Formula E: Sam Bird claims victory in opening round as Alex Sims clinches maiden win in Saudi Diriyah E-Prix
Friday 22nd Nov – Race 1
Audi-powered Bird clinches first win in Saudi, leading Porsche and Mercedes
Starting on Pole, BMW i Andretti Motorsport’s Alex Sims pulled away as the lights went out on the season opener in Saudi Arabia, leaving both Mercedes-Benz EQ drivers Stoffel Vandoorne and Nyck de Vries in second and third.
After five minutes, the ATTACK MODE activation zone opened up, with all 24 drivers now able to pass through the ATTACK MODE Activation Zone – located off the racing line – in order to pick up a 35kW power boost during the race.
Just five minutes into the race, disaster struck for Nissan e.dams’ Sebastien Buemi who stopped on track while the grid passed by. Unable to restart his car, the Swiss driver retired from the race.
After a number of attempts from Envision Virgin Racing’s Sam Bird to pass Rokit Venturi Racing’s Edoardo Mortara and move towards a podium finish, the Brit passed the Swiss driver with 30 minutes left on the clock.
Moving up from 16, Audi Sport Abt Schaeffler’s Daniel Abt passed NIO 333’s Oliver Turvey in a bid to improve the German manufacturers start to the season. Moments later, Mahindra Racing’s Pascal Wehrlein (in 12th) clocked the fastest lap.
Still locked into 11th, reigning champion and DS Techeetah driver Jean-Eric Vergne showed no sign of making his way into the points. With two titles to his name, the pressure is on for the Frenchman as he looks to clinch a third at the end of the 2019/20 season.
Leading the way, Alex Sims kept the two Mercedes drivers at bay in his BWM as the German powerhouses battled for the win. Close behind was Sam Bird in his Audi-powered Envision Virgin Racing challenger, followed by TAG Heuer Porsche’s Andre Lotterer in fifth.
With 17 minutes left of the race, reigning champ Vergne retired, returning to the pits with damage to the front wheel of his car.
Coming off the start/finish straight, a patient Vandoorne made his move on race leader Sims, taking the lead through Turn 18 and 19. At the same time, Bird attacked, passing Sims to move into second. Dropping back further still, Lotterer moved into third, knocking Sims off a potential podium finish.
Not content with a second place finish, Bird attacked Vandoorne with ten minutes remaining. Taking the lead in his Audi-powered car, the Brit handed it to new entrants Mercedes and Porsche as Lotterer remained in third.
After working his way up the grid, Nissan e.dams’ Oliver Rowland advanced on Sims in fourth, passing the BMW driver with six minutes to spare. Coming into Turn 5, Audi’s Daniel Abt failed to stop his car after a collision with Antonio Felix da Costa (BMW) and was left stranded after colliding with the wall.
With only three minutes left, the BMW i8 Safety Car was deployed while the German’s car was collected until the race restarted with just over a minute to go.
Bird, maintaining his lead, held out to collect the first win of the season after a spectacular race from the Envision Virgin Racing driver. Trailing the Brit in his Audi was Porsche’s Andre Lotterer in second, followed by Mercedes’ Stoffel Vandoorne in third.
Saturday 23 Nov- Race 2
With the lights out, it was Poleman BMW i Andretti Motorsport’s Alex Sims who pulled away in the lead after securing his second Pole in a row on day two of the 2019 SAUDIA Diriyah E-Prix.
Leading the way with Nissan e.dams’ Sebastian Buemi in second and Audi Sport Abt Schaeffler’s Lucas di Grassi in third, the British driver maintained his position up front while DS Techeetah’s Antonio Felix da Costa – who moved into fourth after Mahindra Racing’s Jerome d’Ambrosio retired from the race due to technical difficulties – was on the attack.
Making his way through the pack, da Costa was eager to make the podium, attacking Buemi and nudging the back of his car while sending him spinning into oncoming traffic. The Nissan driver rejoined the pack in 15th but came under investigation by the FIA.
