Antonio Felix da Costa has claimed victory in the first race of the new era of the ABB FIA Formula E Championship following an incident-filled Saudia Ad Diriyah E-Prix.
The BMW i Andretti Motorsport driver held off a hard-charging Jean-Eric Vergne, who fought back from a drive-through penalty to nearly steal the win on the final lap of the 45-minute plus one-lap contest in Saudi Arabia.
A suspension-related issue for the No. 7 Geox Dragon entry of Jose Maria Lopez, who stopped on track, saw the race neutralized initially with a full-course caution followed by a safety car, which set up a 3 minute and 30-second shootout to the finish.
With da Costa, Vergne and others behind opting to take the new-for-Season Five ‘Attack Mode’ on the run to the restart, the defending champion got by the Mahindra of Jerome D’Ambrosio for second and quickly closed the gap to da Costa.
Vergne, however, lost time on the final lap after a deep late-braking maneuver, allowing da Costa to cross the line 0.462 seconds ahead of the DS Techeetah driver.
It marked da Costa’s second career Formula E win and the first for BMW in its debut race in the all-electric championship.
D’Ambrosio completed the podium in third, ahead of Mitch Evans for Panasonic Jaguar Racing, who along with the fifth-place finishing Andre Lotterer, also opted for power-boosting Attack Mode on the restart.
Sebastien Buemi, who restarted fourth, ended up finishing sixth as a result of having less power in the closing stages.
Buemi’s Nissan e.dams teammate Oliver Rowland was the highest-placed series debutant in seventh, with the Audi Sport Abt Schaeffler duo of Daniel Abt and Lucas di Grassi finishing eighth and ninth, respectively.
The Brazilian, along with several others, were relegated to the rear of the 22-car starting field after losing their qualifying times due to power spikes, with similar issues hitting both of the DS Techeetah cars in the race.
Vergne was forced to surrender a 2.7-second lead with less than 17 minutes to go due to overpower during regeneration, which initially dropped the Frenchman to fifth before the yellow.
His teammate Lotterer, as well as Alexander Sims and Felipe Massa, were all served with drive-through penalties as a result of exceeding power limits.
Nineteen cars took the finish in the first-ever Formula E race without a car swap, following Lopez’s late-race retirement, as well as an accident for Gary Paffett in the debuting HWA Racelab operation and Mahindra’s Felix Rosenqvist, who slowed on track on Lap 8.
Edoardo Mortara, meanwhile, bounced back from an opening lap accident to finish one lap down after nose repairs to his Venturi.