After securing pole position, BMW I Andretti Motorsport driver Antonio Felix da Costa held on to win the Ad Diriyah E-Prix ahead of reigning champion DS Techeetah’s Jean-Eric Vergne and Mahindra Racing’s Jerome d’Ambrosio.
Before the race began, five of the twenty-two drivers had received post-qualifying penalties for not respecting the qualifying format. Lucas di Grassi, Sam Bird, Robin Frijns, Oliver Turvey and Tom Dillmann were all penalised and started from 18th to 22nd.
It was a good start by Da Costa who held onto the lead at the start. Behind, Nissan e.Dams driver Sebastian Buemi overtook GEOX Dragon Racing’s Jose Maria Lopez for 2nd as Venturi’s Edoardo Mortara lost control and speared into the barriers. After damaging his front wing, he would spend the rest of the race a lap down.
After a strong qualifying, HWA Racelab’s Stoffel Vandoorne steadily dropped down the field, overtaken early on by DS Techeetah’s Andre Lotterer and d’Ambrosio for 5th and 6th.
The DS Techeetah drivers of Vergne and Lotterer worked with each other and began fighting their way to the top after overtaking Lopez. Mahindra Racing’s Felix Rosenqvist came to a halt with more than 30 minutes to go as Vergne overtook Buemi round the outside of Turn 18 for 2nd.
HWA Racelab’s Gary Paffett was next to retire from the race.
Formula One veteran, Felipe Massa, brilliantly overtook Vandoorne for 9th by going down the inside of the Belgian at Turn 21. Meanwhile, Lotterer followed in Vergne’s footsteps and overtook Buemi for 3rd. Da Costa still held onto the lead with a two second gap to Vergne with Lotterer a further two seconds behind.
On Lap 14, Vergne, as he did to Buemi, overtook Da Costa for the lead round the outside of Turn 18. The top six, which consisted of Vergne, Da Costa, Lotterer, Buemi, Lopez and d’Ambrosio, were in a league of their own and a handful of seconds ahead of the chasing pack. By Lap 18, Vergne had pulled out a gap of 1.4 seconds to Da Costa but the Frenchman and his team-mate were in trouble.
Audi Sport Abt Schaeffler driver and Season 3 champion, Lucas di Grassi and NIO Formula E driver Oliver Turvey both overtook Vandoorne for 13th and 14th as the Belgian continued to fall back.
Lotterer once again followed Vergne and overtook Da Costa for 2nd but both Vergne and Lotterer received drive through penalties for going over the maximum permitted power while using regen. Along with Venturi’s Massa and the BMW of Alexander Sims, the four drivers served their penalties on Lap 23 which allowed Da Costa to retake the lead.
Trying to defend his 2nd place, Lopez went through the attack mode zone but failed to activate the system allowing d’Ambrosio to sneak past. Vergne and Lotterer came out of the pits after serving their penalties in 5th and 7th and started to make their way back up the field.
Vergne took fourth from Lopez, who appeared to miss activating his attack mode again, but on the next lap the Dragon driver stopped with a broken left-rear suspension. Vergne then overtook Buemi for 3rd as the Full Course Yellow turned into the Safety Car. The Safety Car was out for 3 laps and racing resumed on Lap 29.
Vergne closed in and made a slight lunge on the Portuguese driver but Da Costa held on to win by less than half a second and take his first Formula E win since the 2014/15 season. d’Ambrosio held onto 3rd with Panasonic Jaguar Racing’s Mitch Evans in 4th after a late fight back. Lotterer finished in 5th and took the fastest lap ahead of the Nissan e.Dams drivers of Buemi and FE debutant Oliver Rowland in 6th and 7th.
The Audi drivers of Daniel Abt and Di Grassi finished in 8th and 9th after starting in 11th and 18th with the other Jaguar driver of Nelson Piquet Jr rounded out the top 10.
The Virgin Racing drivers Sam Bird and Robin Frijns finished in 11th and 12th with the NIO of Turvey in 13th and the Venturi of Massa in 14th. Tom Dillmann finished in 15th ahead of Max Gunther, Vandoorne, Sims and the lapped Mortara.
Going into the next race in Marrakesh, Da Costa leads the championship on 28 points, 10 ahead of Vergne after taking the additional 3 points for pole position alongside 25 points for the race win. DS Techeetah lead the Teams Championship on 29 points ahead of BMW I Andretti Motorsport on 28 and Mahindra Racing on 15.
Formula E returns in the New Year with the Marrakesh ePrix on the 12th January.