Ad Diriyah ePrix: The tale of two different races

Season 6 of Formula E kicked off again this weekend and the double header certainly did not disappoint, treating fans to two action-packed races in the heart of Saudi Arabia’s capital. Ultimately, it would be BMW’s Alexander Sims who walked away from the weekend as the championship leader. The British driver snatched his second pole away in the opening race ahead of tough competition from Mercedes duo Nyck de Vries and Stoffel Vandoorne, with a time of 1.14.563, allowing him to claim the crucial three points as de Vries’s final sector fell just short and he fell to P3 as his teammate Vandoorne snatched away a front row position. Venturi’s Mortara solidified Mercedes’ strong start to their debut season as he bagged P4 for the customer team ahead of Sam Bird and Jerome D’Ambrosio who both made costly mistakes on their flying laps.

Sims made a clean getaway from the chasing Mercedes at the start of race one and held the lead, whilst further down the field, Bird became locked in a battle with Mortara and D’Ambrosio as the trio fought to chase down the two Mercedes ahead. Bird finally managed to slip past de Vries with fifteen minutes left on the clock and that set the wheels in motion. As Vandoorne was trying to protect his position from a chasing Bird, he managed to take the lead from Sims who dropped back to P3. Bird continued to pressure Vandoorne who was yet to use his attack mode and took the lead with ten minutes remaining. The Envision Virgin driver was pressured a little later in the dying moments of the race by a safety car brought out by Daniel Abt’s accident but he held firm to scoop his ninth win of his Formula E career, with Lotterer and Vandoorne rounding off the podium and taking Porsche’s and Mercedes’ first podiums respectively as poleman Sims slipped to eighth.

Credit: Courtesy of Formula E

Sims however, was determined to not make the same mistakes again, and took pole position once more in the second qualifying session, taking the record of most consecutive poles – three – along the way. The BMW driver fought off stiff competition from Buemi and di Grassi to take the three points for the second time that weekend as D’Ambrosio tapped the wall on his fast lap and Da Costa struggled in the early stages compromising his lap. It was not the start that DS Techeetah wanted, with reigning champion Jean-Eric Vergne having a weekend to forget as he was forced out of race one and into the pits, and was hit with a grid penalty prior to the second race, leaving him at the back of the pack.

Sims again had a strong start holding off previous champions Buemi and di Grassi for the lead as Da Costa sensed the opportunity to snatch P3 away from di Grassi, eager to hand Techeetah their first win of the season. However, as he chased down Buemi, he made contact with the Nissan driver, forcing spinning off the track for which he picked up a drive through penalty. Bird also made gains as he and Evans began a duel that would last until a slight contact sent the Envision Virgin driver into the wall and out of the race, leaving Evans also with a time penalty for causing the collision. Virgin’s luck did not improve when Robin Frijns sent his car into the wall, leaving the championship contenders with no points in the second race, a marked disappointment from the first.

As one of two safety cars was sent out in order for Frijns’ car to be recovered, on the restart, Max Gunther slipped past di Grassi and into P3, a manouvre that cost him dearly as despite claiming P2, the position was stripped away a few hours after the race and the German was served with a time penalty. Da Costa peeled into the pits to serve his penalty as his former team seemed set for a 1-2 finish. Di Grassi passed Vandoorne for the final podium position in the closing stages of the race, but it was to no avail as Sims clinched his first ever Formula E win. After penalties were applied, Di Grassi was promoted to P2 and Vandoorne joining him in P3 for his second podium finish of the season. However, his teammate de Vries was handed a time penalty for overtaking during the safety car, an unfortunate end to a stunning drive up into the points whilst NIO’s Oliver Turvey had his points cruelly snatched away and was disqualified from the race due to energy overconsumption.

Formula E will return in Santiago on January 18th.

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