FE: Sam Bird wins tense Attack Mode fight in Diriyah E-Prix

Sam Bird won the first Formula E race of the season for Virgin with new teams Mercedes and Porsche rounding out the podium with Stoffel Vandoorne and Andre Lotterer. 

After starting from fifth, Sam Bird fought his way through the field with strategic uses of Formula E’s Attack Mode to take the win on the fifth anniversary of his and Virgin’s first Formula E win.

Pole-sitter Alexander Sims, for BMW, got a neat start and kept the lead with the top positions all staying the same at the start. Along with the two Mercedes drivers, Vandoorne and Nyck De Vries, he began to pull away from the front whilst Bird was hustling the Venturi of Mortara for fourth.

Bird took the first Attack Mode of the frontrunners and had to repass Jerome D’Ambrosio but did with ease and successfully passed Mortara a lap later.

To cover it off, both Mercedes drivers and then Sims took their Attack Modes but Bird was able to stay with them showing excellent pace despite his Attack Mode having worn off.

Nyck de Vries (NLD), Mercedes Benz EQ, EQ Silver Arrow 01 leads Sam Bird (GBR), Envision Virgin Racing, Audi e-tron FE06 © FIA Formula E
Nyck de Vries (NLD), Mercedes Benz EQ, EQ Silver Arrow 01 leads Sam Bird (GBR), Envision Virgin Racing, Audi e-tron FE06 © FIA Formula E

After driving closely together, Bird triggered the next Attack Mode spell and passed De Vries for third and took the net lead when the drivers ahead would need to take their own Attack Mode.

But Bird was not for sitting around and on the next lap immediately went for a move on Vandoorne into Turn 19, who in his defence ended up attacking Sims who had to go wide and at Turn 20 they ran Vandoorne, Bird and Sims in third.

Andre Lotterer in the Porsche began to close in and overtook De Vries who appeared to be struggling with energy conservation but had done an extreme job in his debut Formula E race. De Vries then dropped behind the charging Oliver Rowland for Nissan.

It was advantage Bird who could wait for Vandoorne to take his Attack Mode and cruise to the finish but he went for it and made the move on track and Vandoorne then took his Attack Mode falling behind Lotterer, just before a Safety Car was called for the crashed Audi of Daniel Abt after an altercation with the DS Techeetah of Antonio Felix Da Costa.

The Safety Car came in with enough time for two laps more racing but very little changed and Bird won after an exceptional drive. The only driver to win a race in every season of Formula E.

Lotterer and Vandoorne in second and third marked excellent debut races for the Mercedes and Porsche squads who have joined the series and have proved their successes from other motorsport categories can be continued in Formula E.

Rowland stormed to fourth with consistent pace and clean racing followed by an opportunistic Robin Frijns for Virgin who made the most of a scrap between De Vries, Mortara and Sims who all finished in sixth, seventh and eighth.

Stoffel Vandoorne (BEL), Mercedes Benz EQ Formula, EQ Silver Arrow 01, 3rd position © FIA Formula E
Stoffel Vandoorne (BEL), Mercedes Benz EQ Formula, EQ Silver Arrow 01, 3rd position © FIA Formula E

Jerome D’Ambrosio and Jaguar’s Mitch Evans rounded out the points paying positions. The other Mahindra driver of Pascal Wehrlein followed them as did Felipe Massa for Venturi, Lucas Di Grassi for Audi and Da Costa.

Oliver Turvey for NIO was getting involved and finished ahead of James Calado for Jaguar and Neel Jani’s Porsche.

Max Gunther and Brendon Hartley rounded out those on the lead lap after both were penalised for throttle map infringements and Ma Qing Hua finished a lap down.

Abt crashed out and reigning champion Jean-Eric Vergne for Techeetah had a steering lock issue so retired in the middle of the race. Sebastien Buemi for Nissan retired early on and Nico Muller did not make the start after crashing in qualifying.

But the action does not end there! The second race of the season takes place tomorrow in the same place with a whole new day! Same time tomorrow then?

Alexander Sims (GBR) BMW I Andretti Motorsports, BMW iFE.20 goes wide leading Stoffel Vandoorne (BEL), Mercedes Benz EQ Formula, EQ Silver Arrow 01 and Nyck de Vries (NLD), Mercedes Benz EQ, EQ Silver Arrow 01 © FIA Formula E
Alexander Sims (GBR) BMW I Andretti Motorsports, BMW iFE.20 goes wide leading Stoffel Vandoorne (BEL), Mercedes Benz EQ Formula, EQ Silver Arrow 01 and Nyck de Vries (NLD), Mercedes Benz EQ, EQ Silver Arrow 01 © FIA Formula E
Position Driver Team Time
1 Sam Bird Virgin 46:17.371
2 Andre Lotterer Porsche +1.319
3 Stoffel Vandoorne Mercedes +1.672
4 Oliver Rowland Nissan +1.944
5 Robin Frijns Virgin +3.983
6 Nyck De Vries Mercedes +4.560
7 Eduardo Mortara Venturi +5.122
8 Alexander Sims BMW +5.715
9 Jerome D’Ambrosio Mahindra +6.628
10 Mitch Evans Jaguar +7.048
11 Pascal Wehrlein Mahindra +7.460
12 Felipe Massa Venturi +8.166
13 Lucas Di Grassi Audi +8.404
14 Antonio Felix Da Costa Techeetah +8.853
15 Oliver Turvey NIO +10.172
16 James Calado Jaguar +11.572
17 Neel Jani Porsche +15.429
18 Max Guenther BMW +25.662
19 Brendon Hartley Dragon +42.219
20 Ma Qing Hua NIO + 1 Lap
DNF Daniel Abt Audi
DNF Jean-Eric Vergne Techeetah
DNF Sebastien Buemi Nissan
DNS Nico Muller Dragon

 

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