Reigning champion Nyck de Vries led home a Mercedes-EQ one-two in the opening round of the 2021/22 ABB FIA Formula E World Championship in Diriyah, Saudi Arabia, with Stoffel Vandoorne second and Jake Dennis (Avalanche Andretti) third.
De Vries sealed his first victory in Formula E here last year and took advantage of an uncharacteristic Vandoorne slip-up to double up, with the Belgian missing his second jump through the ATTACK MODE activation loop. The pair were dominant from there, winding up eight seconds clear of Dennis.
Jaguar TCS Racing's Sam Bird crossed the line a fighting fourth, with Andre Lotterer (Porsche) looking strong early on - particularly in a fiesty duel with Dennis. The German eventually slipped down the order from a provisional podium position to 14th as his usable energy became ever more marginal as the race drew on.
Lucas di Grassi showcased his renowned racecraft to notch fifth on debut for ROKiT Venturi Racing just ahead of teammate Edoardo Mortara and Nick Cassidy - the Envision Racing man also taking the point for TAG Heuer Fastest Lap.
DS TECHEETAH's Jean-Eric Vergne followed in eighth, pipping rookie Oliver Askew who'll be happy with his first effort in the series and points on the board - no mean feat. Jaguar's Mitch Evans rounded out the points-paying positions.
De Vries heads the way in the Drivers' World Championship from Vandoorne, with Mercedes-EQ heading the Teams' running.
The Diriyah E-Prix Round 2 follows at the same time tomorrow.
As it happened...
Vandoorne and de Vries picked up where they left off in Season 7 right off the line, with the Belgian leading the pack away and the reigning champion jumping Dennis into second position with Lotterer following in fourth – pulling a second-and-a-half on those behind after the opening couple of laps.
Ten minutes in, and the lead trio of Vandoorne, de Vries and Dennis began to pull clear of Lotterer and the rest. Di Grassi sat as he did at lights out, in fifth, with Bird, Maximilian Guenther in his first race for Nissan e.dams, Cassidy, his Envision Racing teammate Robin Frijns and Mortara rounding out the top 10.
On Lap 6, de Vries, Dennis and Lotterer jumped for their first 30kW ATTACK MODE boost, with Vandoorne covering them off a lap later. A scrap was underway a little further back for ninth, on the cusp of the points, between Mortara, Frijns, Oliver Rowland (Mahindra Racing), Pascal Wehrlein (Porsche), Evans and Vergne. Rowland came off worst in a battle with Frijns, starting with a clash at Turn 14 and ending up with the Brit’s car backwards in the wall and out of the race, while Frijns slipped to 14th and was penalised for his part in the incident.
The new Porsche Taycan Safety Car made its first appearance while the stranded Mahindra was recovered, with the race going green again on Lap 11 and the lead quartet getting the jump on the rest.
Lotterer leapt for his second 30kW boost before the De Vries, Vandoorne and Dennis and managed the undercut on the Andretti driver. Vandoorne hamstrung his chances - and ultimately cost himself the race win - by missing the activation for his second dose of ATTACK MODE when the rest matched Lotterer up, leaving the Porsche sitting pretty and costing the Belgian the lead to his teammate de Vries.
Dennis came back at Lotterer on Lap 16 with the German’s legendarily staunch defence being called into action by the Brit. Elbows out but fairly, said the stewards, and Dennis would have to try again.
In amongst the action at the front, Bird had made gains and had eyes on the podium. Fifth was his after he sliced by di Grassi, with silverware sitting a couple of seconds up the road.
On Lap 23, Dennis attempted an audacious move from way back into Turn 18 in a bid to finally pinch third from Lotterer. It didn’t stick, though, and it cost him dearly as he fell into the grasp of Bird and di Grassi – especially costly as the Porsche had some two percent less usable energy left than the Andretti racer.
No matter, though. Dennis reeled his man back in again and made it by on Lap 27 at Turn 18. Bird followed on Lap 31 to take fourth, despite a close encounter with the wall after sliding his Jaguar wide onto the dust. Di Grassi was next and Lotterer eventually slipped to 13th.
The Mercedes' were serene out-front, pulling an eight second gap to Dennis behind and taking the chequered flag in an ominous one-two.
Dennis followed in third, with Bird holding off the attentions of di Grassi and teammate Mortara in-behind. Cassidy's pace yielded seventh but that could quite easily have been more had the trio ahead tripped over one another. Double champion Vergne followed in eighth while impressive rookie Askew brought it home in ninth.
Evans rounded out the points finishers in 10th, while Antonio Giovinazzi showed just how impressive Askew's effort was as he finished the race 20th and 26 seconds behind 19th-placed Turvey.
Published on 28th January 2022