De Vries dominates for Mercedes in Formula E’s first night race

Formula E

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Mercedes driver Nyck de Vries took his first Formula E victory in dominant fashion. He was on it from the word go in Saudi Arabia, topping first and second practices, taking pole position and leading as he pleased throughout.

Today’s race saw several firsts for the series: its first night race, inaugural event as an official world championship and that maiden for De Vries. Having been outshone by Stoffel Vandoorne last season, De Vries had shown sometimes brilliant moments of pace but been frequently dogged by mechanical problems or the inability to avoid incidents that left him trailing Vandoorne in the points last year.

However, a flawless Super Pole lap saw him take the lead position on the grid by six tenths of a second, an almost unheard-of margin in the ordinarily tightly-spaced Formula E field, while Vandoorne started a lowly 15th.

De Vries made his getaway at the start and maintained the lead throughout the race, showing a maturity of control beyond that necessarily expected for a driver with a single, disrupted season behind him, and over six months since Formula E’s last race.

The race was disrupted by fairly regular incidents, with crashes causing Safety Car periods which, on a rapidly cooling desert night, saw drivers struggling with car control on extremely cold tyres. But De Vries looked in control throughout, despite what he reported as repeated under- and over-energy consumption problems during the race.

Less fortunate was Pascal Wehrlein, himself racing in Formula E for the first time in nearly a full calendar year having exited Mahindra before the Berlin races last season. Now in a Porsche, Wehrlein started alongside De Vries in second but saw himself rapidly swamped by the advancing René Rast, Mitch Evans and Edoardo Mortara, who all seemed more confident on the cooling track than Wehrlein.

Victory never looked in doubt for De Vries
The first of two Safety Car periods was called when Sam Bird and Alex Lynn collided, crunching into the wall nose-to-nose and leaving Lynn’s Mahindra stranded on track. The second was caused by Max Guenther, who had been running a strong race for BMW ater a disappointing qualifying performance. He pushed slightly too much on his cold tyres and paid for it with a crash hard enough to move the concrete barrier he hit. Although Guenther was unharmed, the Andretti mechanics face a sizeable repair job before tomorrow’s race.

Edoardo Mortara performed an extraordinary, needle-threading pass on both Evans and Wehrlein in the first half of the race, took second but it was the seemingly untouchable De Vries who finished four seconds ahead of the drama behind him. Jaguar’s frustration at seeing Bird retire after his incident with Lynn, in his first race for the team, was offset by Evans’ run to the final podium place.

DS Techeetah, who dominated last season, had the same result they did in the first race last year, taking home no points from the season-opener. A team who failed to score at all last year, however, NIO 333, won their first point with a tenth place for Oliver Turvey in what shows positive signs of a recovery for them.

The second race of the new Formula E season takes place in Diriyah tomorrow.

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2021 Diriyah EPrix race one result

PositionDriverTeam
1Nyck de VriesMercedes
2Edoardo MortaraVenturi
3Mitch EvansJaguar
4René RastAudi
5Pascal WehrleinPorsche
6Oliver RowlandNissan e.Dams
7Alexander SimsMahindra
8Stoffel VandoorneMercedes
9Lucas di GrassiAudi
10Oliver TurveyNIO 333
11Antonio Felix da CostaDS Techeetah
12Jake DennisBMWi Andretti
13Sebastien BuemiNissan e.Dams
14Norman NatoVenturi
15Jean-Eric VergneDS Techeetah
16Andre LottererPorsche
17Robin FrijnsEnvision Virgin
18Tom BlomqvistNIO 333
19Nick CassidyEnvision Virgin
20Sergio Sette CamaraDragon
21Nico MuellerDragon
22Max GuentherBMWi Andretti
23Sam BirdJaguar
24Alex LynnMahindra

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Hazel Southwell
Hazel is a freelance journalist who roams the paddocks of Formula E, covering the technical and emotional elements of electric racing. Usually found at...

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  • 9 comments on “De Vries dominates for Mercedes in Formula E’s first night race”

    1. A day to remember in Saudi Arabia, but not for sporting reasons…

    2. After a pointless season 6, Oliver Turvey and NIO bounce back with a point in the first race of the season! I really hope they can further improve this year, as Turvey really has been a wasted talent these last few seasons.

      Also, it was very strange and cruel when Jack Nicholls said that NIO haven’t had two good drivers for these last few years. I would definitely rate Daniel Abt higher than Tom Blomqvist, and probably Tom Dillmann too. Maybe it was just another dig at Ma Qing Hua, and he has a point if this is true, to be fair.

    3. That double overtake my Mortara was sublime.
      Bit of a messy race for some, including Buemi out of the last corner (I guess he was out of energy?).
      I found it quite confusing that after each safety car period, they had green lights and green flag waving at the start line, which is not the finishing / timing / safety car line that occurs 3 corners later. Half expected a Mugello style prang, but obviously the drivers know the rules better than me!

    4. That was the most Sam Bird of Sam Bird races. Start in the bottom half of the top 10, gain a couple of places with overtakes that nobody else seems to be able to pull off, lose one place to somebody you seemed to be quicker than because you’ve suddenly slowed down for no obvious reason, and then DNF due to an accident that was not really your fault except for the way this happens to you all the damn time.

      1. *sad Bird fan noises*

    5. Mercedes dominating in another formula? Urgh no thanks!

    6. Another hollow Merc championship awaits? How come the cars are silver doesn’t the FE team want to fight racism?

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