Alexander Sims made Formula E history at the Diriyah E-Prix. He claimed two pole positions which means, using his pole at the final race of last season, the BMW i Andretti Motorsport driver now has three consecutive pole positions.
Sims also claimed his maiden Formula E win in Diriyah, claiming a commanding lights-to-flag win in the second race of the weekend after falling down the order in the first race.
Sims had a lot of bad luck in his debut season in Formula E last season and arguably the points total he finished with – 57 points in 13th place – did not reflect his performances throughout the season.
It even led to now team-mate Maximilian Guenther giving him a “luck” rating of 55 in a Formula E pre-season video called “Ultimate Driver”.
But for all the bad luck Sims had last season, it could not have started much better this season. Two poles, one win and an early championship lead mean the British driver is well placed heading into the next race.
The crucial aspect of Sims’ successful weekend was qualifying. He was third fastest in his qualifying group on Friday– posting a 1m15.255s. Mercedes EQ FE driver Stoffel Vandoorne and Venturi Racing’s Edoardo Mortara beat him in the group.
The fastest time overall in the group was Envision Virgin Racing’s Sam Bird, who posted a 1m14.946s to claim the first point of the season – there is now a point available for the fastest driver overall in group qualifying.
Unusually, super pole times were faster than group qualifying times and Sims 1m14.563s showed – it was enough to take pole position from Vandoorne by three tenths of a second.
It was a similar story on Saturday for Sims. He was second in his group, enough to progress to super pole and four tenths down on fastest driver Antonio Felix da Costa.
But in super pole, his time of 1m11.476s – three seconds faster than Friday’s time – was enough to secure pole. This time, he was two tenths clear of second place. It is worth nothing that DS Techeetah’s da Costa was around half a tenth up on Sims before an error cost him time.
Sims was unable to take the win on Friday from pole, falling back – partially as a result of Bird trying to pass Vandoorne and then Vandoorne launching an ambitious move himself on Sims.
Sims and Vandoorne collided with Sims losing more time and positions than the Belgian driver and eventually finished in eighth place. A disappointing result, but one he soon put right.
Sims was a different driver on Saturday in the race. By the end of lap six – when he entered the attack mode activation zone for the first time – he was almost two seconds clear of second place of Nissan e.dams’ Sebastien Buemi. The gap was enough to keep ahead after activating the extra power.
From then on, it was Sims’ race to lose. He could dictate the strategy from the front and duly did so as he pulled away from Buemi. By lap 12, the gap had risen to three seconds – Buemi activated his first attack mode on lap 11.
Friday’s race may have been a calmer affair for FE standards but Saturday was the complete opposite.
Two safety cars and a full course yellow meant Sims would have to survive three restarts to win the race. The first safety car was a crucial part of the strategy for Sims. A new regulation brought in to stop drivers activating attack mode under safety car or full course yellow meant a tactical restart.
Sims, as the lead car and therefore the de facto safety car, backed the pack up until well after the safety car had gone in to the pits. Knowing he had the gap to the safety car, and that he could not be overtaken prior to the finish line, Sims activated his second and final attack mode.
Two attack modes used, and he led the race. He was able to survive the restarts that followed to claim his first FE victory.
Oliver Turvey and Sam Bird also impress
There were a number of standout performances across the Diriyah weekend. Nyck de Vries made his way through the field in race two after being close to a podium on debut in race one. Andre Lotterer scored Porsche’s first podium in their first race. Jaguar Racing’s James Calado bounced back from a disappointing Friday to claim points on Saturday, as did Dragon Racings Brendon Hartley.
But perhaps the two that stood out the most were NIO 333’s Oliver Turvey and Virgin Racing’s Bird.
Bird was fastest in groups qualifying on Friday but made a mistake in super pole and ended up starting the race in fifth place. However, he worked his way through the field and claimed a race victory – his first since Hong Kong in season five.
A group one berth followed for Saturday qualifying and Bird impressed again by qualifying a respectable seventh place and missing out on a super pole position to Jaguar’s Mitch Evans by 0.035s.
A collision with Evans in the race put Bird out of the race, but his pace throughout the weekend was there to say.
Turvey’s weekend was impressive at, he would feel, the wrong end of the grid. In a car run by a team that had ownership changes and management changes, and is – according to e-racing365.com - in a car using a powertrain bought from Dragon Racing.
Now driving alongside Ma Qinghua in the team, Turvey qualified 10th for Friday’s race but was unable to keep up with the cars around him and fell back during tne race.
He eventually finished in 15th place – five places ahead of his team-mate, who was the only driver to be lapped in the race.
Saturday was almost the reverse for Turvey. He started the race in 17th place – outqualifying his team-mate by three places and seven tenths of a second.
He was eighth in the provisional classification, and would have moved up to sixth once penalties for de Vries and Guenther had been applied. Sixth place would have given Turvey eight points – more than he scored in the whole of last season.
Unfortunately for Turvey and NIO, there was one final twist on a typical Formula E day full of twists and turns. Turvey was found to have used 40.06kWH of energy during the race. The allowance – once deductions for safety cars and full course yellows had been calculated – was 40kWH.
New rules were brought in place to place more emphasis on energy management. For every full minute spent behind the safety car or full course yellow, 1kWH of energy would be deducted from the usable allowance.
The 0.06kWH over the allowance used by Turvey meant he was disqualified from the race and sixth place.
Bird and Turvey may not have had the full results their pace suggested they should have had, but it could be a good indication of what to expect from each driver.