• An opening weekend of ups and downs.

Welcome to the winners' club, Nyck de Vries!

Nyck de vries celebrating with his team

Nyck de Vries's second season in the ABB FIA Formula E World Championship could hardly have got off to a better start. From day one, the 26-year-old was sweeping all before him under the floodlights of the 2.49km track in Diriyah, topping the timesheets in the first and second free practice sessions, his qualifying group and the super pole.

On Friday evening in Diriyah, Nyck booked P1 on the grid for the 70th E-Prix in the history of the all-electric racing series. Team Principal Ian James was full of praise after his driver then proceeded to see off the opposition in the race itself: "Nyck has put in an excellent performance here, starting with the first free practice session. We were able to see what a strong contender he is over the course of last season, and it's great that he's now managed to translate that into his first Formula E win. I think it's fantastic that he's been able to show what he's capable of here."

Nyck de vries celebrating with his team

After 32 laps of racing, Nyck crossed the finish line a good four seconds ahead of Edoardo Mortara: "My first victory in Formula E! What a fantastic result and a perfect start to our second season. I don't know why, but I was quite calm after the race despite the pleasure of winning."

Yet it was by no means an easy race for the Dutchman. There were several safety car deployments, and getting the energy management just right required a lot of adjustment and communication with the team: "I know it sounds like a platitude, but everyone in our team has worked very hard over the winter to get us up here on the podium today. So again, a huge thank you to the whole squad for their tireless work. You've earned this victory."

Strong recovery from Stoffel Vandoorne

Stoffel Vandoorne sitting in his Silver Arrow 02

Stoffel Vandoorne rounded off the team result with an impressive charge through the field. As 2019/20 Formula E championship runner-up, Stoffel was assigned to the first qualifying group who went out when track conditions were at their worst. In the race, however, he put in a magnificent battling performance to finish in eighth place.

"All in all, we had a good race from there, with a good recovery," said Stoffel. "The pace in the car was very good, and I managed to move up to P8, even though it's a difficult circuit to overtake on." The result was enough for him to open his points account for the new campaign, and he also set the fastest lap of the race in a time of 1:09.583 on Lap 30 of 32, but because he was using fanboost, he was not eligible for the extra point.

Mercedes-EQ silver arrow 02 stoffel vandoorne

With two points finishes, including a first win of the campaign, the team enjoyed a successful opening race. Despite the elation surrounding the win, Ian James was sounding a cautious note afterwards: "We are well aware of how competitive all the other teams are and how performance and circumstances can change from race to race. All in all, it's been a good start to the new season, but tomorrow we start all over again, and this should bring a whole new set of challenges which are unknown at this stage."

Challenging Saturday:
No qualifying and a penalty

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The euphoria of Friday evening was to be followed by a setback on Saturday. After Edoardo Mortara (Venturi Racing) crashed into the barrier while practising starts at the end of FP3, the FIA not only excluded Mercedes-EQ customer team Venturi Racing from qualifying for safety reasons but also the two factory cars.

The braking system on the Formula E cars is designed in such a way that, if the front brakes fail, the rear brakes are automatically activated. In this instance, an incorrect software parameter meant that the fail-safe system did not kick in.

After performing a thorough analysis, the team understood what had happened and were able to make the necessary software changes to fix the problem and ensure that all four Mercedes-EQ cars were safe to drive. They were then cleared by the FIA to start the E-Prix.

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"Thankfully, Edo was all right," said Ian James. "That's the most important thing. Not qualifying affected our whole day, as it meant we had to go into an incredibly eventful race from the back of the field."

In Stoffel's case, there was the added challenge of a ten-second stop-and-go penalty after a power unit change, as he was unable to take what would otherwise have been a 20-place grid penalty due to his lowly starting position.

"Given Stoffel's grid position, we took a strategic decision to accept the penalty so that we would be better placed for the upcoming races with regard to the power units," explained Ian. "The downside was that the stop-and-go penalty made it all the harder for him to make positional gains today."

Encouraging long-term prospects

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Starting from P20 and P22 on the grid, it was always going to be a difficult E-Prix for Nyck and Stoffel. But after a string of penalties handed out to other drivers, the two Mercedes-EQ drivers finished the second night race in Formula E history in ninth and 13th place respectively, with Nyck also setting the fastest race lap and earning an extra point for his efforts.

"Today's race was very frustrating after my maiden win yesterday," said Nyck ruefully. "Everyone was on a similar strategy, and consequently we were unable to make much forward progress, but days like this are simply part and parcel of motor racing. Even so, it was a broadly positive outcome for us. It was obviously a pity that we weren't allowed to take part in qualifying, but we were fast here from the start and had strong pace today as well. We can build on that."

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Stoffel left the track with mixed feelings after a problematic day: "Gaining any ground at all in the race was very difficult, and so unfortunately, we came away empty-handed. All in all, though, I feel confident about the future. We've got a good package and a strong car - that's what matters. We'll now have to bounce back at the next race in Rome."

For Ian, the first two rounds of the season were a bittersweet experience: "It's hard not to start a review at Diriyah with a cliché, because it was literally a weekend of ups and downs. We obviously thought that today would be very different after Nyck's win yesterday. Still, in a long hard-fought season, we've always known that there would be difficult days ahead, with lessons to be learnt. Hopefully, today will be the only one of its kind and we will be able to return to the sort of performance we showed yesterday." The team will get their next opportunity to do that in the third race of the season to be contested in Rome on 10 April.

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