Antonio Felix da Costa confirmed the potential of the BMW i Andretti Motorsport car by winning the Ad Diriyah ePrix and with it the first race with the new Gen2 Formula E car.
BMW set the pace in testing and confirmed their title contender credentials by claiming pole position and the win, although it was DS Techeetah who seemed to have the edge in terms of pace in the race though, as both Jean-Eric Vergne and Andre Lotterer stormed through the field to immediately be on the back of Da Costa at the front.
Both were penalised however for technical infringements, along with others including Felipe Massa, Alexander Sims and Stoffel Vandoorne, believed to be caused by the teams not having enough time to eliminate energy usage and generation spikes due to rain cancelling the morning practice sessions.
All of those penalised were given a drive-through penalty, meaning that Vergne and Lotterer had to repeat all of their hard work, but they were helped by a safety car brought out by a suspension failure on Jose Maria Lopez’s GEOX Dragon Racing car.
With the pack bunched up again it led to a frantic final few laps, and many of the drivers who had the new energy boosts available to them chose to go through the activation zone under the safety car and then use their power advantage to make positions on the final laps.
Both Da Costa and Vergne had an extra 25kW available to them through this, and the Frenchman passed Jerome d’Ambrosio for second before closing to within a few tenths of the BMW on the final lap.
He attempted a very late lunge but it was to be in vain as da Costa held on to claim his first win since the inaugural season of Formula E back in 2015, and speaking afterwards, he said it was a relief to finally be back on the top step of the podium.
Da Costa said, “The DAC (his race abbreviation) is back! It’s been tough, really tough. Long months of work. I’m really happy with that.
“We’ve got some work to do as these Techeetah guys were really fast, even with the drive-through they were right there at the end. But it’s a good start, we’ll work on that and keep it going. It wasn’t easy the last two years.”
Behind them d’Ambrosio managed to hold on to third to get an impressive podium on his debut for the Mahindra Racing team.
Mitch Evans meanwhile hadn’t been close to the frontrunners throughout the race but was helped by the penalties suffered by those around him to finish an impressive fourth, just managing to hold off Lotterer behind him.
The two Nissan e.dams of Sebastien Buemi and Oliver Rowland were sixth and seventh, although despite running in the top three early on with Buemi, the team will be disappointed at how his pace fell away as the race progressed.
The Audi Sport ABT Schaeffler cars were behind them, with Daniel Abt pipping Lucas di Grassi, although as the top finishing Audi powered cars they will have concerns over their pace as they never threatened the front of the pack.
The other Panasonic Jaguar Racing car of Nelson Piquet Jr rounded off the points with the two Envision Virgin Racing cars behind.
Felipe Masa finished in fourteenth on his Formula E debut after being hit with a drive-through penalty, although he fared better than his team-mate Edorado Mortara who locked up and hit the wall on the opening lap – although he did recover to finish the race in last.
And it was an inauspicious start for the new HWA Racelab team with Gary Paffett retiring and Stoffel Vandoorne plummeting own the order. The Belgian qualified well but was soon swamped by other drivers as he fell down the order and finished seventeenth in the end.
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