Sam Bird has won the second leg of the FIA Formula E Diriryah E-Prix, a race overshadowed by a muted conclusion following a multi-car accident. Nick Cassidy put in a storming drive to finish as the best-placed Kiwi in fifth.
Starting only his second-ever Formula E race, Cassidy was merely fearless. Overtaking rivals with significantly more experience, with and without the assist of attack mode, Cassidy climbed from tenth to sixth in a frantic 20-minute period.
Meanwhile, a qualifying error for Mitch Evans scuppered his race day, with yesterday’s podium-getter eventually crashing out in a scary incident at turn 18. Multiple cars were scattered across the run-off area, with race directors eventually red-flagging the race.
Both Evans and Rene Rast were significant casualties in qualifying, leaving pitlane too late to start their flying lap. The same blunder cost Evans from a championship perspective last year, and this time around left the Kiwi starting a lowly 18th.
Evans’ silver lining was that yesterday’s race winner Nyck de Vries would start behind him after the works Mercedes team and customer outfit Venturi were barred from qualifying.
Edoardo Mortara was the victim of a Mercedes drivetrain failure during the practice starts after this morning’s practice session. The Venturi car was unable to slow down for the first turn and ploughed head-first into the barrier.
Both teams were allowed to start the race after passing a technical investigation into what caused the accident, albeit starting on the last two rows.
Polesitter Robin Frijns dominated the opening fifteen minutes of the race, pulling out a one-second buffer over Bird.
Cassidy gained one place during the start phase to run 10th, with Evans well back in 17th. New Zealand-raised Tom Blomqvist had qualified a sublime fifth for the ailing NIO 333 team.
However, Blomqvist was unable to translate his qualifying pace into the race, and he slipped back to 13th.
Race leader Frijns looked to have the win comfortably in his grasp but then fell into energy-saving trouble, which allowed Bird to reel himself back within contention.
The two traded positions as they alternated their attack mode strategy, with Frijns losing out after taking his second dose of extra power at the same time a Full Course Yellow was deployed.
That played into Bird’s hands, and he was able to seize control of the lead. Behind, Jean-Eric Vergne and teammate Antonio Felix da Costa nearly put each other in the wall in a scrap for third.
Cassidy was lighting up the highlight reels with a set of great overtakes, namely a smart lunge on Sergio Sette Camara to snatch fifth.
Moments later, a second Full Course Yellow was called after Sebastien Buemi had come to rest along the barrier. Maximilian Guenther then collected one of the NIO cars at Turn 18, with moments later Alex Lynn spearing into the barrier upside down.
Evans was one of a number of cars to stop at turn 18 as well. However, it remains unclear whether he had a role in the crash or opted to stop to ensure Lynn was safe.
The race was then red-flagged as Lynn was transferred to the hospital.
Update: Mahindra has issued a statement confirming that Lynn is awake and talking but remains at the hospital for further checks.
Bird’s win now ensures his streak of winning at least one E-Prix every season since its inception continues. The Brit now also becomes the second most winningest driver in series history, three behind all-time leader Buemi.
Round three of the 2021 season will be the Rome E-Prix on April 10.
|4||António Félix da Costa||+6.9s|
|6||Sérgio Sette Câmara||+12.817s|
|12||Lucas Di Grassi||+20.612s|
|14||Nyck de Vries||+22.482s|