Sam Bird wins opening Formula E race of Season 6

Sam Bird took victory at the season-opening Diriyah E-Prix for Envision Virgin Racing as he fended off attacks by both newcomers Porsche and Mercedes.

After showing promising pace in qualifying, setting the fastest lap in the group stages, Bird started the Diriyah E-Prix from fifth on the grid, with Alexander Sims taking a dominant pole position for BMW.

When the five red lights went out, Bird maintained his position in the field, however, he quickly sliced his way through the leading pack, overtaking ROKiT Venturi Racing's Edoardo Mortara using Attack Mode before next clearing Mercedes EQ's Nyck de Vries with 16-minutes remaining.

An overtake from Stoffel Vandoorne on Alexander Sims temporarily handed the Belgian the lead while Bird continued to charge, advancing into second by overtaking the BMW driver. 

With 10-minutes to go, Bird next cleared Vandoorne into Turn 17 while a late-race Safety Car for Daniel Abt – who crashed out after clipping the wall – prevented the Mercedes driver from fighting back.

Deploying Attack Mode moments before the caution period promoted Andre Lotterer to second place, and upon the restart, the German racer was unable to challenge Bird for the lead despite his best efforts.

Bird took the chequered flag to take the ninth victory of his Formula E career – continuing his record of winning in every FE season – while a second-place finish for Lotterer and Vandoorne handed Porsche and Mercedes EQ silverware on debut.

Oliver Rowland narrowly missed out on a podium for Nissan e.dams, taking fourth place for the Franco-Japanese squad while Robin Frijns completed the top five in the second Envision Virgin car.

Nyck de Vries took points on debut by claiming sixth in the second Mercedes while Mortara followed in seventh. Late-race contact for Sims dropped the Briton down to eighth at the close of the race while Jerome d'Ambrosio and Mitch Evans completed the top 10 for Mahindra and BMW.

Outside of the top 10, Antonio Felix da Costa finished as the lead DS Techeetah car, with team-mate and reigning Formula E champion Jean-Eric Vergne retiring from the race.

Season 2 champion Sebastien Buemi meanwhile, also failed to see the chequered flag in the second IM01 while Lucas di Grassi was the sole finishing Audi Sport Abt Schaeffler driver, ascending from 19th to 13th.

Formula E's opening weekend of competition will continue on November 23 for the second leg of the Diriyah E-Prix, where the field of 24 will once again take to the Riyadh Street Circuit.

Diriyah 1 - Race Result

Pos Driver Team Gap
1   Sam BirdEnvision Virgin Racing
2   Andre LottererTag-Heuer Porsche1.319
3   Stoffel VandoorneMercedes-Benz EQ1.672
4   Oliver RowlandNissan e.dams1.944
5   Robin FrijnsEnvision Virgin Racing3.983
6   Nyck de VriesMercedes-Benz EQ4.560
7   Edoardo MortaraVenturi Racing5.122
8   Alexander SimsBMW i Andretti Motorsport5.715
9   Jerome d'AmbrosioMahindra Racing6.628
10   Mitch EvansPanasonic Jaguar Racing7.048
11   Pascal WehrleinMahindra Racing7.460
12   Felipe MassaVenturi Racing8.166
13   Lucas di GrassiAudi Sport Abt Schaeffler8.404
14   Antonio Felix da CostaDS Techeetah8.853
15   Oliver TurveyNIO 33310.172
16   James CaladoPanasonic Jaguar Racing11.572
17   Neel JaniTag-Heuer Porsche15.429
18   Maximilian GuentherBMW i Andretti Motorsport25.662
19   Brendon HartleyGEOX Dragon42.219
20   Ma Qing HuaNIO 3331 Lap
21   Daniel AbtAudi Sport Abt SchaefflerDNF
22   Jean-Eric VergneDS TecheetahDNF
23   Sebastien BuemiNissan e.damsDNF
24   Nico MullerGEOX DragonDNF