Mahindra Racing’s Jerome d’Ambrosio won a dramatic Marrakesh ePrix after the BMW team-mates of Antonio Felix da Costa and Alexander Sims collided in dramatic fashion.
Before the race began, da Costa was awarded a 3-place grid penalty for exceeding the maximum permitted power on non-flying laps in qualifying, putting him back to 6th position.
It was a good start by polesitter Sam Bird as Reigning Champion and DS Techeetah driver Jean-Eric Vergne suffered a slow get away. The Frenchman then lunged down the inside of Bird at Turn 1 but there was no space for him with the two drivers making slight contact. Vergne was then sent into a spin and several drivers including Nissan e.Dams’ Sebastian Buemi and both Panasonic Jaguar Racing drivers, Mitch Evans and Nelson Piquet Jr, had to take avoiding action, losing several places.
Behind them, Season 3 Champion Lucas di Grassi came into Turn 1 with too much speed and rammed into the back of Formula E debutant Pascal Wehrlein. HWA Racelab team-mates, Stoffel Vandoorne and Gary Paffett also made contact with each other. Wehrlein then drove across the kerbs which didn’t help the damage he had sustained with Di Grassi and as a result, the frustrated German had to retire.
Onto Lap 3, Paffett spun out due to a puncture which was sustained at the start, ending his race early as well.
Bird continued to lead ahead of the BMW I Andretti Motorsport drivers of Sims and Da Costa until Da Costa overtook down the inside of Turn 3 for 2nd.
Bird then started to struggle with saving energy and on lap 10, Da Costa took the lead down the inside of Turn 4 and 5 while Bird went off the circuit and re-joined only for Sims to overtake the Brit round the outside of Turn 7 to make it a BMW 1-2.
Bird then dropped behind team-mate Robin Frijns as the Fanboost winners were confirmed. Pascal Wehrlein, Sebastian Buemi, Felipe Massa, Da Costa and Vandoorne were awarded an extra boost. This did not count for Wehrlein and Vandoorne who were already out of the race.
D’Ambrosio then made his charge through the field and overtook both Bird and Frijns to get up into 3rd place. At the front, the BMW’s started to pull away and both used their “Attack Mode” effectively to pull a gap of nearly 5 seconds.
The chasing pack, using their “Attack Mode” started to close in on the BMW’s who were inseparable. Sims attacked Da Costa on the outside of the approach to the Turn 7 left-hander at the end of the track’s main straight. But then, both locked up and then came together on the edge of the corner, with da Costa going straight into the barrier, while Sims ran wide but carried on. The dramatic turn of events meant that the championship leader was out and that d’Ambrosio was now in the lead.
The Safety Car was called out for Da Costa’s stricken BMW car as the Ad Diriyah E-Prix winner looked on, reflecting on what had just happened. D’Ambrosio led Frijns, Bird, Sims, and Vergne, who had fought his way back, Andre Lotterer, di Grassi, Buemi, Evans and Daniel Abt.
Under the Safety Car, the time limit for the race, which is 45 minutes, ran out but there was still one lap left to go. The Safety Car came in and d’Ambrosio came under fire from the Envision Virgin drivers. A slight lock-up into the final corner allowed Frijns to have a sniff but that was all that he was allowed, d’Ambrosio crossed the finish line just ahead of the Dutchman to win.
An ecstatic d’Ambrosio was delighted at the win and performed some donuts. It was Mahindra’s 2nd race win here in a row with Felix Rosenqvist taking the honours last season.
Bird rounded out the podium but will be slightly disappointed not to be higher up as he started on pole. Sims recovered to 4th but he was on for his first Formula E podium in only his 2nd race. The Techeetah’s of Vergne and Lotterer were 5th and 6th with Di Grassi, taking the point for Fastest Lap, in 7th. Buemi and Evans recovered to 8th and 9th from falling back into the mid-field earlier on with Abt rounding out the top 10.
The Dragon Racing drivers of Jose Maria Lopez and Maximilian Gunther were 11th and 12th with the Venturi of Edoardo Mortara in 13th. The second Jaguar of Piquet headed the second Nissan of Oliver Rowland in 14th and 15th. Oliver Turvey headed home NIO team-mate Tom Dillmann and the Venturi of Felipe Massa was the last of the classified runners.