Envision Virgin’s Sam Bird opened 2019/20 FIA Formula E Championship with a win in Diriyah EPrix ahead of Porsche’s Andre Lotterer and Mercedes’ Stoffel Vandoorne.
Pole-sitter and BMW Andretti’s Alexander Sims made a good start in 2019/20 Formula E opener Diriyah EPrix in Saudi Arabia as he led the Mercedes pair of Stoffel Vandoorne and Nyck de Vries with Venturi’s Edoardo Mortara stationed in fourth.
It was status quo behind as well with Envision Virgin’s Sam Bird fifth ahead of Mahindra Racing’s Jerome D’Ambrosio, Porsche’s Andre Lotterer, Nissan’s Oliver Rowland, BMW Andretti’s Maximilian Gunther and NIO’s Oliver Turvey in the Top 10.
Surprisingly it was clean in the opening few laps with Nissan’s Sebastien Buemi causing yellow flags when he stopped on track before he got going. There was a change in position when Bird took fourth from Mortara after using the Attack Mode.
The Venturi racer lost slight momentum after banging wheels with de Vries ahead. There was change behind with Lotterer getting pas D’Ambrosio for sixth as Envision Virgin’s Robin Frijns charged through to ninth and even get ahead of Gunther.
Turvey lost the chunk of places to be 18th. At the same time, the FIA put BMW Andretti’s Gunther, GEOX Dragon’s Nico Mueller and NIO’s Ma Qing Hua under investigation for technical infringement with Mueller not even starting the Formula E opener.
It started to get tasty in the front with Bird getting past de Vries for second as he was close behind Vandoorne. But Vandoorne made a move on race leader Sims at Turn 1 and made it stick to take the lead with Bird sneaking through to second.
In no time, Lotterer made his way up to third after passing Sims with Rowland climbing up to fifth ahead of D’Ambrosio as De Vries dropped back to seventh ahead of the battling duo Frijns and Gunther, who were going back and forth in the ePrix.
De Vries fought back to sixth as Frijns passed D’Ambrosio to be seventh ahead of Mortara and Gunther in the Top 10. It was an unfortunate end for the reigning Formula E champion Jean-Eric Vergne, meanwhile, after a suspected suspension issue in his DS Techeetah car.
At the front, there was another change in lead with Bird getting past Vandoorne, who came under attack from Lotterer. The German eventually went past him for second. Behind, Sims in fourth was under immense pressure from Rowland as de Vries steadied on sixth.
Just after Rowland got through Sims for fourth at Turn 1, there was a safety car deployed for a big off for Audi’s Daniel Abt with over five minutes remaining. Replays showed Abt’s wing under his car when he rammed into the wall to retire.
While the car was being recovered, the FIA handed drive-through penalty to Gunther, Hartley and Hua for throttle map infringement. The re-start had Bird leading from Lotterer and Vandoorne as Rowland was fourth from an opportunistic Frijns.
The Dutch made the most of the fight between de Vries and Sims to be fifth. Meanwhile, it was Bird with the win to open the 2019/20 Formula E season in style as Lotterer and Vandoorne secured podium finish for Porsche and Mercedes on their debut.
Nissan’s Rowland ended up fourth with Envision Virgin’s Frijns in fifth after starting from 12th on the grid as Mercedes’ de Vries fought through to sixth from Venturi’s Mortara as pole-sitter Sims dropped to eighth in the BMW Andretti car.
Mahindra’s D’Ambrosio finished ninth as Jaguar Racing’s Mitch Evans rounded out the Top 10 just ahead of Mahindra’s Pascal Wehrlein. The German led Venturi’s Felipe Massa with Audi’s Lucas di Grassi only 13th and out of points scoring position.
DS Techeetah’s Antonio Felix da Costa was 14th with the Portuguese driver under investigation for the collision with Abt. NIO’s Turvey was 15th with Formula E debutantn Jagaur’s James Calado in 16th from Porsche’s Neel Jani.
After having served their drive-through penalties, BMW Andretti’s Gunther was 17th with GEOX Dragon’s Hartley 18th and NIO’s Hua 19th – the Chinese driver was a lap down. DNF: Abt, Vergne, Buemi. DNS: Mueller.