Green Motorsports: Patience Pays Off For Portuguese Driver
After a chaotic day caused by heavy rain on Saturday morning, BMW i Andretti Motorsport’s Antonio Felix da Costa won the very first race of a brand-new season of the ABB FIA Formula E Championship in Saudi Arabia by fending off Formula E’s world champion Jean-Eric Vergne.
While the race saw a new car, a new race format and a new location, the opener to season five of the ABB FIA Formula E Championship in Ad Diriyah was just as incident-packed as ever with crashes, overtakes and some very unexpected rain causing chaos in the desert. Twenty-two Gen2 cars lined up on the grid for the first-ever Formula E race in Saudi Arabia, with the Portuguese driver da Costa starting on pole.
The city-based single-seater series began its new season on the 1.55-mile Ad Diriyah street circuit with Formula E’s all-new Gen2 race car. Virtually everything is new from the car’s design to the electric drivetrain and the lithium-ion battery. The Gen2 car can hit a top speed of 150 mph and has sufficient battery power to last an entire race. Previously, drivers have had to stop and change cars half way into the race because of battery size limits.
A new race format this season calls for 45 minutes of racing rather than a number of laps. When the time is up, there’s one more lap to complete before the checkered flag falls. After five minutes in the first race the “attack mode activation zone” opened for the first time in Formula E’s history. Drivers must activate the higher power mode twice during the race, with each burst lasting four minutes.
Pole sitter da Costa overcame an awkward start after misjudging his grid spot and had to position his car at an angle pointing towards the barriers. Having held the lead all race,
the BMW team driver fell victim to DS Techeetah’s Vergne’s attack as the Frenchman took him at the halfway point on the outside of turn 18.
Sandwiched in between two DS Techeetahs, da Costa did his best to fend off Techeetah assault from Lotterer, who engaged attack mode, hunting down da Costa. Shortly after passing him, both he and race leader Vergne lost the lead while serving a drive-through penalty in the pits. Rejoining the race in fourth, Vergne went back on the attack.
Restarting the race with only three minutes to go after a full course yellow, nine cars activated attack mode in a final attempt to improve their positions in the opening race of the season. Still challenging to the end, Vergne made one last effort, but it wasn’t enough; da Costa crossed the line, clinching the win. Behind him, Vergne finished second, with Jerome D’Ambrosio completing the podium for Mahindra Racing.
“I’m a little bit Latin so I’m very emotional so I’m just so happy with the win,” da Costa said after the race. “When I crossed the line I was happy obviously, but I was just assimilating everything. It was when I saw everyone’s faces and felt all the emotion from the rest of the guys that it all really came to me.”
The 27-year-old da Costa has been in Formula E since Season 1 and won the fourth ever Formula E race in Buenos Aires back in January 2015. He had yet to even make a podium since that point 41 races ago.
Da Costa moved from Team Aguri to the Andretti team in 2016 with the knowledge BMW would be taking over the team in Season 5 to form the current BMW i Andretti Motorsport team. His patience looks to have been rewarded, with the new German manufacturer entrant sending an early warning to rivals Audi, Jaguar, Nissan, Mahindra and DS Automobiles.
With an exciting new era of electric racing underway, Formula E returns to Marrakesh on January 12, 2019 for round two of the 2018/19 ABB FIA Formula E Championship.
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