BMW Andretti’s Antonio Felix da Costa opened the 2018/19 FIA Formula E Championship in style to win in Ad Diriyah ePrix in a hard-fought fight with DS Techeetah’s Jean-Eric Vergne with Mahindra Racing’s Jerome D’Ambrosio was third.
BMW Andretti’s Da Costa made a good start in the 2018/19 Formula E season-opener in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia despite having his Gen2 car positioned slightly wrong after having over-shot his grid position while trying to warm up the tyres.
The Portuguese driver held on to his lead with Nissan e.Dams’ Sebastien Buemi slotting in second after clearing Geox Dragon’s Jose Maria Lopez with DS Techeetah’s Vergne in third from HWA Racelab’s Stoffel Vandoorne.
Da Costa kept on the gas but he was soon caught up by the two DS Techeetah drivers with Vergne passing both Lopez and Buemi in a supreme move while his teammate Andre Lotterer backing him up as well to move into third.
The leading pack also had Mahindra’s D’Ambrosio with a gap then behind him being led by Jaguar’s Mitch Evans in seventh with Nissan e.Dams’ Oliver Rowland and Audi’s Daniel Abt also in company after Vandoorne dropped out of the Top 10.
At the front through, da Costa came under tremendous pressure from the reigning champion Vergne, who made the eventual pass to take over the lead on Lap 14 with the Portuguese then defending from Lotterer.
However, luck did not go DS Techeetah’s way as both their drivers along with Venturi’s Felipe Massa, HWA Racelab’s Gary Paffett and BMW Andretti’s Alexander Sims were handed a drive-through penalty for technical infringement.
The lead got back to da Costa with D’Ambrosio then slotting in second having passed both Buemi and Lopez – the latter’s race ended when he hit the wall which helped Vergne get back to the podium position, when he re-passed Buemi.
Just when things started to settle down, the race was neutralised with a safety car to clear Lopez’s car. Da Costa led D’Ambrosio and Vergne in the Top 3 with Buemi in fourth from Evans, Lotterer, Oliver Rowland, Daniel Abt, Lucas di Grassi and Nelson Piquet in Top 10.
Upon re-start, da Costa held onto to his lead as Vergne cleared D’Ambrosio for second with Evans moving onto fourth as Beumi then lost out to Lotterer as well to drop to sixth. Vergne though wasn’t giving up on the victory.
The Frenchman continued to fight da Costa until the chequered flag but the Portuguese held on to claim his first win in Formula E since Season 1 as BMW Andretti took their first in the all-electric series. Vergne had to settle for second with D’Ambrosio in third.
The Belgian starting his stint with Mahindra on a sound note. His prime move came when he passed Lopez who got caught out when he couldn’t deploy the Attack Mode. It was close for fourth but Evans kept track position from Lotterer.
Buemi was sixth from teammate Rowland, the British driver making up seven places from 14th, with the two Audi drivers Abt and di Grassi in eighth and ninth respectively as Piquet rounded out the Top 10 for Jagaur.
The two Brazilian drivers had a scary bump on re-start but di Grassi kept track position ahead of Piquet. The Jaguar driver though had Envision Virgin’s Sam Bird on his tail as well in the dying moments but managed to keep the place.
Bird though led teammate Robin Frijns with NIO’s Oliver Turvey in 13th from Massa who had to recover from the penalty. NIO’s Tom Dillmann was 15th from Geox Dragon’s Maximilian Gunther with Vandoorne dropping back to 17th.
While his teammate took the win, Sims had a disappointing run which included a penalty to be 18th with Venturi’s Edoardo Mortara completed the 19 finishers – the German had a scary start when he went straight onto the wall on the opening lap.
He was pushed back and continued on in the race after a front wing change. Among the drivers who failed to see the chequered flag, Lopez was joined by Paffett and Mahindra’s Felix Rosenqvist – the latter two suffering mechanical issues.