Nyck De Vries’ World Championship defence got off to the perfect start with a win under the lights in Diriyah, Saudi Arabia.
Having started in P3, De Vries got away quicker than Andretti’s Jake Dennis at the lights to make it a front-two lockout with teammate Stoffel Vandoorne.
With the Belgian having led for the majority of the opening exchanges, Vandoorne missed his activation point for his second Attack Mode, allowing De Vries to move through into the lead.
The Mercedes pair saw out the remainder of the opening race of the season without any hiccups, with Jake Dennis coming in third place.
It was the perfect start to the season for the reigning champion Nyck De Vries, and for Mercedes EQ which won the Teams’ Championship last season.
From start to finish
The race may have been straightforward for the Mercedes pair, but all the action was taking place behind them under the lights in the Desert.
Starting out in front with back-to-back podiums, having led the way in the last race of the season in Berlin, Vandoorne got away quickly when the lights went out, and his teammate De Vries reacted quicker than second place Dennis to jump in front.
Vandoorne and De Vries set about extending their lead, but just behind them, the first corner presented the first flashpoint of the race, as DS Techeetah’s Antonio Felix da Costa came into contact with Jaguar’s Mitch Evans, and the former World Champion’s race was over before it had ever really begun.
As the pack chopped and changed behind the front three, the biggest incident of the day came as Oliver Rowland, racing for Mahindra for the very first time, went side-by-side with Envision’s Robin Frijns at Turn 14, with the contact ultimately spinning the Brit backwards into the barriers.
Of course, the Safety Car was always going to make an appearance in Diriyah, having been called out every year in Saudi Arabia so far.
The brand-new Porsche Taycan Safety Car was only out for a few moments before the action got underway, and fortunately for the Mercedes out front, they were able to keep hold of their gap out front, with the grid having not been backed up.
As always in Formula E, the use of the extra-power from Attack Mode is critical, but it’s even more important to make sure you actually trigger it when you make your move.
Stoffel Vandoorne learnt that lesson the hard way, missing the sensors in the activation zone and allowing De Vries to move through into P1.
Porsche’s Andre Lotterer also made the most of his power boost and jumped ahead of Jake Dennis into the podium position, marking the start of a fierce battle between the two.
As Lotterer’s Attack Mode ran out, Dennis had only a few seconds of his remaining and made his move, selling a dummy on the straight before trying to dart down the outside. The Porsche ran Dennis tight against the wall and put up a firm defence to hold onto his position. Dennis was aggrieved, but Lotterer hadn’t seen the last of him just yet.
Further down the grid, Jaguar’s Sam Bird had made steady progress and had managed to navigate his way into fifth, with Dennis now all of a sudden drawn into a three-way fight for third.
Sensing a ‘now or never’ moment, Dennis was forced to make his move on Lotterer and he seized his opportunity, pushing his way up the inside on the long straight but ran out of room head into the corner, running off slightly and allowing Lotterer to regain his place.
Dennis did maintain a slight energy advantage, however, and he waited patiently for the perfect opportunity to make the most of it.
With Bird right on his tale, Dennis once again executed a dummy and lunged up the inside, this time coming into contact with the Porsche but he held his nerve to exit the corner in front and in the podium position.
This sequence proved to be a turning point for Lotterer, as he rapidly descended the grid and eventually ending up outside the point-scoring positions in 13th.
It was a straightforward finish for the Mercedes front two, and despite complaining of a suspected puncture after his run-in with Lotterer, Dennis kept his cool to secure his podium finish, something he was desperate to achieve in his second season in the motorsport.
Sam Bird and Lucas Di Grassi just missed out on a podium but secured good finishes for the first race of the season. The rest of the points were dished out to ROKiT Venturi’s Edoardo Mortara, Envision’s Robin Frijns, DS Techeetah’s Jean-Eric Vergne, and Oliver Askew of Avalanche Andretti, grabbing a point in his very first Formula E race, just ahead of Jaguar’s Mitch Evans.