Dec 19, 2018 - 2min read
A brand-new car, new drivers, regulations and tracks saw Formula E kick-off the first race of the fifth season with a brand-new location! And the action-packed race in the historic town of Ad Diriyah in Saudi Arabia did not disappoint. Team Tonik watched it live on Saturday and provided commentary on Twitter, but in case you missed it, here’s our summary of the race and what we learned from it.
So, what happened in the race?
Well it was a tricky start - heavy overnight rain saw the first practice session being cancelled, and the start to the first race of the season was delayed. But it seemed to work out for António Félix Da Costa of BMW i Andretti Motorsport, who went into pole position with a lap time of 1:17:728, followed closely by José María López and Sébastien Buemi. Our own Alexander Sims, also of BMW i Andretti Motorsport, was unluckily subject to a mistake by the marshals, slowing him down on the final corner to qualify in 11th.
As the lights went out in Ad Diriyah, Da Costa kept his head as Lopez in second was taken by ex-F1 driver Buemi at the first corner. Sims climbed two places and to run in ninth place by the end of the first lap!
As the race progressed, the DS Techeetah team showed its pace as both Vergne and Lotterer worked their way into second and third place having started in fifth and seventh respectively. Then, with 27 minutes remaining and supported by the brand-new Attack Mode, Vergne managed a bold overtake around the outside of Da Costa and was followed by Lotterer ten minutes later.
From here, it looked like plain sailing for the DS Techeetah team as they were on track to seal a 1-2 win. However, disaster struck! Both cars, along with much of the rest of the field, were hit by a penalty for regenerating too much energy when braking (that’s right, these cars recharge their batteries when they brake, and the more energy you can re-generate, the more energy you can use on track). Sadly, this penalty also hit Sims as he dropped down to 15th after a tight battle with Massa.
These penalties put Da Costa back in control up front and saw him finish first, just 0.462 seconds ahead of Vergne. Despite showing great signs of pace on track, another penalty for Sims saw him drop down to 18th.
Now, here’s what we took away from the race:
Formula E is gaining traction!
The FIA and Formula E seem to have hit the nail on the head. The combination of picturesque street circuits, quality drivers, electrifying acceleration and Attack Mode mean overtakes were seen up and down the grid, keeping spectators on the edge of their seats! Altogether, it was a great race for Formula E, for electric vehicles and for motorsport.
It’s accessible & simple to understand
Some of us were also relatively new to the sport, but we’ve found it super easy to get to grips with what’s going on. The simple, all-in-one-day format with no pitstops means the race was a straight shoot-out to the finish. Drivers can unlock extra power by driving off the racing line over the Attack Mode arrows and fans can vote for drivers to receive even more power, through Fan Boost. That’s pretty much all you need to know to get going!
BMW i Andretti Motorsport has pace, but so does DS Techeetah
Inevitably, there’s always a learning curve to understand the drivers and teams. To help with that, BMW i Andretti Motorsport went into Saudi Arabia topping the timesheets in the final practice sessions and continued to show pace with a pole position – but the golden DS Techeetah car shows they’ve put together a great package and, bar the penalties, would most likely have cruised to victory.
From Alexander Sims himself:
In his first Formula E race, Sims did a fantastic job of qualifying in 11th and then climbing the order to ninth by the end of the first lap. After a sustained battle with Massa, they were both hit by penalties at around the half-way point and Sims was unlucky enough to receive another towards the end bringing him down to 18th – but his pace was impressive, and he showed great signs for the rest of the season!
Here’s what he had to say, “My first Formula E weekend was a big challenge and I learned a great deal. António did a fantastic job with pole position and the win, and showed how fast our car is. After a difficult qualifying session, I was actually doing quite well in the race in eighth place, but then two penalties unfortunately pushed me right down the field. Despite this, the weekend has made me optimistic for the upcoming races.”
All the teams will have a break over Christmas and return to action in Marrakesh, Morocco, on Saturday 12th Jan – tune in on the BBC Red Button or Formula E’s YouTube Channel.