The sixth season of the ABB FIA Formula E world championship started off in Saudi Arabia with the Diriyah E-Prix double-header.
The 2019-20 season marks the debut of two new manufacturers in the Formula E space - Mercedes & Porsche. This year, Mercedes-Benz EQ Formula E Team (coming in exchange for HWA Racelab) will be fielding Stoffel Vandoorne & Nyck de Vries as its drivers, while the carmaker from Stuttgart has roped in ex-DS Techeetah driver Andre Lotterer & 2016 Le Mans winner Neel Jani for its debut season.
For Race 1, Alexander Sims (BMW i Andretti Motorsport) clinched the pole position in the Super Pole session, followed by Mercedes drivers Vandoorne & De Vries in second & third, respectively. However, the race was all about using the Attack Mode strategically. for those not aware, the Attack Mode gives a driver a temporary extra boost of 35kW for a few seconds. Each driver needs to use it twice in a race (compulsorily) and can be activated by driving over a dedicated spot on the track. Within opening moments of the race though, Sims' chances of winning the race came to an end as his car was consuming more energy than others. He, therefore, slipped to the back of the grid with around 15 minutes to go.
Meanwhile, the battle ahead was among Sam Bird (Envision Virgin Racing), Vandoorne (Mercedes) & Andre Lotterer (Porsche). A Full-Course Yellow (FCY) caused by the crash of Daniel Abt allowed Bird to become the race leader. He went on to win the race, followed by Lotterer in second and Vandoorne in third. Mercedes & Porsche made a strong statement by securing podium finishes in their debut race. The 2019-20 season, however, did not start off well for Mahindra Racing as Jerome d'Ambrosio & Pascal Wehrlein only managed to secure ninth & eleventh place finish, respectively.
For Race 2, Alexander Sims once again outpaced everyone to claim pole position. Only this time, behind him on the starting grid were Sebastien Buemi (Nissan e.dams) and Lucas di Grassi (Audi Sport ABT Schaeffler). However, Sims was determined to convert his pole into a successful victory, which he managed to do in a dominant manner. The British driver led the race from start to finish to clinch the win. Behind Sims though, the second race was replete with incidents. Antonio Felix Da Costa (DS Techeetah) and Buemi made contact that resulted in both of them getting penalised. Further, Maximillian Günther overtook di Grassi & Vandoorne before reaching the Safety Car line. He was handed a 24-second penalty for this, which resulted in a P2 finish converting into eleventh-place in the final classification. This pushed up di Grassi to second and Vandoorne to third, giving Mercedes two podium finishes in the Diriyah double-header. Meanwhile, Mahindra's d'Ambrosio retired from the race and teammate Wehrlein secured a fifteenth-place finish, earning the team only 2 points over the entire race weekend.
With the opening two races of the 2019-20 season done & dusted, Sims (BMW) sits atop the drivers' leaderboard with 35 points, followed by Vandoorne (Mercedes) in second with 30 points and Bird (Envision) in third with 36 points. The championship will now resume in January 2020, with the Santiago E-Prix (Chile) scheduled to run on January 18.