Da Costa earns BMW first win of new FE era

Da Costa earns BMW first win of new FE era
By AutoSport

16/12/2018 at 01:06Updated

BMW Andretti driver Antonio Felix da Costa won a dramatic Ad Diriyah E-Prix to open the 2018/19 ABB FIA Formula E season with victory ahead of reigning champion Jean-Eric Vergne.

Vergne led the middle phase of the race before being hit with a drivethrough penalty for a technical infringement, with Jerome d'Ambrosio completing the podium for Mahindra Racing.

At the start, polesitter da Costa led away from the line - despite being lined up pointing towards the outside wall - while Sebastien Buemi blasted by Jose Maria Lopez around the outside of the first corner from third.

Vergne passed ex-McLaren Formula 1 driver Stoffel Vandoorne, who had started fourth, on the first lap, as Edoardo Mortara went into the barriers at the official Turn 1 as the pack shot around from the starting grid on the main straight.

The front four edged clear of the pack, before Vergne team-mate Andre Lotterer passed Lopez at the start of the 33-lap race

As da Costa consolidated his lead, Vergne closed in on Buemi, passing him in a wild move around the outside of Turn 18, a right-hand corner in a braking zone at end of the main straight, on lap nine.

Vergne then set about catching da Costa, while Lotterer also demoted Buemi to fourth at the same spot - but down the inside - on lap 12.

The top two ran nose-to-tail through lap 14, before Vergne seized P1, again going around the outside of Turn 18, despite da Costa's fierce defence.

Vergne began to pull slightly clear while Lotterer stalked da Costa and shot by on the straight opposite the pit garages to take second.

But the two DS Techeetah drivers were then forced to serve driv through penalties - just after Vergne had used his first attack mode activation - for going over the maximum permitted power while using regen, which dropped them back into the pack.

Da Costa therefore retook the lead on lap 24 and ran ahead of the battling Lopez and d'Ambrosio, with that pair switching places at the end of that tour as Lopez went through the attack mode zone but failed to activate the system.

By this stage, Vergne ran fifth, with Lotterer seventh, as the pair quickly surged back towards the front.

Vergne took fourth from Lopez, who appeared to miss activating his attack mode again, but on the next lap the Dragon driver stopped with a broken left-rear suspension.

That caused a full course yellow that was later upgraded to full safety car, with da Costa immediately activating his first attack mode.

The safety car period lasted three full laps, with the pack bunched up and da Costa leading d'Ambrosio and Vergne.

Just before the safety car came in, da Costa and Vergne took their second attack mode activations, with the leader immediately pulling clear of d'Ambrosio.

Vergne took second as he shot up the main straight on lap 30, and although he closed in on da Costa, the Portuguese driver held on to win by 0.4s and claim his first FE win since the 2014/15 season.

D'Ambrosio finished four seconds back ahead of Mitch Evans, who had climbed into the lead late-on.

Lotterer took fifth ahead of Buemi and FE rookie Oliver Rowland.

The Audi drivers Daniel Abt and Lucas di Grassi, who started 18th on the grid after having his best time deleted in qualifying, came home eighth and ninth.

Nelson Piquet rounded out the top 10 ahead of the Virgin Racing drivers Sam Bird and Robin Frijns, who also lost their best qualifying times for the same power infraction as di Grassi.

Felipe Massa ended his first FE race in 14th. He had to serve a drivethrough penalty for the same reason as the Techeetah drivers, as did Alexander Sims, who finished 18th after getting a 10-second penalty for a second technical infringement.

Vandoorne fell down the order and came home 17th, while his HWA team-mate Gary Paffett failed to finish due to a crash.

Felix Rosenqvist was the other non-finisher after stopping early on.

Result - 33 laps: