Alexander Sims took a lights-to-flag win for BMW Andretti in Formula E’s second round in Diriyah.
Starting from pole position for the second time in 24 hours, Sims lined up with Sebastien Buemi alongside him, Lucas di Grassi and Mitch Evans behind and a gap where Jerome D’Ambrosio’s car had been after it failed on the grid.
The cars made a clean getaway and despite a strong challenge from Di Grassi making a move on Buemi, Sims held the lead for the first 10 minutes of the race. With 33 minutes remaining, Antonio Felix da Costa clipped the back of Buemi as the Nissan driver attempted to trigger his Attack Mode. Buemi then rejoined across the field, forcing his team mate Oliver Rowland wide.
All the cars recovered and the race continued. But five minutes later Da Costa – now in third and running in close traffic – made a move on Di Grassi which triggered a chain reaction effect. Di Grassi robustly defended the move, forcing Da Costa back into Sam Bird and Evans, who was looking to reclaim the place he lost to his rival earlier.
Bird and Evans made contact with each other, then the wall. Evans headed for the pits while Bird limped on and was bit by Wehrlein, putting yesterday’s winner into the wall.
The Safety Car was deployed while the wreckage was cleared, and drivers deducted 5kWh of energy in line with new rules for the 2019-20 season. The restart proved controversial. Several drivers headed for the Attack Mode zone and were passed by some of their rivals who did not. However as drivers are supposed to maintain position until they pass the Safety Car line, this shouldn’t have happened.
Guenther was among those to benefit, rising from fifth to third, and was not initially placed under investigation. The green flag was relatively short-lived as, in a disastrous reversal of fortune from the first race, Virgin’s second car retired as Robin Frijns hit the wall after skidding on dust. Meanwhile Da Costa was given a drive-through penalty for the contact with Buemi, taking him out of the top runners.
The second Safety Car came in with 10 minutes remaining but, alarmingly, did so before Frijn’s car had been fully removed and with marshals still on the track. Race control called a short Full Course Yellow period to ensure the car was removed safely and Sims was able to keep the lead on both restarts. Eventually a total of 12kWh was deducted from the starting total for all the combined Safety Car periods.
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Evans, who had recovered to 10th, was given a drive-through penalty for the contact with Bird. Lotterer, sixth, was also given a 10-second penalty shortly before the end. Despite Di Grassi’s best attempts, he was unable to pass Guenther and the three crossed the line with Sims first, Guenther second and Di Grassi in third.
However, the stewards then announced a 24-second time penalty for Guenther for overtaking under safety car, promoting Vandoorne to his second podium of the weekend. Further penalties for Oliver Turvey for over-use of power promoted Brendon Hartley to his first Formula E points finish, on what had otherwise been a dismal day for the Dragon team.
Sims’s victory means he leads the drivers’ championship by eight points from Vandoorne, and will stay there for almost two months, as the season will not resume until January 18th in Santiago, Chile.
1. Alexander Sims – BMW Andretti
2. Lucas di Grassi – Audi Abt
3. Stoffel Vandoorne – Mercedes
4. Edoardo Mortara – Venturi
5. Oliver Rowland – Nissan EDams
6. Nyck de Vries – Mercedes
7. Daniel Abt – Audi Abt
8. James Calado – Jaguar
9. Jean-Eric Vergne – DS Techeetah
10. Brendon Hartley – Dragon
11. Antonio Felix da Costa – DS Techeetah
12. Maximilian Guenther – BMW Andretti
13. Sebastien Buemi – Nissan EDams
14. Andre Lotterer – Porsche
15. Pascal Wehrlein – Mahindra
16. Mitch Evans – Jaguar
17. Felipe Massa – Venturi
18. Ma Qinghua – NIO
DNF Nico Mueller – Dragon
DNF Robin Frijns – Virgin
DNF Sam Bird – Virgin
DNF Jerome D’Ambrosio – Mahindra
DSQ – Oliver Turvey – NIO
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