The ABB FIA Formula E World Championship season commenced this weekend with a doubleheader in Diriyah, Saudi Arabia. This was also the first time Formula E used its new “Duel” qualifying format in competition. The new qualifying system is fairer than the prior “four group” system and creates exciting moments. Though, there’s a lot of downtime between the duels during that stage of the session.
Qualifying for the first race saw Mercedes’ Stoffel Vandoorne win pole after finishing 3rd in his group, winning his quarter-final duel, beating his teammate Nyck de Vries in the semi-final, and defeating Andretti’s Jake Dennis in the final.
The race didn’t go as smoothly for the Belgian polesitter. De Vries took second place at the start from the third spot on the grid and didn’t make things easy for his teammate. Though, Vandoorne lost a chance at the race win when he made a crucial error attempting to activate attack mode. Nyck de Vries would lead a Mercedes 1-2 finish in the first race.
Nyck De Vries swept qualifying for the second race by being fastest in his group and running the bracket in the duel. The final ended in a nail-biter as he beat Venturi’s Edoardo Mortara by five-thousands of a second.
The race was fairly processional for the frontrunners until Venturi’s Lucas di Grassi made an aggressive move for the lead. He and De Vries made contact in the braking zone for turn 18. De Vries ran Di Grassi wide into the run-off area, but the Venturi driver didn’t yield and forcefully rejoined the racing surface as he took the lead. The pair’s battle significantly slowed both drivers down and brought Mortara and Envision’s Robin Frijns into the fight for first place.
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De Vries would sink through the field and finish 10th. Mortara took the opportunity created by the full-contact scrap and passed his teammate Di Grassi for the lead. Edoardo Mortara’s victory in the second race was solidified by a late-race safety car deployment to recover the crashed car of Alexander Sims. When the safety car was recalled, there was literally only a single corner left in the race.
Edoardo Mortara leads the Drivers’ Championship by 4 points over Nyck de Vries. It’s clear that Mercedes-EQ and the Mercedes-powered Venturi have an advantage over the rest of the field, and all the other teams are chasing them. The next Formula E round is in Mexico City on February 12th.