Sims takes maiden Formula E victory in eventful race
BMW Andretti's Alexander Sims was finally able to successfully convert one of his three consecutive pole positions, clinching his first-ever ABB FIA Formula E championship victory in the second race of the Dirirayh E-Prix doubleheader weekend.
Sims calmly controlled the race and warded off an early threat from Techeetah's António Félix da Costa, who was subsequently penalised for clashing with Nissan e.dams' Sébastien Buemi.
That allowed Sims' team mate Max Guenther to claim second place and make it a BMW 1-2, despite controversy over whether the German driver had gone too early and jumped one of the restarts.
Lucas di Grassi was in the mix throughout but the Audi ultimately ended up having to settle for third place ahead of Mercedes' Stoffel Vandoorne.
When the lights had gone out to start the race, Sims had produced a perfect start to jump away from the rest of the field with Buemi initially holding on to second place while da Costa was able to get the better of di Grassi down the inside of turn 18.
Sims made early use of his first attack mode activation to consolidate his advantage, while a fine opportunistic pass by Sam Bird through turn 1 put the Envision Virgin Racing ahead of Mitch Evans for fifth place.
Unfortunately Da Costa's move on Buemi shortly afterwards proved lass successful, and contact between the pair ended up spinning the Nissan e.Dams. It left the Swiss driver struggling to get back into the train of cars without causing an even bigger accident in the process, and he eventually managed to reinsert himself in 14th.
Da Costa went for attack mode on lap 12, and in doing so briefly handed back second place to di Grassi. The Techeetah immediately used his power boost to force his way back in front, and behind them Bird and Evans tried to make use of the opportunity ahead of them.
Unfortunately the gap they were going for disappeared as fast as it had opened up, and Bird and Evans made crunching impact with Bird squeezed into the wall while duelling for the position. It damaged both cars, with Bird out on the spot and triggering a safety car. Meanwhile Evans limped his way back to pit lane for repairs and rejoined at the back.
The full course caution was good news for reigning champion Jean-Eric Vergne who had been obliged to make a stop-go penalty after needing a replacement battery. The safety car closed the field up, with Sims slowing the field for the restart before using his final attack mode at the green flag.
Da Costa and di Grassi held on to second and third place ahead of Max Gunther who appeared to have picked up two places before the end of the caution. Stoffel Vandoorne was running up in fifth place followed by Venturi's Edoardo Mortara, Virgin's Robin Frijns and Porsche's Andre Lotterer.
However the stewards then took a hand in the proceedings, issuing a drive through penalty to da Costa for his original contact with Buemi, and a ten-second time penalty to Buemi for his ensuing unsafe rejoin. Evans was also handed a belated drive-through for his collision with Bird, although it made little difference to his situation.
Moments later the race was back behind a safety car after Robin Frijns spun and slid sideways down the straight into the barriers, ending a miserable day for the Virgin team after their success just 24 hours earlier on Friday.
A worrying glitch with the restart process saw the race briefly resume while marshalls were still on track retrieving Frijn's car. Once that was sorted out and the race resumed for real, Sims made a fast start and quickly pulled away to safety to claim his maiden all-electric series victory, and his first single seater victory in six years.
Guenther crossed the line in second place having passed di Grassi for position, with Vandoorne just missing out on the podium ahead of Mortara, Nissan's Oliver Rowland, and Nyck de Vries who had fought his way up from the back row to claim seventh for Mercedes.
Despite the safety car, Vergne was unable to make his way into the top ten by the chequered flag, making it a pointless first weekend in the Frenchman's title defence.
Da Costa finished in 13th place just ahead of his nemesis Buemi, with Lotterer suffering a late penalty for overtaking behind the safety car that dropped him to 16th place as a result.
Also during the race, Venturi's Felipe Massa was handed a penalty for being out of position on the starting grid, while Daniel Abt also fell foul of the stewards over his Audi's throttle map.
After making it through to the superpole round and qualifying in fourth place on the grid, Jérôme d'Ambrosio stalled and the Mahindra had to be pushed off the track before the start of the race.
As a result of the two races, Sims leads the drivers championship with 35 points ahead of Vandoorne (27 pts), Sam Bird (26 pts) and Rowland (20pts) with Lotterer and Guenther tied on 18 points, and di Grassi and Mortara level on 16 points.