This weekend, the ABB FIA Formula E World Championship returns to Diriyah, a UNESCO World Heritage site, for the fourth time, kicking off the season with a spectacular double header in the dark. With the inauguration of Jahez Village and five live performances, audiences can expect lots of action on and off the track in addition to racing.
Three of the five Formula E races in Diriyah were won straight from the Julius Baer Pole Position. This will be another fiercely fought spot on the starting grid, thanks to the new knockout qualifying format.
Sam Bird of Jaguar TCS Racing has the most wins on Saudi Arabian streets, with two victories. Last season, he began his partnership with the renowned British marque in excellent fashion, winning his first race for the big cat only the second time around – maintaining his record to being the only driver to win in every Formula E season to date.
“I’m coming into season 8 with a lot of excitement,” Bird said Arab News. “I’m chomping at the bit to get started. I think Jaguar TCS Racing have done a great job over the break to ensure we’re in the best possible position going forward into the season. The plan is to do what I’ve been able to do in the past two seasons in Diriyah, which is to start with a win.”
This season will include a qualifying session, similar to Formula One, in which each driver will be able to attempt numerous fastest laps within their allocated time. This means that any driver can start on pole, ensuring unpredictability from the minute the tyres touch the track. In the quarter-finals and semi-finals, the top four fastest lap drivers in each group will compete in a knockout format in head-to-head Duels. All grid positions will be determined by either success in head-to-head duels or lap times, depending on which stage of qualifying drivers reach.
Antonio Giovinazzi, a former Formula One driver, will join Dan Ticktum and Oliver Askew on the grid for the first time, bringing a total of twenty-two drivers to compete for one prize.
Mercedes-EQ, the reigning Teams’ champions, have had some strong performances in Diriyah, and Stoffel Vandoorne is the next best driver around the UNESCO historic monument that serves as the circuit. With a second and third place finish in the German marque’s inaugural season in 2019/20, the Belgian has two podium finishes.
Nyck de Vries, his FIA World Champion teammate, started his championship-winning campaign last season with a remarkable drive in Formula E’s first night race. The Dutchman swept the weekend, dominating every session and claiming pole position before storming to the top of the podium in the first race.
The only drivers to win the season opening on multiple occasions are the aforementioned Bird and Sebastien Buemi. On Saturday, could the defending Drivers’ Champion add his name to this list?