time will come soon with a win!"
Stoffel Vandoorne, Mercedes-Benz EQ Formula E Team
"A great start for everyone at Mercedes-Benz EQ today. It’s not easy for a new manufacturer to come into this championship and do so well in the first race. We had to put a lot of work into making sure our package was ready for this race and I wouldn’t say everything ran perfectly, but it was a very pleasing result and I think that everyone can be extremely proud. We have some more work to do. But I’m happy with the podium."
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