With more than 30 minutes left on the clock, Bird was tapped by Panasonic Jaguar Racing’s Mitch Evans going through Turn 4, before being tapped again by Mahindra Racing’s Pascal Wehrlein going through Turn 5. The British driver – who clinched the win in the first race only a day before – met with the wall. With significant damage to his car, the Brit was out of the race.
After consideration by the FIA, Da Costa was handed a 10-second drive through penalty for causing the incident with Buemi, while the Nissan driver was also handed the same punishment for his re-entry into the race that was deemed unsafe.
While his teammate was already out of the race, fellow Envision driver Robin Frijns lost control of his Audi-powered car between Turn 5 and 6, hitting the wall sideways on Turn 7. Damaged and stranded in his car, the Yellow Flag was raised while his car was recovered.
With eight minutes left on the clock, Sims maintained his lead while , further down the pack, Jaguar’s Evans was handed a 10-second drive through penalty for the collision with Bird.
Taking his ATTACK MODE, di Grassi in third temporarily lost a position before blasting back past Mercedes-Benz EQ’s Stoffel Vandoorne with 35kW of extra power. Not taking the ATTACK MODE, Sims’ teammate Max Guenther slipped into second as the two BMW’s led the way with only minutes left on the clock.
Stretching the lead to over three seconds with five minutes left on the clock, Guenther defended hard against di Grassi, holding the ATTACK MODE-enabled Brazilian at bay. With the added power, the Audi driver set the fastest lap on the attack against the German.
With both BMWs crossing the line in tandem, the Sims clinched his first ever race win in the ABB FIA Formula E Championship with his teammate in second and Audi’s di Grassi in third.
Post race – Guenther dropped after penalty, Vandoorne inherits third place podium finish
Following a post-race penalty, BMW i Andretti Motorsport’s Max Guenther drops off the podium. Following this decision, Mercedes-Benz EQ’s Stoffel Vandoorne is promoted to third place to round off the season opener in Saudi.
Following a chaotic season opener in Saudi Arabia, BMW i Andretti Motorsport’s Max Guenther lost his podium finish after the FIA found him in breach of the regulations for overtaking Audi Sport ABT Schaeffler’s Lucas di Grassi while the BMW i Safety Car was out.
After a fraught race, which saw Guenther’s teammate Alex Sims dominate the race from Pole to finish, the German driver took second place in front of di Grassi – what would have been his maiden podium in Formula E.
Coming under investigation after the race, the 22 year-old driver was handed a 24 second time penalty, which relegated him down the order. Moving up to the podium was Mercedes’ Stoffel Vandoorne, who clinched his second podium of the race weekend, rounding off a sensational debut performance for new manufacturer works squad Mercedes-Benz EQ team.
Sims: Maiden win in Saudi was unexpected
During the opening two races of the 2019/20 ABB FIA Formula E Championship, BMW i Andretti Motorsport’s Alex Sims weekend went from ‘disaster’ to a sensational success after the Brit secured his maiden win in the series in Saudi Arabia. But the victory was far from expected, he claims.
“Today, we seemed to get every decision right,” said BMW i Andretti Motorsport’s Alex Sims, reflecting on his maiden win in the ABB FIA Formula E Championship.
“The pace was good, which was probably the fundamental thing that was really on my side – I felt like the car was really strong today…It felt like we made the right calls.”
After starting from Pole for the last two races (including the final race of the 2018/19 season in New York City), Sims failed on both occasions to convert it into a win. Despite landing his maiden Podium in the Big Apple, it wasn’t until the final race in Diriyah that he finally managed to clinch his first outright victory.
“I’ve worked through some pretty tough moments over the past year and the team stuck by me and gave me all the help I needed.”
When asked if the win surpassed his expectations ahead of the weekend, the Brit replied: “Absolutely, of course – I never would go into the weekend expecting to get Pole positions or race wins.”
“Obviously, I’ve worked hard to try and achieve that but it’s never the expectation from my side…you just hope for the best,” he added with a smile.