Action until the very last meter in Formula E

The first race of the 2018/19 ABB FIA Formula E Championship season was run in the capital city of Saudi Arabia, in the Ad Diriyah area.

22 cars were lined up, on a starting grid that looked very different compared to when the qualifying ended earlier in the day.

Antonio Felix da Costa had taken Pole Position for BMW in Andretti Motorsport ahead of Jose Maria Lopez in the GEOX Dragon and Sebastien Buemi in the Nissan e.dams plus Stoffel Vandoorne in the HWA Racelab.

A whole bunch of drivers got penalties after the qualifying. Tom Dillmann did too many laps in the qualifying, whileRobin Frijns, Sam Bird, Lucas di Grassi, and Oliver Rowland used too much power.

Alexander Sims
Photo: ABB FIA Formula E

Antonio Felix da Costa totally mixed up his grid slot, and was parked all crossed up. Somehow he still managed to get first into Turn 1, and even got Lopez down to P3, since Buemi got into second.

Edoardo Mortara outbraked himself and hit the wall quite hard, which broke his front wing, and he had to drive back to the pits, to get a new one fitted.

Andre Lotterer had a good start to the race, and was all the way up in 4th after only a few laps.

Jose Maria Lopez slowly dropped down through the field, to P5.

Jose Maria Lopez
Photo: ABB FIA Formula E

There was almost a contact between Lopez and Lotterer, but Lotterer kept the position.

Felix Rosenqvist was the first driver out of the race, when he had to park his Mahindra Racing car.

2017/18 Champ Jean-Eric Vergne made a good overtaking manoeuvre on 2015/16 Champ Sebastien Buemi, where the French driver made a super move around the outside of the Swiss driver.

In just 15 minutes of racing, Felipe Massa had managed to go up to 9. position, after starting the race in P12.

Buemi had a lot of energy saving going on down the straights, making it easy for Lotterer to go by, since he didn’t have to save as much, at that point of the race. Buemi were already 3% down compared to his nearest competitors very early in the race.

Stoffel Vandoorne
Photo: ABB FIA Formula E

Vergne took the lead of the race after just shy of 20 minutes of racing, when he overtook Antonio Felix da Costa around the outside in Turn 1. Lotterer instantly closed to gap to the Portuguese, but didn’t make it past in the first go.

Gary Paffett unfortunately had to retire with mechanical issues.

Mitch Evans was the first driver in Top 10 to activate the Attack Mode, giving him 225kW for 4 minutes, against the normal 220kW. He won nothing on time doing that, while Massa was the first to gain a position, since he made it part Alexander Sims for P8, using that extra power.

Stoffel Vandoorne, Felipe Massa, Lucas Di Grassi, Antonio Felix da Costa and Daniel Abt were the five guys to receive Fan Boost.

Buemi came under pressure from Lopez. Lopez was past for a few meters, but outbraked himself, so Buemi was back in front again, while Jerome D’Ambrosio then was able to put Lopez under pressure instead.

Antonio Felix da Costa
Photo: ABB FIA Formula E

Lopez did make it past Buemi one lap later, and when Buemi tried to defend against that move, he ended up losing a spot to D’Ambrosio as well.

There was drama with 17 minutes left of the race, when there was a whole bunch of penalties applied. Jean-Eric Vergne, Andre Lotterer, Felipe Massa, and Alexander Sims all got a Drive-Through penalty, since they had used too much power! That turned the race on its head again.

That meant that Antonio Felix da Costa was back in the lead, ahead of Jerome D’Ambrosio and Jose Maria Lopez, while Sebastien Buemi var P4, ahead of Jean-Eric Vergne.

Jose Maria Lopez tried to activate the mandatory Attack Mode, but missed the activating zone not only once, but twice, costing him two positions.

That was, however, the least of his problems, since his rear suspension broke with 12 minutes left of the race.

That resulted in the first Full Course Yellow of the day, which went on to become a Safety Car.

When that finally pulled aside again, there was a number of drivers who took their final Attack Mode.

Daniel Abt
Photo: ABB FIA Formula E

There was a though battle between Mitch Evans, Sebastien Buemi and Andre Lotterer. Buemi tried to defend at all costs, but couldn’t do anything against Evans and Lotterer, who both were in Attack Mode.

Alexander Sims got the second penalty of the day, resulting in a 10 seconds Stop & Go penalty for power overuse again.

Jean-Eric Vergne managed to close the gap to Antonio Felix da Costa, so the two were just centimetres from each other, on the final lap of the race.

But Antonio Felix da Costa won the race, ahead of Jean-Eric Vergne and Jerome D’Ambrosio. Mitch Evans made it home in P4, while Andre Lotterer was the first “repeater” in P5, being teammates with Vergne in the Techeetah team.

That was the end to a very exciting opening race in the ABB FIA Formula E Championship.

The series will be back in one month time, when they race in Marrakesh, Morocco on 12 January.

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