The 2021 ABB FIA Formula E World Championship got underway this weekend in historic Ad-Diriyah, near Riyad, Saudi Arabia, after a break of six months interrupted only by last November’s official test.
The modern lines of today’s all-electric, Michelin-equipped single-seaters contrasted with the architecture of the UNESCO-listed heritage site which offered a unique backdrop for the television viewers around the world who tuned in to watch the weekend’s two races. Due to the heath measures currently in place, however, there were few spectators at the track, with attendance restricted to sponsor and team guests, along with a certain number of Saudi celebrities.
The fast, flowing, 2.49-kilometre, clockwise track that hosted Formula E’s third visit to Saudi Arabia had been resurfaced prior to the season’s opener and the superior grip provided by the fresh asphalt only added to the quality of the show.
For the first time in Formula 1 history, the races were held after nightfall, with the circuit lit by 600 powerful, new-generation LED floodlights which not only consumed half the energy of a conventional system but also functioned using renewable electricity.
The main new feature with regard to tyres this season concerns the smaller allocations which are down from eight to six covers per driver (three fronts and three rears) for single-race meetings, and eight instead of 16 for the double-header fixtures, the list of which included Ad-Diriyah.
Friday’s Ad-Diriyah E-Prix – the first in Formula E’s new era as an official FIA-sanctioned world championship – was won by Nyck de Vries (Mercedes-Benz EQ), ahead of Edoardo Mortara (ROKiT Venturi Racing) and Mitch Evans (Jaguar Racing).
The winner of the second race, on Saturday, was Sam Bird (Jaguar Racing), who was joined on the podium by Robin Frijns (Envision Virgin Racing) and Jean-Eric Vergne (DS Techeetah).