Mercedes have had a dream start to the 2021/2022 Formula E Championship, as the German team claimed an emphatic 1-2 on the streets of Diriyah in the first of two races in Saudi Arabia this weekend.
Starting from third on the grid, Nyck de Vries vaulted up into second at the start before capitalising on an error from Stoffel Vandoorne to take the lead – a lead that went unchallenged over the remainder of the race.
Pole-sitter Vandoorne had to settle for second place, with the podium rounded out by Andretti's Jake Dennis.
A dramatic start
Mercedes got themselves into a dream position at the start of the race, with Vandoorne converting pole position into a clear lead at the first corner, while de Vries sprang past Dennis to make it a Mercedes 1-2 ahead of the latter, Andre Lotterer, Sam Bird and Lucas di Grassi.
Di Grassi quickly cleared Bird to set about latching onto the back of Lotterer, as Vandoorne and de Vries circulated nose-to-tail during the opening laps as Dennis and Lotterer refused to be shaken off.
Six laps in, de Vries and Dennis went for their first Attack Mode activations, quickly closing back up on Vandoorne as the Belgian held onto the lead as he followed suit on Attack Mode a lap later.
Oliver Rowland brought out the Safety Car on the ninth lap, as he and Robin Frijns made contact heading into the final corner after an initial clash between them into Turn 14.
The contact spun Rowland around, sliding backwards into the barriers with a reasonably heavy impact as Frijns powered past. Rowland was uninjured, as Race Control neutralised the action to cover the retrieval of the Mahindra.
At the end of Lap 12, the Safety Car withdrew, but appeared to catch the drivers napping as there was was quite a lot of field spread from fourth place backwards.
Lotterer, taking advantage of the gap behind, took Attack Mode and set off after Dennis – passing the Andretti driver a lap later as Dennis then opted for Attack Mode.
A lap later, there was drama as the two leaders swapped places – Vandoorne appearing to have made an error and missing the Attack Mode activation point, allowing de Vries through after the Dutch driver had activated Attack Mode successfully.
The top two drivers got some good news as the race entered the second half, with de Vries and Vandoorne earning FanBoost, as well as Mitch Evans and Antonio Giovinazzi way back in the midfield.
Bird got back ahead of di Grassi, moving up to fifth, through the next Attack Mode phase, as the race then settled down as the lead pack had used up their Attack Mode activations.
Problems for Lotterer
With 15 minutes remaining, de Vries appeared to have the edge over Vandoorne as he extended his lead out to almost two seconds, while Lotterer fell to five seconds off the lead as he continued defend from Dennis.
Dennis made a move into Turn 1, running wide as he left his braking marginally too late – this error allowed Lotterer back through.
With just nine minutes remaining, Dennis made another move and, this time, managed to get past Lotterer as the pair made contact through the apex of Turn 1.
Despite reporting a puncture, Dennis set off to start pulling away from Lotterer as Bird and di Grassi attacked Lotterer for fourth place. Bird quickly passed, as did di Grassi, as Lotterer struggled for pace and fell behind Nick Cassidy and Edoardo Mortara.
Formula E's new rule regarding adding time for a Safety Car intervention resulted in just over five minutes being bolted on, compounding Lotterer's woes as he fell down to seventh behind Cassidy. He then plummeted out of the points, as Mortara, Evans, Jean-Eric Vergne and Oliver Askew all managed to get past the ailing Porsche driver.
The race finished with Mercedes claiming the 1-2, nine seconds clear of Dennis, with Bird taking fourth and a further six seconds back.
Di Grassi finished in fifth, with Mortara beating Cassidy on the final lap to claim sixth.
Vergne took the chequered flag in eighth place, while rookie Askew grabbed his first points by finishing in ninth ahead of Evans in 10th.
Joining Rowland on the sidelines was DS Techeetah's Antonio Felix da Costa – the Season 6 champion forced out after returning to the pits on the first lap with apparent rear damage following a tap at the first corner.
Diriyah E-Prix Race 1 Results