Sam Bird takes the first win of the 2019/2020 season! With some bold moves and smart strategy, Bird claims the victory in Diriyah. Bird is still the only driver to win a race in every season of Formula E.
Bird looked super strong after Qualifying after gaining the fastest time of 1:14.946 but struggled in Superpole after getting all out of shape. Luckily, this did not seem to phase the Brit, and after some brilliant overtakes and keeping his cool through the help of the Envision Virgin Racing Team, he took the win for Round 1 of the 2019/2020 Formula E season.
Before the lights could go green, we heard that Nico Muller would not be starting due to his knock in Qualifying, but that he may rejoin the race at a later time. Unfortunately for the Geox Dragon racer, he never made it out of the pits. We then saw the other 23 cars complete their formation lap before lining up on the grid. Everyone looking at Alexander Sims on Pole, ahead of the two Mercedes Benz EQ drivers of Stoffel Vandoorne in 2nd and Nyck De Vries in 3rd.
At lights out, things managed to stay rather calm despite everyone being very quick off the start. All 23 cars made it round the first corners and as the race started to settle in, drivers began to line up their attacks. Bird in 5th place was on the back of Edoardo Mortara straight away but could not seem to find a way pass. Bird did give it a shot by the Attack Mode area but had to control the car as there was hardly any grip.
With 41 minutes and 30 seconds remaining, we saw Sebastian Buemi falling down on the timing sheet, all the way to 23rd place. Devastating for the Nissan driver but his race never restarted. Despite Buemi’s retirement, the rest of the E-Prix had been very quiet, with drivers not giving anything away. James Calado of Panasonic Jaguar Racing was the first driver to activate Attack Mode with 37 minutes and 30 seconds remaining in the race.
We then got news of 3 possible penalties for Maximilian Gunther, Bredan Hartley and Ma Qinghua for a technical infringement. These penalties were later confirmed for all 3 drivers with less than 10 minutes remaining. Continuing on with the race, and on lap 10, Mortara and De Vries very extremely close to touching but luckily for the Dutch driver, he managed to keep his place. On the same lap, Bird was able to overtake Jerome D’Ambrosio and later Mortara to secure 4th place.
The top 4 drivers (Sims, Vandoorne, De Vries and Bird) were like magnets as they were incredibly close to each other but none of them managing to find a way through. It was almost game over for Felipe Massa as he took his Attack Mode with 23 minutes remaining and hit the wall at the exit. Luckily, he kept the car going and stayed in the race. At 22 minutes remaining, the FanBoost results were announced with Vandoorne winning the most votes again, along with De Vries, Antonio Felix Da Costa, Buemi and Andre Lotterer. Unfortunately for Buemi, he would not be able to use his FanBoost after not making it back out of the pits.
Lotterer managed to get pass Mortara to take 5th position, easing his way up the field to hopefully take a podium position for his new team, Tag Heuer Porsche. Disaster seemed to continue for the longer running members of the sport as last seasons Champion, Jean-Eric Vergne, was seen going into the pits and was out of the race with less that 20 minutes remaining. As others were in turmoil, Bird was flying as he managed to get passed De Vries and take 3rd place.
With just over 15 minutes to go, Vandoorne made a bold move and somehow got passed Sims and move into the lead of the race. This was a very tight move and caused some of the drivers behind to fall back, as we saw De Vries fall down to 7th place after being overtaken at different places. Unfortunately for Vandoorne, he had found himself in a rather sticky situation. Despite leading the race, Vandoorne still had 1 more Attack Mode to use and with Bird all over the back of him, it was difficult to find the right time, to see if he could fend off the Envision driver. Vandoorne finally decided to use his Attack Mode to see if there was anything he could do to defend but, things got even worse for the Belgian as Daniel Abt found himself in the wall, thanks to a tussle with Da Costa, causing a Safety Car.
The race went green again with only 1 minute and 30 seconds remaining and both Lotterer in 2nd and Vandoorne in 3rd were trying to see if they had any opportunities to make a move but time simply ran out. Bird flew across the finish line to take the first win of Season 6 and become the only driver to win a race in every single Formula E season. Both Lotterer and Vandoorne managed to gain a podium for their new teams who are starting out in Formula E for the first time.
Round 1 and Round 2 are a double header this weekend so there is more action from Diriyah to come tomorrow. Make sure you check back to find out all the latest news, action and results from Season 6 of the ABB Formula E Championship.
Feature Image: Envision Virgin Racing Formula E Team Twitter