De Vries wins dramatic inaugural Valencia e-Prix as rivals run out of energy

Nyck de Vries won a dramatic inaugural Valencia e-Prix from Brits Oliver Rowland and Alexander Sims after several drivers run out of useable energy on the final lap of the race.

It looked as if the DS TECHEETAH of Antonio Felix da Costa would emerge victorious having led from start to finish until a dramatic final lap. A wet race and five safety cars meant that team strategy was thrown into chaos and so it transpired, the race order flipped wildly as Nico Mueller and Stoffel Vandoorne came from the back of the grid to grab the unlikeliest of podiums.

Da Costa led from the start of the race until the final lap in the most testing of conditions

At the time of writing, the reshuffling of the order means that Da Costa finishes seventh behind Nick Cassidy, Rene Rast and Robin Frijns with Alex Lynn, Sam Bird and Lucas di Grassi rounding out the top ten.

“Honestly, I am happier than in Riyadh. It just came a bit unexpected and after the difficult weekend we had in Rome and the five seconds penalty, and it was tough to get back,” said a delighted De Vries afterward. “The team just executed it perfectly and kind of surprised to see number five, Stoff my mate, next to me on the podium as well! But a great day for us and very, very pleased. Thank you.”

It was Da Costa who started the race from pole, a tyre infringement for Vandoorne putting the championship contender to the back of the grid with De Vries also demoted from third to eighth for a penalty accrued from the preceding Rome E-Prix.

And, with the predicted Spanish coastal weather finally arriving on cue, the race would start behind the safety car. The slippery circuit conditions still guaranteed that there would be plenty of incident. As the safety car pulled off to allow racing proper, Da Costa led form Maximilian Guenther, Lynn, Sebastien Buemi and Andre Lotterer.

Then the inevitable first contact, Lotterer spinning Buemi around and bringing about a full course yellow as the NISSAN driver remained beached in the gravel trap. It appeared that the German was too caught up in his battle with Venturi’s Norman Nato to see Buemi, but the incident ruined the race of both parties.

There are few races on the Formula E calendar that are hosted on traditional and permanent motorsport circuits, most being temporary street constructions in the centres of some of the world’s most recognised cities.

Although Valencia is a regular test bed for Formula E teams, the circuit had been modified for this inaugural race, presenting a new challenge in itself. Upon resumption, it was Da Costa who maintained his healthy gap, the Portuguese leading from Guenther and Lynn as the rain returned with more intensity.

Several Safety Car situations meant for a chaotic race

It produced some brilliant racing, De Vries passing Lynn around the outside into Turn 4 to take third before setting his sights on the race leader. Just as a Formula One race is so often dictated by tyre choice and pit stops so the same is with Attack Mode, which allows the driver an extra 35kW of power for four minutes but with the risk-reward of having to run offline to do so.

With half an hour remaining, the leading six opted to activate their first of the two mandatory Attack Modes almost simultaneously but it was still the Portuguese who proved the class apart with the advantage of a clear track ahead. Behind him, Guenther spun out of contention and into the gravel trap, bringing about a second safety car situation. The second restart saw Da Costa under serious pressure from De Vries, the Mahindras of Lynn and Sims in close pursuit.

Another safety car for a collision between Sergio Sette Camara and Mitch Evans led to a frantic finish for the final points places. And with Lotterer and Edo Mortara also running into the gravel, a further safety car saw another spanner in the works and several teams seemingly miscalculating energy management in a dramatic end.

Fraser Masefield

Sports news and features writer, web editor and author.