Formula E: Da Costa stars for BMW in Ad Diriyah

After a chaotic day caused by heavy rain in the morning, it was BMW i Andretti Motorsport’s Antonio Felix da Costa who clinched the win in the very first race of a brand new season of the ABB FIA Formula E Championship in Saudi Arabia.

With all 22 Gen2 cars lining up on the grid for the first time in Ad Diriyah, it was race winner da Costa who started on Pole.

With the green lights on and 45 minutes on the clock, Venturi Formula E’s Edoardo Mortara locked up the wheels just moments after the start and slammed into the wall. Back on track, Mortara limped along with damaged bodywork to rejoin the back of the pack.

With a new race format this season, there’s no more laps, just 45 minutes of racing. When the time is up, there’s one more lap to complete before the chequered flag falls. After five minutes, the Attack Mode activation zone opened up for the first time in Formula E’s history. In this race, the drivers must activate the higher power mode twice during the race, with each burst lasting four minutes.

With 36 minutes to go, the two DS Techeetah drivers – reigning champion Jean-Eric Vergne and Andre Lotterer in third and fourth respectively – fended off Geox Dragon’s Jose-Maria Lopez who was bearing down in fifth.

With 34 minutes to go, NIO Formula E’s drivers Oliver Turvey and Tom Dillmann engaged Attack Modein a bid to break out of the back.

In the same minute, Vergne made his way past Buemi, up into second on Turn 18 while Mahindra Racing’s Felix Rosenqvist crashed out, finishing his race. At the same time, HWA Racelab’s Gary Paffett returned to the pits due to a technical issue, where he finished his race.

On Turn 21, Venturi Formula E’s Felipe Massa made his way past HWA Racelab rookie Stoffel Vandoorne on the inside and up into ninth place with 29 minutes to go.

Having held the lead all race, da Costa fell victim to Vergne’s attack as the Frenchman took him on the outside of Turn 18. Sandwiched in between the two DS Techeetah’s, da Costa did his best to fend off another Techeetah assault from Andre Lotterer.

Battling to maintain fourth was Nissan e.dams Sebastien Buemi and Lopez as they went wheel to wheel. Seeing an opportunity to advance, Mahindra Racing’s Jerome d’Ambrosio slotted into the gap, sending Buemi down to fourth.

Back at the top, Lotterer engaged Attack Mode, hunting down da Costa./ Shortly after passing him, both he and race leader Vergne lost the lead while serving a drive-through penalty in the pits. Rejoining the race in fourth, Vergne went back on the attack in a bid to regain the lost ground.

After missing the narrow Attack Mode activation zone twice, Lopez ended up stranded on the exit of Turn 14 after sustaining damage to the rear wheel of his car. With the Saftey Car deployed, after a full-course yellow, the cars regrouped under the new rules for the 2018/19 season, which allows drivers to close any gaps under a full-course yellow.

Restarting the race with only three minutes to go, nine cars activated Attack Mode in a final attempt to improve their position in the opening race of the season.

Going wheel to wheel, Beumi and Lotterer jostled for fifth place, with Lotterer winning out. Still in the lead, da Costa lit up his car’s halo device as he activated FanBoost to put more distance between him and Vergne in second.

Still challenging to the bitter end, Vergne made one last effort but it wasn’t enough – da Costa crossed the line, clinching the win in the first race of a new era of the ABB FIA Formula E Championship. Behind him, Vergne finished second with Jerome d’Ambrosio in third.

“We did it baby, we’re back! screamed da Costa down the radio, moments after crossing the line.

“Finally, finally! Buenos Aries, Season 1 was a long time ago!” he added, referring to his only other win.