Formula E: Bird Takes Race 1 Victory In Diriyah EPrix

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Envision Virgin Racing’s Sam Bird claimed victory in Saudi Arabia.

The opening race of season six saw new entrants Tag Heuer Porsche and Mercedes-Benz EQ claiming podiums in their first ever race in the series.

Taking first blood in qualifying was BMW’s Alexander Sims.

The British driver took a second career pole ahead of a great performance by both Mercedes-Benz EQ drivers of Stoffel Vandoorne and rookie Nyck de Vries.

Reigning champion Techeetah’s Jean-Eric Vergne qualified in 11th while team-mate Antonio Felix da Costa was 21st with Audi’s Lucas di Grassi only 19th.

Vergne will be looking to claim a third consecutive title this season with reigning champions DS Techeetah. Image sourced from @DSTECHEETAH via Twitter.

A pretty calm start by everyone saw the top seven remain in the same positions with Sims leading the way.

Envision Virgin Racing’s Sam Bird was eager to make early progress.

However, he was held up Venturi’s Edoardo Mortara as the Swiss driver was losing touch with the top three drivers.

Di Grassi and Da Costa started to make their way up the field and by lap three, they were running in 17th and 18th.

Nissan’s Sebastien Buemi pulled over after dropping down the field. He made it back to the pits but never made it back into the race.

Picking up the pace, Mortara and Bird started to close on the top three after setting the fastest lap of the race.

Meanwhile, Nissan’s Oliver Rowland became the first of the top flight drivers to activate “attack mode”.

Bird’s gamble to activate “attack mode” early saw him overtake Mortara and close-up on both De Vries and Vandoorne.

On lap 11, Sims, Vandoorne and De Vries activated their first “attack mode” while Bird followed closely in fourth.

With 25 minutes to go, Sims had less energy than Vandoorne in second.

Mercedes’s Stoffel Vandoorne started 2nd but fell to 3rd as the race progressed. Image sourced from @MercedesEQFE via Twitter.

An opportunistic overtake from Di Grassi on Oliver Turvey saw the Brazilian move into 16th.

Mortara tried to activate “attack mode” but failed to and lost two places to Porsche’s Andre Lotterer and Mahindra’s Jerome d’Ambrosio.

With 21 laps completed, Vergne pitted from 11th and retired from the race as on “attack mode”, Bird overtook De Vries.

Under pressure from Bird, late-breaking Vandoorne overtook Sims for the lead with Bird nipping past Sims for second.

Unlike Bird, Sims and Vandoorne hadn’t activated their second “attack mode”. Sims activated his “attack mode” and dropped behind Lotterer.

24 laps were complete and Vandoorne still had to activate his second “attack mode” but was being hounded by Bird with Lotterer joining the fight.

Andre Lotterer on his way to take a podium for Porsche in their first ever Formula E race. Image sourced from @PorscheFormulaE via Twitter.

Da Costa had been able to overtake Di Grassi with the pair running in 14th and 15th. Into turn 18 on lap 27, Bird overtook Vandoorne for the lead.

On lap 28, Rowland overtook Sims for 4th into turn 18 and was told to “look ahead” by his team.

On lap 30, Vandoorne activated his “attack mode” and dropped to 3rd behind Lotterer as the Safety Car was deployed.

Audi’s Daniel Abt had crashed heavily and there was debris littered across the track. This Safety Car had wasted Vandoorne’s opportunity to use his “attack mode”.

With less than one minute and 30 seconds remaining, the Safety Car was called in and racing continued with Bird leading.

A lock-up for Lotterer on the penultimate lap put him under pressure as De Vries barged his way past Sims for 6th.

Onto the final lap, Bird led ahead of Lotterer and Vandoorne and that is how they crossed the line.

In their first races in the series, Porsche and Mercedes finished on the podium with Lotterer and Vandoorne.

Bird’s win comes exactly five years after his first win in the series back in Season 1.

Oliver Rowland claimed 4th ahead of Virgin’s Robin Frijns, De Vries, Mortara, Sims, d’Ambrosio and Panasonic Jaguar Racing’s Mitch Evans completed the top 10.

Season 3 champion Di Grassi, finished in 13th, just ahead of Da Costa in 14th.

Both of their team-mates ended up retiring from the race, as Abt and Vergne, Audi and Techeetah all failed to score points.

With Season 2 champion Buemi failing to score aswell as GEOX Dragon’s Nico Muller who failed to make the start of the race.

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