Antonio Felix da Costa sealed a flawless weekend, taking BMW i Andretti Motorsport's first ever win in their first race as a full works outfit. The Ad Diriyah E-Prix proved once again why Formula E is a series that everyone should keep an eye on.
The day everyone was waiting for finally arrived: the very first race of Season 5. One car per race, the futuristic-looking Gen2 car, attack mode... The new season introduced many features and we were all waiting to see them on track.
After a successful pre-season testing in Valencia, BMW's Antonio Felix da Costa put in a brilliant performance in a modified qualifying session - which had two groups instead of four - and set pole position on a damp track in Ad Diriyah.
Alongside the Portuguese on the front row, Jose Maria Lopez was starting in P2 after a fruitful qualifying session. Although in qualifying it was Dillmann who came second, the Frenchman was penalised, and therefore, 'Pechito' moved up one position. Sebastien Buemi inherited the third-place spot from the Argentinian.
As the red lights went out, Buemi overtook Lopez, and positioned himself in P2. Stoffel Vandoorne, who had an impressive qualifying, got overtaken by Vergne, as the reigning champion climbed up to P4.
Misfortune continued to strike Edoardo Mortara, as the Swiss driver's Venturi car hit a wall, and he had to take it back to the pits to get it fixed. This is Mortara's second incident of the day, as he had previously crashed during qualifying.
Massa and Sims were able to climb up to the point-scoring positions, while Andre Lotterer moved up to the top five.
A close battle between Lopez and Vergne for P3 took place in the early stages of the race. After a couple of laps, the Frenchman was able to overtake 'Pechito', and was able to run within the Top 3. Lotterer also overtook the Argentinian, as both DS Techeetah cars kept showing a brilliant and strong performance.
A three-car battle commenced close to the front of the race, as Lotterer, Lopez and d'Ambrosio fought wheel to wheel to overtake each other, always racing on the edge, something Formula E races are known for.
Rosenqvist's last Formula E race turned into a nightmare for the Swede, as he stopped on track with more than 30 minutes until the end of the race.
A clean pass by Jean Eric Vergne put him in P2, overtaking Switzerland's Sebastien Buemi. The Frenchman still had a two-second gap to race leader Antonio Felix da Costa ahead.
Vandoorne, who had started from P5, dropped some positions, and by the middle of the race, he was in P10, as Massa overtook him. Closer to the front, Lotterer climbed up to P3, overtaking Buemi.
Vergne was able to shorten the gap between him and da Costa, and later overtook the Portuguese with some minimal contact. As the reigning champion was at the front, a battle for second place was held between da Costa and Lotterer, which was very tight.
Along with Rosenqvist's retirement from the race, debutant Gary Paffett also retired from the Ad Diriyah E-Prix.
Oliver Rowland, who had started the race from P14, climbed up to P10, provisionally scoring his first ever Formula E points. Felipe Massa also had a strong performance, setting the Fastest Lap with twenty minutes until the end of the race.
After a tough start to the race, Daniel Abt was able to enter the point-scoring positions, making a tight yet clean pass on Oliver Rowland.
Lopez tried to overtake Buemi, which caused some contact between the cars, whilst d'Ambrosio seized his chance to enter the fight to be in the Top 3. On his second attempt, Lopez was able to overtake the Swiss, and this time, d'Ambrosio also overtook the Season 2 champion, who had dropped to P6.
Both Techeetah cars were stronger than they had been earlier in the day, and Lotterer was able to overtake da Costa to position himself in P2. However, both Techeetah cars received drive-through penalties for technical infringements, which caused both Vergne and Lotterer to drop several places.
Lopez had climbed up to P2, but his car got damaged, which caused his retirement from the race. Vergne, meanwhile, was able to be back in the Top 3 despite the penalty, behind da Costa and d'Ambrosio.
Following Lopez' incident, race control deployed a full course yellow on track.
Felipe Massa also received a drive-through, which caused him to drop back to P15. Something similar happened to Alexander Sims, who was running one place ahead of the Brazilian.
Drivers like Evans, Rowland, Abt, di Grassi, and Piquet Jr. could benefit from this, and were able to run within the Top 10.
The Safety Car was later deployed to take Lopez' car out of the track. There were five minutes left, and once the race was resumed, drivers would fight to secure points or move up to the Top 10.
Vergne would not give up on his fight, and had a wheel-to-wheel fight with d'Ambrosio, where Vergne triumphed. Behind this fight, Buemi, Evans, and Lotterer battled for P4, and the Kiwi was able to pass the Swiss to end in the fourth spot.
Nail-biting final moments of the race had an intense battle between da Costa and Vergne. The Portuguese ultimately took victory, almost four years after his first victory in Formula E.
Vergne, always on the hunt, had another brilliant performance which proves why he is one of the strongest drivers of the series. Jerome d'Ambrosio is another driver who fought tooth and nail, and secured a podium finish.
The Top 10 was completed by an outstanding Mitch Evans, Lotterer who saw his chances of a podium finish fade away with the drive-through penalty, Buemi, an impressive Oliver Rowland, Abt, di Grassi, and Piquet Jr.
Bird, Frijns, Turvey, Massa, Dillmann, Guenther, Vandoorne, Sims, and Mortara rounded out the classified finishers; while Lopez, Paffett, and Rosenqvist had to retire during the course of the race.
This race surpassed all expectations of what Season 5 had to offer; filled with overtakes, tension, leader changes, and a winner which was unknown until the last turn of the last lap. There is no doubt that this season is one to keep an eye on, as surprises will surely keep on coming.
|1||Antonio Felix||DA COSTA||33 laps|
|NC||José Maria||LOPEZ||8 Laps|