Diriyah FE: Bird wins as Porsche, Mercedes score podiums on debut

Alex Kalinauckas
Bird defeats new giants Porsche/Mercedes to win
Bird defeats new giants Porsche/Mercedes to win

Envision Virgin Racing driver Sam Bird won the 2019-20 Formula E season-opening Diriyah E-Prix ahead of Porsche's Andre Lotterer and Mercedes' Stoffel Vandoorne, as FE's new teams took debut podiums.

Bird used an aggressive attack mode strategy to climb from fifth on the grid to score a ninth career FE win, five years to the day since he scored his first category win in Putrajaya in 2014.

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Polesitter Alexander Sims easily held the lead off the line ahead of Mercedes pair Vandoorne and Nyck de Vries, as Bird harried Venturi Racing's Edoardo Mortara for fourth in the early stages.

Bird took his first attack mode activation on lap nine of what would become a 34-lap race, briefly dropping to sixth behind Jerome D'Ambrosio (Mahindra Racing) before getting back by on the following tour.

The British driver used his time in the 235kW higher power mode to shoot past Mortara on the run to the Turn 18 on lap 11.

After his initial attack mode activation ended, Bird was able to stay with the Mercedes pair ahead as they in turn chased Sims.

Bird then took his second attack mode activation on lap 20, staying ahead of Lotterer - who had risen to fourth from seventh on the grid and was also in his second attack mode activation.

After catching back up to the top three, Bird used his power advantage over de Vries to take third on lap 22 at Turn 18, the right-hand corner at the end of the main straight that featured the most action.

But it was on the following lap that the defining moment of the race occurred as Bird caught up to Vandoorne, who then launched his own move on long-time leader Sims at Turn 18 that resulted in a slight touch and sent them both deep.

Vandoorne was able to lunge ahead and take the lead, while Bird nipped past Sims to take second.

Two laps later Sims took his second attack mode and dropped behind Lotterer, who had moved past de Vries when the newly crowned Formula 2 champion moved to take his final activation.

Vandoorne held first place until lap 27, when Bird again made a move stick at Turn 18 - muscling by to take a lead he would not lose despite late disruption from a crash involving Daniel Abt and Antonio Felix da Costa.

Bird defeats new giants Porsche/Mercedes to win
Bird defeats new giants Porsche/Mercedes to win

Vandoorne used final attack mode for the last time on lap 30, dropping behind Lotterer immediately, but the race was then suspended as it became clear Abt's car was stuck in the wall at the exit of Turn 5 after his apparent clash with da Costa, which will be investigated after the race.

The race restarted on lap 32 after a four-minute suspension, which resulted in a 4kW energy reduction, and Bird jumped clear - staying ahead of Lotterer to win by 1.319 seconds.

Oliver Rowland battled his way up to fourth late on, coming home ahead of Bird's team-mate Robin Frijns - who benefitted from a late clash between de Vries and Sims that dropped the latter to eighth.

De Vries took sixth on his FE debut ahead of Mortara, who dropped back from the early leaders as he struggled to activate his first attack mode.

D'Ambrosio finished ninth behind Sims, with Mitch Evans rounding out the top 10 for Jaguar ahead of Pascal Wehrlein.

Lucas di Grassi finished 13th from 19th on the grid after a tough race for Audi, with da Costa finishing 14th. Reigning champion Jean-Eric Vergne retired at the end of lap 22 with an apparent steering arm issue.

The other retirement was Sebastien Buemi, who retired in the pits after briefly stopping on track on lap three, while Nico Muller failed to take the start for Dragon Racing.

Result - 34 laps

Pos

Driver

Team

Car

Gap

1

Sam Bird

Virgin

Audi

46m17.371s

2

Andre Lotterer

Porsche

Porsche

1.319s

3

Stoffel Vandoorne

Mercedes

Mercedes

1.672s

4

Oliver Rowland

e.dams

Nissan

1.944s

5

Robin Frijns

Virgin

Audi

3.983s

6

Nyck de Vries

Mercedes

Mercedes

4.560s

7

Edoardo Mortara

Venturi

Mercedes

5.122s

8

Alexander Sims

BMW

BMW

5.715s

9

Jerome d'Ambrosio

Mahindra

Mahindra

6.628s

10

Mitch Evans

Jaguar

Jaguar

7.048s

11

Pascal Wehrlein

Mahindra

Mahindra

7.460s

12

Felipe Massa

Venturi

Mercedes

8.166s

13

Lucas di Grassi

Audi

Audi

8.404s

14

Antonio Felix da Costa

DS Techeetah

DS

8.853s

15

Oliver Turvey

NIO

NIO

10.172s

16

James Calado

Jaguar

Jaguar

11.572s

17

Neel Jani

Porsche

Porsche

15.429s

18

Max Guenther

BMW

BMW

25.662s

19

Brendon Hartley

Dragon

Penske

52.219s

20

Ma Qing Hua

NIO

NIO

1 Lap

-

Daniel Abt

Audi

Audi

Retirement

-

Jean-Eric Vergne

DS Techeetah

DS

Retirement

-

Sebastien Buemi

e.dams

Nissan

Retirement

-

Nico Muller

Dragon

Penske

Not started

Drivers' championship

Pos

Driver

Points

1

Sam Bird

26

2

Andre Lotterer

18

3

Stoffel Vandoorne

15

4

Oliver Rowland

12

5

Robin Frijns

10

6

Nyck de Vries

8

7

Alexander Sims

7

8

Edoardo Mortara

6

9

Jerome d'Ambrosio

2

10

Mitch Evans

2

Teams' championship

Pos

Team

Points

1

Envision Virgin Racing

36

2

Mercedes-Benz EQ Formula E Team

23

3

TAG Heuer Porsche Formula E Team

18

4

Nissan e.Dams

12

5

BMW i Andretti Motorsport

7

6

Venturi Racing

6

7

Mahindra Racing

2

8

Panasonic Jaguar Racing

2

9

Audi Sport ABT Schaeffler

0

10

DS Techeetah

0

11

NIO 333 FE Team

0

12

Geox Dragon

0


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