Sam Bird and Alexander Sims emerged victorious in the spectacular and sensational season-opening races in Saudi Arabia. F1Technical.net's Balázs Szabó looks back at the first two rounds of the 2019/2020 Formula E Championship.
What a first round that was in Saudi Arabia! The sixth season of the FIA Formula E Championship could hardly start off in a more spectacular fashion than it did in the Saudi Arabian capital of Riyadh. With multiple safety car periods, with the arrival of two other German premium car manufacturers, the Mercedes-Benz EQ and the Porsche outfits and with a series of driver changes, the city-based, single-seater electric car motor racing championship continued to keep its fans entertained and excited over the entire race weekend that saw drivers competing in two races.
Bird scoops the first win of the season
After securing the pole position in dominant fashion, BMW I Andretti Motorsport driver Alexander Sims started well and pulled away immediately at the start. Newcomer Mercedes EQ Team’s drivers Stoffel Vandoorne and Nick de Vries also maintained their second and third place after the lights went out. Even if drivers were keen on capitalizing on every chance, the start was pretty calm.
Season 2 champion Sebastien Buemi had to retire his Nissan e.dams electric car due to a technical problem after it stopped on track. After the Swiss driver's car was recovered, an intense battle developed right behind the leading trio. With fifteen minutes into the race, capitalizing on Formula E’s special technical and sporting feature, the attack mode, Sam Bird managed to get ahead of Venturi driver Edoardo Mortara.
In the middle of the race, Audi Sport Abt Schaeffler drivers Daniel Abt and Lucas di Grassi were adamant to make up a couple of positions in a bid to improve on their lower starting positions. The German managed to pass NIO 333’s Oliver Turvey. With 17 minutes left of the race, reigning champion Vergne retired, returning to the pits with damage to the front wheel of his car.
When the race neared its final stage, Sam Bird closed in on the leading group and overtook Nick de Vries. Just a couple of minutes after that change, Stoffel Vandoorne outbraked himself, forcing Alexander Sims to take a wide line into the first corner. The Belgian took over the lead and his ambitious move saw the leader drop back to third place.
In the meantime, Porsche driver Andre Lotter found a way to pass Sims to take over the last podium place. With only ten minutes left on the clock, Bird grabbed the lead from Vandoorne. Pole-sitter Sims lost another place when Nissan e.dams driver Oliver Rowland outbraked and overtook him coming into Turn 1.
The closing stages were disrupted by a safety car period which was deployed due to Daniel Abt’s stricken Audi car. The young German failed to stop his Audi after a collision with Antonio Felix da Costa.
With just a minute to go, the race was resumed and Bird held on to the lead and collected the first win of the season in front of Andre Lotterer and Stoffel Vandoorne.
Sims clinches his maiden win
The poleman Alexander Sims pulled away at the start once again just as he did on the first day of action in Saudi Arabia. Sebastien Buemi and Lucas di Grassi were fighting for the two other podium places as both former champions were keen on securing their first point after their dismal results on Friday.
Right at the start, Mahindra Racing's Jerome d'Ambrosio retired from the race due to technical difficulties. Just a few minutes into the race, reigning champion Jean-Eric Vergne completed his stop-and-go penalty for changing his batteries following his crash in the practice session. The Frenchman pinned all his hopes on a safety car period to improve his chances for a point-scoring finish.
Showing feisty mood, Antonio Felix da Costa overtook di Grassi into Turn 1 to get himself up to third. The Portuguese driver was, however, very aggressive when trying to pass second-placed Buemi. The former GP3 front-runner touched the rear of the Nissan e.dams machine, sending it into a spin, although he could carry on without any major damage. Being frantic with anger, Buemi re-positioned his car into the right direction in a quite dangerous fashion, forcing his rivals to take evasive action to avoid any major contact.
While fighting for a podium finish following his victory on Friday, Bird was tapped by Panasonic Jaguar Racing's Mitch Evans going through Turn 4, before being tapped again by Mahindra Racing's Pascal Wehrlein going through Turn 5. Race direction had to deploy the safety car to give the marshals time to recover the stranded Audi-powered Envision Virgin car.
With 21 minutes left on the clock, the safety car dived into the pits and the battle continued on the narrow streets of the Saudi Arabian track. However, the BMW i8 SC had to make a second appearance after Envision Virgin driver Robin Frijns lost control of his car between Turn 5 and 6, hitting the wall at the next corner.
When di Grassi deployed his attack mode towards the end of the race, he lost out two positions to Maximilian Günther and Stoffel Vandoorne. However, he was able to gain a place back, capitalizing on his higher energy setting.
Avoiding the slightest of mistakes and paying attention to the right energy deployment, Alexander Sims converted his pole position into a win in the second round of the 2019/2020 FIA Formula E season, clinching his maiden victory in the series. For overtaking before the safety car line at the restart, Maximilian Günther was given a time penalty, promiting di Grassi to second and Vandoorne to third place.
Sims at the top after two rounds
After the first two races of the FIA Formula E 2019/2020 season, Alexander Sims leads the way in the Drivers’ Championship thanks to his victory and eighth-placed finish with 35 points in his bag. Finishing third in both rounds in Saudi Arabia, Stoffel Vandoorne. Despite retiring from the second race due to multiple collisions, Sam Bird is third in the Standings due to his commanding victory on Friday.
In the Constructors’ Championship, Mercedes-Benz EQ Formula E Team find themself in the leading position, but Envision Virgin Racing and BMW i Andretti Motorsport are close to the newcomer outfit with only two and three points behind respectively.
Of the 24 drivers, 16 have scored points in any of the two races in Saudi Arabia. The championship now draws breath, carefully analyses all the lessons taken from the first races before it returns to action in Santiago, Chile on the 18th of January 2020.