Mitch Evans has kicked off his 2021 Formula E world championship season with a podium in the Diriyah E-Prix, making a late move on Rene Rast to clinch third.
Nyck de Vries dominated the race for Mercedes. The Dutch driver led from lights to flag and was mostly unchallenged, beating Edoardo Mortara by four-seconds.
Evans had qualified sixth earlier in the day and was entangled in a race-long duel for the final podium place.
Initially, the Kiwi looked to have made a strategic blunder when he decided to hold off taking his first attack mode. However, a late surge of power gave the Jaguar driver an advantage over the field, and he was able to get ahead of Rast with two laps in hand.
“The car felt amazing, so big thanks to the team,” Evans said. “It is great to start the season off like this.
“It was a tight finish, but it just played into my hands. Hopefully we can have a good one tomorrow.”
Evans was one of only a handful of drivers to make up a place on the opening tour. The Jaguar executed a daring lunge around the outside of Alex Lynn into Turn 2.
Positioning himself for the inside line at Turn 3, Evans slipped ahead to take fifth.
Up front, pole-sitter De Vries’ initial 1.1s lead he established on lap one was quickly diminishing. Soon enough, Rast and Pascal Wehrlein had closed to within a car length of the Mercedes.
Evans was embroiled in an intriguing multi-car battle for most of the opening fifteen minutes. Mortara was the cork in a bottle, with Evans mired in the wake of the Venturi and struggling to pick a way past.
Like last season, every driver must activate ‘attack mode’ twice per race. This is done by running through a pair of activation markers located off the racing line. The risk with activating attack mode is that you can relinquish a position behind if a driver is close enough. That would be how Evans was elevated to fourth ahead of Mortara.
However, loaded with an extra 35kW of power, Mortara smoothly worked himself ahead of Evans on the main straight, taking Wehrlein for third in the same move.
A cunning Evans then pounced on an out-of-shape Mortara to reclaim fourth.
The race’s first safety car was deployed with twenty minutes on the clock after Lynn closed the door too late on Bird, pitching himself into a spin before being collected by the Brit.
Evans was struggling to match the pace of the front runners off the restart, and Oliver Rowland and Maximilian Guenther were snapping at his heels. Pushing hard, Guenther made light contact with the inside wall, which then shunted his BMW heavily into the outside barrier.
Another safety car was called into action, and Evans activated attack mode for the first time. Rast opted for the same move and dropped a spot to Mortara.
The race returned to green with five minutes remaining, and those who had yet to activate attack mode for a second time were all compelled to do so. That played into Evans’ hands, who went on the charge, scything past Rast to snatch third.
The result is Evans’ seventh Formula E career podium and suggests there is plenty of potential in the 2021 Jaguar package.
Other New Zealanders in the field were Nick Cassidy and Tom Blomqvist. Cassidy finished 19th, having started 20th after his lap time in qualifying was deleted. Meanwhile, Blomqvist was dealt with a drive-through penalty after overusing his available energy. He finished 18th.
Tomorrow’s second leg of the Diriyah E-Prix will begin at 6 am NZT and streamed live on YouTube and broadcast on Sky Sport 5.
|Nyck de Vries
|Lucas Di Grassi
|António Félix da Costa
|Sérgio Sette Câmara