Nyck de Vries makes history by winning Diriyah E-Prix in first ever Formula E night race
DIRIYAH, Saudi Arabia: Nyck de Vries of Mercedes-Benz EQ created Formula E history after winning the season-opening Diriyah E-Prix, the first time the electric-car series has ever taken place at night.
The first of a double-header of races taking place in Riyadh over, the weekend was also the first since Formula E was granted championship status by the FIA. It is the third time that event has taken place in Saudi Arabia, and the second that it has kicked off a new season.
“Thank you to everyone at the team, because I know it sounds like a cliche, but everyone honestly worked really hard to get here, so thank you,” de Vries said immediately after his win.
The delighted Dutchman was congratulated by the President of the Saudi Arabian Motor Federation, Prince Khalid Bin Sultan Al-Faisal, after receiving a winner’s trophy on the podium for the first time in his Formula E career.
Edoardo Mortara of ROKiT Venturi Racing, racing in Diriyah for the third time, finished second, while Mitch Evans of Jaguar Racing was third and Rene Last of Audi Sport ABT SCHAEFFlER fourth.
“The race was a tough one to manage,” de Vries added. “It wasn’t exactly clear what pace we were going to burn, and that has a consequence on the energy distribution across the 45 minutes. There was lot of communication going on, quite a few safety cars to mange. I’m very pleased.”
Runner-up Mortara lauded what his team has been able to achieve against some of Formula E’s bigger names.
“It’s obviously good to be back here, to be back on the podium,” he said. “We had an okay (2019-20) season, I mean, for sure, the first seven races were actually quite okay. You have to remember that we are probably the smallest team in the Formula E paddock, it’s not easy for us to get good results when we are facing as a team big manufactures with lot more resources than us. I’m extremely happy, it’s been a really good day, super competitive and hopefully it’s going to be the same tomorrow.”
Mortara had pulled off one of the highlights of the race when he overtook Pascal Wehrlein of TAG Heuer Porsche Formula E Team on his way to finishing second.
“I think it was crucial to pass Pascal,” the Swiss driver said. “The vehicle seemed to be quite smooth after taking his first attack mode and… I got lucky, there was not one millimetre more of distance like between my car and his car and I just went for it and I have to say thank you also to Mitch because he let me drive through the gap and yeah, very happy with the second place and the overtaking manoeuvre.
De Vries had started in pole position and never once let go of his lead, despite disruptions that saw the introduction of the safety car on several occasions.
In the early laps he looked looked to put some distance between himself and the chasing pack, as in his rear-view mirror the narrow streets of the Diriyah track ensured the challengers remained bunched up with little chance of overtaking.
Sam Bird of Jaguar Racing made a move into sixth position, just behind team-mate Mitch Evans, on lap 8, signalling his intention to attack the field in front of him. But his progress did not last long.
On lap 17, Bird collided with Alex Lynn of Mahindra Racing, requiring the safety car to come out for the first time, but not the last, in the race. Lynn had to depart the race, while Bird returned when the race restarted.
A few laps later, Maximilian Günther of BMW i Andretti Motorsport slid off and slammed into the barriers, and again the safety car was called into actin.
But each time the race restarted, de Vries kept this composure and in the end managed to cross the finish line four seconds ahead of Mortara, to experince the joy of winning a Formula E race for the first time in his career.
It was disappointing race for champion Antonio Felix de Costa of DS Techeetah — winners of the 2019-20 Team Championship — who finished in 11th position.
The second race of the season will once again take place at night on the Diriyah track on Saturday.