It was a weekend of mixed fortunes for the constructor’s champions Mercedes as Formula E kicked off in Riyadh for the start of the eighth season. In race one, the German outfit looked to have lost none of the momentum of last season with Stoffel Vandoorne and Nyck de Vries dominating proceedings in the series new-look qualifying format. However, it was Vandoorne who took first blood in the fight snatching pole by three tenths from the current reigning champion and from Andretti’s Jake Dennis, who continued his excellent form from last season.
However, in the race, De Vries showed why he is the man to beat, sweeping past Dennis in the opening lap. After that, all he had to do was lie in wait for Vandoorne. He seized the opportunity when Vandoorne missed the second sensor when taking his attack mode, forcing his way past his teammate, holding the lead into the end of the race. Despite Vandoorne’s error, the Belgian finished a comfortable second to gift Mercedes a 1-2 finish. Dennis took third for Andretti and on the other side of the garage, his teammate Oliver Askew scored his first point, an excellent outing for the American rookie.
Porsche’s Andre Lotterer also had a strong start to his campaign, lining up in P4 for the first race. He battled with Dennis in the opening stages, but as the race wore on and energy management became critical, he began to fade. Lucas di Grassi, fresh from his move from Audi, wasted no time in getting to grips with his Venturi. The Brazilian looked like the champion of old, working his way up the order and in the latter stages fought with Sam Bird for P4 but ultimately, he had to yield. However, it’s clear that Venturi aren’t afraid to make their presence heard and will certainly be a fierce competitor to their suppliers Mercedes.
In race two, it seemed that the dominance of Mercedes was going to become a constant this season. De Vries snatched pole position from Edo Mortara, completely dominating the duels. As the race got underway, it seemed that this dominance would continue as De Vries held the lead at the start. The Dutchman looked certain to take back-to-back victories before the strategies of those around him brought those dreams crashing down. He elected not to take his attack mode which left him vulnerable to di Grassi’s attack. The two made contact, leaving the reigning champion to slip down the order as Mortara and Robin Frijns pounced.
Mortara soon passed his teammate in the latter stages to claim the lead, a position he never really vanquished, despite having to hold off a late charge from Frijns and a late safety car after Alexander Sims ended up in the wall. The safety car stayed out as the time ticked out and ultimately ended any last-minute action on track as Mortara claimed his third win in Formula E.
Frijns looked strong this race, slipping past di Grassi to take P2, and could have certainly challenged for the win had the safety car not ended proceedings early. Di Grassi took his first podium of the season, whilst Lotterer again put in a decent shift to finish P4. It was ultimately a race to forget for Jaguar with Mitch Evans and Sam failing to get near the points, after having problems all weekend. However, ultimately, it was Mercedes who ruled the roost in Diriyah all weekend sending a warning call to all their competitors – but Andretti and Envision have shown huge potential. Only time will tell if Diriyah was just a lucky streak for the current champions.
Formula E will return on 12th February in Mexico City.