Mercedes' Nyck de vries leads the way in the Diriyah Formula E e-Prix day-night race
Mercedes' Nyck de vries leads the way in the Diriyah Formula E e-Prix day-night race Image Credit: Supplied

Mercedes-EQ’s Nyck de Vries took a first Formula E win in the season-opening race in Diriyah to head home Edo Mortara (Rokit Venturi Racing) — by four seconds — and Mitch Evans (Jaguar Racing) in the series’ first race as an FIA World Championship.

The Dutchman coped well under pressure, handling Safety Car periods and moves by opponents from behind to romp home.

De Vries launched well to cover the advances of Pascal Wehrlein and Rene Rast, with the Audi driver pushing his compatriot for second place into Turn 1. A poor getaway from the Porsche man allowed the polesitter to build an early gap to the pack — some 1.2 seconds by the end of the first lap.

The lead group ran as you were with de Vries leading Wehrlein, Rast, Mortara, Mitch Evans and Alex Lynn (Mahindra Racing) the top six, whilst Jaguar new-boy Sam Bird made his experience tell as he got the jump on Maximilian Guenther into the chicane (BMW I Andretti Motorsport) for seventh.

Rast looked racy in the Audi early on, looking to apply the pressure on Wehrlein in second spot just ahead. De Vries responded to the pressure from behind by setting and maintaining race pace — though maintaining that one-second gap led to complaints of energy overconsumption.

De Vries’ victory was serene as he crossed the line with plenty in hand, whilst Mortara followed in an impressive second with Evans holding firm for third, despite Rast using every trick in the book to try to get by. Wehrlein was next in fifth and a last-lap move from Rowland saw Sims steal sixth. Stoffel Vandoorne, Lucas di Grassi and Oliver Turvey — with a point in Round 1 breaking NIO’s Season 6 non-scoring hoodoo — completing the top 10. Rast, meanwhile, sealed an extra point by setting the Tag Heuer Fastest Lap.

Speaking following the first of two night races, Prince Khalid bin Sultan Al Faisal, Chairman of the Saudi Automobile and Motorcycle Federation said: “What an incredible race. Once again Diriyah has made sporting history with another ‘first’ and I’m so pleased Saudi Arabia has proudly opened this wonderful series to start Season 7. It’s a championship that aligns so perfectly with our future vision and commitment to sustainability as a nation. You can tell the drivers love the track and I’ve no doubt millions around the world have been thoroughly entertained.

“Due to COVID we have all faced many challenges over the last year. There have been dark moments and many felt staging the race would be impossible. But tonight the light has shone bright and it is clear, the Kingdom is not slowing down. It is a sign of hope and a positive step forward that shows what can be achieved if we work together to overcome all obstacles.”

Carlo Boutagy, Founder and CEO of CBX, the official race promoter, said: “On behalf of CBX, I am delighted that the team behind the Diriyah E-Prix has been able to build a safe, secure starting point to the new Formula E season in the face of the ongoing pandemic.

It has been a pleasure to work with Formula E, the teams, the Ministry of Sport and SAMF to be able to overcome so many obstacles together, and to give this exciting new season the best possible opening event and a weekend to celebrate for fans around the world.”

Formula E races again on Saturday night, with Round 2 and more dicing in the dark from Diriyah’s Riyadh Street Circuit to launch the 2020/21 campaign.