Alexander Sims in the #27 BMW iFE.20 took the pole for both races and won the second race in the all-electric ABB Formula E Series Season 6 opener in Diriyah, Saudi Arabia. It was the first Formula E win for Sims. His new teammate Maximilian Günther finished second on the track in the second race, but he was penalized for passing under the safety car and demoted to eleventh in the final standings.
Sims’ performance in qualifying for Friday’s race one demonstrated the speed of the iFe.20. He went on to lead the first half of the race, but he noted that he was using more energy than his rivals to stay in front of the pack. He fell back to third, and eventually to eighth, acknowledging later that he may have been too conservative with energy management late in the race. Günther ran in the top ten much of the way, but he had to serve a stop-and-go penalty for a technical infraction and fell to eighteenth at the end. The overall win went to Envision Virgin’s Sam Bird. The new teams from Porsche and Mercedes made it clear that they would be contenders; Porsche’s André Lotterer finished second and Mercedes’ Stoffel Vandoorne finished third.
Sims’ pole for the Saturday race was his third in a row; before his two poles in Diriyah he had qualified on pole for the final race of Season 5 in Brooklyn, New York in July. He led from flag to flag, managing energy well. In Formula E racers must run through a designated attack zone on the circuit two times in each race. After running through the zone the car is granted an extra 35 kw of energy for four minutes. Sims used his runs through the attack zone to increase his lead, but both times the caution flag came out soon after he ran through the zone, eliminating his extra edge. Still, he managed to stay in from for the entire distance. Günther, running second behind Sims, was able to keep the rest of the front runners at bay on the circuit. Günther passed two cars at the end of the second safety period, moving up to third and eventually finding his way into second. But even though the caution period was ending, the safety car was still on course when he made his passes, so he was penalized post-race. Second went to Audi’s Lucas de Grassi and third went to Mercedes’ Vandoorne.
BMW i Andretti Motorsport team principal Roger Griffiths said, “This is a fantastic success for all of us demonstrating an amazing team spirit—particularly after the disappointment that we experienced after yesterday’s race. Evidently, Alexander slept well and woke up a winner. He adapted superbly to the changed conditions with more grip on the track. He drove a very clever race, and the team did everything right in terms of tactics. Despite the retrospective penalty, kudos to Maximilian as well, who drove a fantastic defensive race. It’s great how he kept Lucas de Grassi in attack mode behind him. He is still very young and no doubt his time as a race winner in Formula E will come.”
The beginning of Season 6 brings a number of changes to the series and the rules:
- The new teams from Porsche and Mercedes bring the starting grid up to 24 cars, from 22 last season. Porsche adds two cars to the total, while Mercedes replaces HWA, the team they partnered with in their development year.
- There are two new venues, Seoul, South Korea and Jakarta, Indonesia, and a new season finale, a doubleheader in London in July. Brooklyn, the site of the doubleheader finale in both Seasons 4 and 5, will now run a single race on July 11.
- The extra power granted in attack mode has been increased to 35 kw, up from 25 kw last season, and attack mode is now banned during caution periods.
- After every caution period one kw of energy is deducted from every car for every minute spent under caution. This prevents drivers from saving energy during the caution period and running flat out later in the race.
The next race in Season 6 is scheduled for Santiago, Chile, on January 18. More information on the series is available on its website. Races are televised live on Fox Sports 1 or 2.—Brian Morgan
[Photos courtesy BMW Motorsport.]