• Diriyah 2022: Highlights and mixed emotions

For the second time in the history of the ABB FIA Formula E World Championship, the season kicked-off with a floodlit spectacular at the Diriyah Circuit in Saudi Arabia. As was the case last year, Mercedes-EQ found the second day of racing more challenging than the first.

Race 1:
An almost perfect start to the season

Season 8 presented a new challenge even before the racing action began – a change to the qualifying format meant that the drivers were pitted against each other in single combat after the group stage. Stoffel Vandoorne and Nyck de Vries adjusted to the new format straight away.

Both made it through the group stage, won their respective quarter-final duels and then came up against each other in the semi-finals. Stoffel edged out Nyck and proceeded to the final against Jake Dennis, from which he emerged the winner. Stoffel started from Pole  Position and Nyck from P3 on the grid

the trophies of the firsst raceday standing in front of the mercedes-eq silver arrow 02

At the start, Stoffel successfully defended his lead, while Nyck passed Dennis to move up into second. The Mercedes-EQ duo held on to these positions until Stoffel missed the activation loop for his second attack mode boost and dropped back to P2 behind Nyck.

“After qualifying on pole, I’m obviously a bit disappointed with second place,” said Stoffel. “But I think it’s not bad when you have the luxury of feeling dissatisfied with second place. I led the race from the start, had everything under control and the car had strong pace today. Then, unfortunately, I missed one of the loops when activating my second attack mode and that gave the lead to Nyck.”

For Nyck, the race was very much to his liking: “A strong performance with a substantial haul of points. After my mistake yesterday in the first free practice, this result comes as a huge relief for me. We used FP2 to prepare ourselves optimally and went on to have a good qualifying. It’s a fantastic feeling to win the opening race here in Diriyah yet again – and what’s more with a one-two finish.”

team celebrating after their first victory in diriyah

Race 2:
A learning day for the team

The second win of the season also went to a Mercedes-EQ Silver Arrow 02 on Saturday, although this time neither Nyck nor Stoffel was at the wheel. But first things first...

In qualifying, Nyck picked up where he had left off the night before. He set the fastest lap time in Group A of the qualifying session, and later on made it into the final stage of the session where he secured Pole Position. In an exceptionally tense head-to-head, Nyck pipped Edoardo Mortara (Venturi Racing) by just five thousandths of a second – yes, you’ve read that correctly: five thousands of a second.

traffic on the track at the second eprix in diriyah

By contrast, Stoffel had a less than perfect quali: “I didn’t manage to optimise the second run with the warm-up and, as a result, didn’t get the best out of the lap when it mattered.” This earned him sixth place in his group and twelfth on the grid for the second race of the season.

While Nyck was initially able to defend his position at the front after the start, Stoffel immediately began to fight his way forward through the field. He made up several positions in the early stages and soon found himself in the top ten.

“I managed a good recovery up to seventh and topped that off with the fastest lap,” said Stoffel afterwards. “Maybe today was a little bit more difficult than yesterday in terms of the race pace we had, but all things considered, it was a well-executed race from my side of the garage. It was the best we could do in the circumstances; today was mainly about damage limitation.”

stoffel-vandoorne-looking-at-his-cockpit

For Nyck, the race didn’t go quite as smoothly. First, he lost the lead to Lucas di Grassi on Lap 15, then he was overtaken by Edoardo Mortara, and eventually he dropped out of the Top Three on the second activation of attack mode. Even so, he was still in amongst the front-runners as the race was drawing to a close. But shortly before the end, there was a contact with Jean-Eric Vergne (DS Techeetah) and Nyck fell back to P10, the position in which he ultimately crossed the finish line.

“In summary, we weren't competitive enough today,” conceded Nyck. “Also, we may have been a bit late in activating attack mode, which was probably a factor in us dropping back. It’s tough when you’re lacking pace. On top of that, I lost four or five positions after the collision, which was a shame. In the end, though, it was down to us, as I believe we simply weren't fast enough today.”

For Nyck, the outcome was further proof that in Formula E – even on a previously strong weekend – there is always reason to be cautious. In such a fiercely competitive race series, where tiny details can make all the difference between victory and defeat, nothing can or should be taken for granted.

Confidence high for the rest of Season 8

After the team’s one-two victory in the opening race on Friday, Mercedes-EQ also had something to celebrate on Saturday: a win for Edoardo Mortara driving the Mercedes-EQ Silver Arrow 02 fielded by Venturi Racing, with his team-mate Lucas di Grassi also finishing on the podium in third place.

“The strength of the Mercedes-EQ powertrain this weekend gives us confidence for the rest of the season,” said team principal Ian James. “Congratulations to the whole Venturi team!”

nyck de vries jumping out of his mercedes-eq silver arrow 02

As was the case last year, the two races in Diriyah had two very different outcomes for the works team. Despite that, Team Principal Ian James was broadly satisfied with this first fixture of the new campaign: “Today has been a day of mixed emotions, but overall it’s a good feeling to be going home from Diriyah after the first two rounds of the season with a decent points haul.”

The season continues on 12 February 2022 with the Mexico City E-Prix. Between now and then, there is a lot more for the team to do. “Now we will focus on analysing the data and making sure we continue to improve,” James said. “This team knows how to bounce back and I’m already looking forward to the next race in Mexico in a fortnight’s time.”

sticker on the ground at the diriyah e-prix

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