Bird wins season opener in Ad Diriyah

by Scott Douglas

Sam Bird used all of his experience to carve his way through the field and win the opening round of the 2019-20 ABB FIA Formula E championship in Ad Diriyah.

Bird had looked in a class of his own in the first part of qualifying, only for a mistake on his Super Pole lap to put him back in fifth on the grid.

But a mixture of steady overtakes and astute timing of his two Attack Modes meant that the Envision Virgin Racing driver passed the less experienced drivers in front of him, and kept up his record of having won in every series of the Formula E championship.

Behind him there were debut podiums for both the TAG Heuer Porsche and Mercedes-Benz EQ teams as Andre Lotterer and Stoffel Vandoorne showed strong race pace throughout.

Vandoorne looked on for the win at one point but taking his last Attack Mode dropped him back behind Lotterer and he was immediately deprived of the chance to use his extra energy allowance as a safety car came out for the crashed car of Daniel Abt.

Oliver Rowland looked impressive as he made his way from eighth to fourth, although Nissan e.dams team-mate and former champion Sebastien Buemi retired early on after a technical issue.

Bird’s team-mate Robin Frijns finished fifth ahead of Formula 2 champion Nyck de Vries in the other Mercedes.

De Vries had an encouraging debut race as he fought at the front of the field for most of the race but seemed to struggle for energy as the race wore on, choosing to not using his Fan Boost to defend from Bird.

Edorado Mortara might also have hoped for more from the race after fighting in the top four early on, but he too fell back to finish just ahead of polesitter Alexander Sims.

It was a tough race for the BMW i Andretti Motorsport driver who led from pole for the first half of the race, only to fall behind Vandoorne and Bird after the Belgian pulled off a daring late braking move into the chicane.

Sims then lost more places as he used up his last Attack Mode, and then fell further back after the safety car as he was subject to some aggressive moves from those behind.

Jerome D’Ambrosio and Mitch Evans were among those who took advantage of the late action after the safety car to grab the last two points positions.

It was a dire start for the reigning two-time champion Jean-Eric Vergne however, as a problem with his steering caused him to retire from the points.

The Frenchman afterwards said that a fault on his steering rack was to blame, but he was hopeful that the car would be fully repaired in time for tomorrow’s race.

Position#DriverTeamGap
12 Sam BirdEnvision Virgin Racing
236 André LottererPorsche Formula E Team+1.319
35Stoffel VandoorneMercedes EQ Formula E Team+1.672
422Oliver RowlandNissan e.dams+1.944
54 Robin FrijnsEnvision Virgin Racing+3.983
617Nyck de VriesMercedes EQ Formula E Team+4.560
748 Edoardo MortaraVenturi Formula E Team+5.122
827Alexander SimsBMW i Andretti Motorsport+5.715
964Jérôme d'AmbrosioMahindra Racing+6.628
1020Mitch EvansPanasonic Jaguar Racing+7.048
1194Pascal WehrleinMahindra Racing+7.460
1219 Felipe MassaVenturi Formula E Team+8.166
1311 Lucas di GrassiAudi Sport Abt Schaeffler Formula E Team+8.404
1413António Félix da CostaDS Techeetah+8.853
153Oliver TurveyNIO 333 FE Team+10.172
1651James CaladoPanasonic Jaguar Racing+11.572
1791 Neel JaniPorsche Formula E Team+15.429
1828Maximilian GüntherBMW i Andretti Motorsport+25.662
196Brendon HartleyGEOX Dragon+42.219
2033Ma QinghuaNIO 333 FE Team+1 LAP
2166 Daniel AbtAudi Sport Abt Schaeffler Formula E TeamDNF
2225 Jean-Éric VergneDS TecheetahDNF
2323Sébastien BuemiNissan e.damsDNF
247Nico MüllerGEOX DragonDNS

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