Envision Virgin Racing’s Sam Bird claimed victory in the opening race of the Formula E season at the Diriyah E-Prix as Mercedes EQ FE and Porsche secured debut podiums.
Bird started the race in fifth place and the top seven all retained the same position throughout the opening laps.
But Bird, who has won in every season of Formula E, was able to use a different attack mode strategy to pass Venturi Racing’s Edoardo Mortara.
He was then the first driver to use his second attack mode and took advantage of Mercedes’ Stoffel Vandoorne making contact with BMW i Andretti Motorsport’s Alexander Sims in a move for the lead.
Bird had looked like he was making a move on Vandoorne into the Turn 18/19 chicane, but Vandoorne defended and ended up braking late into the corner.
Vandoorne managed to get alongside Sims into the corner, but they made contact which meant Sims dropped down to third. Vandoorne moved into the lead with Bird second, although Vandoorne had an attack mode to use.
Bird was then able to pass Vandoorne at Turn 18 for first place and survived a late safety car restart to secure the win.
In the midst of the lead battle, Porsche’s Andre Lotterer came home in third place from a starting grid of seventh place.
It means both Mercedes and Porsche secure podiums in their first Formula E race.
Nissan e.dams’ Oliver Rowland finished in fourth place with Bird’s Virgin Racing team-mate Robin Frijns finishing in fifth place.
Nyck de Vries, who had been in the lead battle, finished sixth with Edoardo Mortara in seventh.
Sims finished in eighth after a late move by de Vries cost him a positon to Mortara, who had started third but lost out through his attack mode strategy.
Jerome d’Ambrosio finished ninth for Mahindra Racing with Jaguar Racing’s Mitch Evans rounding out the points.
Reigning champion Jean-Eric Vergne did not finish the race after an issue with his steering becoming heavy throughout the race.