Mahindra Racing’s Jerome d’Ambrosio claimed a sensational win in the Marrakesh ePrix, the second round of the 2018/2019 ABB FIA Formula E Championship.
D’Ambrosio qualified in tenth place but quickly climbed into the top three. The former F1 driver’s third series win in the all-electric championship gives d’Ambrosio a 12-point lead in the drivers championship over Antonio Felix da Costa and Jean-Eric Vergne.
“This is a real win,” d’Ambrosio said. “I fought hard for it and I’m really happy.
“I’ve been here since the start of the series and I’ve been fighting to be in this position. Last year we had some tough moments and I’m happy I can pay the team back like this.”
There were winners off the track in Saudi Arabia too as the champion of the ABB FIA Formula E Road to Ad Diriyah Esports Championship picking up a cool $125,000 in the process.
It has been a competition which had whittled thousands of competitors online from across the GCC, and Saudi Arabian entrants from Formula E roadshows in Jeddah and Khobar, down to just eight competitors, all from the Kingdom.
On the line in the exciting eSports competition was a prize pot of up to SAR1million ($250,000) held in the Allianz E Village, just one of the attractions surrounding the 2018 ‘Saudia’ Ad Diriyah E-Prix at the stunning UNESCO World Heritage site.
The contest featured celebrity Saudi gaming influencer Mr FIFA who helped bring the action alive for the spectators. Unlike the live action on the race track, with the drivers battling it out to win until the dying seconds, Ad Diriyah’s virtual champion took the lead early on and held it throughout.
Yasser Al Mansour, from Fara’a, a small town a few hours’ drive from Riyadh collected a cool SAR500,000 as his first-place prize, beat Mubarak Al-Dossary, from Dhaharan, who came second and won SAR250,000, and Abdulaziz Rayes, from Jeddah, who finished third and scooped SAR125,000.
Yasser hailed the event saying: “I kept my position even though it was tough. Every one of my competitors had impressive lap times. I’m just happy I came up on top.”
The champion, who collected a cool SAR500,000 as his first-place prize hailed the event, which was supported by the Saudi Arabian Federation for Electronic & Intellectual Sports (SAFEIS).
“This eSports tournament is amazing. Not only is eSport a popular among Saudi youth now it can be used to introduce countless people to the world of motor sports. The simulators we raced felt like real life,” he said.
Dale Buxton, EGaming Consultant to Formula E, said: “The response to this competition has been huge, thousands flocked to enter and the standard has been so high. It shows the passion that exists for eSports within the Kingdom and we are grateful for the support of the Saudi Arabian Federation for Electronic & Intellectual Sports.”
Antonio Felix da Costa fended off Jean-Eric Vergne to win the season-opening Formula E race at Ad Diriyah.
Jerome D’Ambrosio of Belgium crossed the line in third to complete the first podium at the inaugural race in Saudi Arabia.
Here, we look at the key talking points.
Dangerous Da Costa
The Portuguese driver was in outstanding form, cruising to just his second career win and first since Buenos Aires in 2015.
Starting from pole position, Da Costa looked like he was bossing the race and was under little pressure from the rest of the field. But Vergne came storming back and took the lead briefly midway through the race until he was slapped with a drive through penalty for a technical infringement.
Despite sustained pressure from a resurgent Vergne late on, Da Costa held on for BMW Andretti’s maiden triumph in the all-electric race series.
Victory in Saudi Arabia represents a serious boost for the 27-year-old who had been dogged by poor form and inconsistencies with the car over the past few seasons.
Could his win in the Gulf be the start of something special?
The Frenchman demonstrated why he is the defending Formula E champion with a scintillating drive.
Starting from fifth on the grid, the 28-year-old soared around the side of Andre Lotterer, Sebastien Buemi and Da Costa to take the lead at the halfway stage of the race.
Leading with 18 minutes to go, he was slapped with a drive through penalty for overpower during regeneration and returned out in fourth. But a safety car late on helped and he was able to pass d’Ambrosio to seal second place and a 16th podium of his career.
It was a positive start to the season for the Paris native, who signed a new multi-year deal with the DS Techeetah squad on Friday.
More to improve for Stoffel Vandoorne
One of the stars of qualifying, the Belgian started on the third row and looked comfortably quicker than anyone else in his qualifying group.
However, he struggled in the race and dropped from fifth to 17th.
In fact, he did little to threaten any driver in front of him during the race and he lacked any form of pace around the tight Ad Diriyah circuit.
After two sub-par seasons in Formula One, it’s hard to criticise the 24-year-old in his maiden Formula E race and he will only improve as the season develops.
Significant boost for Saudi
Even in less than ideal conditions, the local fans came out in their droves to watch the inaugural Formula E race in Saudi Arabia.
And it did not disappoint either, with the race proving to be a thrilling spectacle around the narrow track outside of Riyadh.
The season-opening race in the Kingdom represented a new chapter for the sport in the region and adds to the growing list of sporting events currently taking place throughout the year.
Furthermore, it’s a major boost for motorsport in the Gulf to have a race in Saudi Arabia and adds to the exciting races that already take place in Formula One with Grand Prix in Bahrain and the UAE.