2018 SAUDIA Ad Diriyah E-Prix
Round 1 – Saudi Arabia, December 15, 2018
2018 SAUDIA Ad Diriyah E-Prix15 Dec 2018
The 2018 SAUDIA Ad Diriyah E-Prix saw three days of Formula E fun, live music from international artists, entertainment, cultural activities and gripping city street racing come to the Saudi Arabian capital. Here’s what happened.
Race podcast: Listen to all the action
Season 5, Gen2, da Costa no.1
Season five of the ABB FIA Formula E Championship began with a thrilling finish in Saudi Arabia, where Antonio Felix da Costa was victorious for BMW i Andretti.
You’ll hear podium reaction from Da Costa, Vergne and D’Ambrosio, as Claire Cottingham, Tom Gaymor and Marc Priestley analyse all that happened during an action-packed SAUDIA Ad Diriyah E-Prix.
Meet the Formula E Radio Team
Marc Priestley (@f1elvis) – 10 years with McLaren Racing, as Number One Mechanic and part of the famous pitstop crew, culminated in helping Lewis Hamilton to become World Champion in 2008. Marc left the team in 2009 and has successfully built a career in media, both inside and outside of motor racing.
- Claire Cottingham (@Cla_Cottingham) – Claire is a journalist, presenter and reporter whose knowledge and passion for motorsport has seen her work for a number of established media organisations such as the BBC, ITV and talkSPORT.
- Tom Gaymor (@TomGaymor) – Former professional racing driver who now works within the sport with teams, drivers and various associations, organisations and companies delivering different services ranging from Talent Development with Carlin, to TV Presenting and Commentary with BT Sport, Eurosport and ITV Sport.
DAY OF DRAMA AT THE 2018 SAUDIA AD DIRIYAH E-PRIX FINISHES WITH THRILLED CROWDS AND CHAMPIONS CROWNED
It had taken months of planning, thousands upon thousands of man-hours to create, lasted three days, raced for 45 minutes and was decided by less than half a second.
Formula E’s debut race in Saudi Arabia, staged in the heart of a UNESCO World Heritage site, has been hailed a success, with drivers praising the track, motor sport fans being treated to a thrilling race made more interesting by unplanned rain, spectators packing the grand stands and tens of thousands enjoying an unprecedented offering of live music, entertainment and culture.
But, as the last day of sporting action wrapped up on the track in closed sessions, the closing of the 2018 SAUDIA Ad Diriyah E Prix was not marked by the waving of the checkered flag for a single event, rather it represented the starting line of a much bigger race into the future for Saudi Arabia, of which this was just the first lap.
In a historic three days for the Kingdom, which saw emotional and inspiring scenes at Saudi’s first unsegregated concerts performed by international artists, it was perhaps fitting that the festival of racing’s final act again pushed the boundaries, not just for the country but also for the sport of Formula E.
The in-season test
An unprecedented number of women competed against male drivers in Formula E’s hotly contested in-season test for up-and-coming drivers, staged at Ad Diriyah on Sunday December 16.
They were not the first women to drive competitively in Saudi; that honour went to three drivers on Saturday who competed in the Jaguar I-PACE eTROPHY with Alice Powell taking the top spot on the podium in the PRO-AM category, beating local racers Ahmed Bin Khanen and Bandar Alesayi of Saudi Racing, who finished second and third.
But, the test, featuring nine female drivers on the starting grid, marked a step-change for motor sport as well as Saudi Arabia.
The list consisted of a varied group of up-and-coming talent along with well-known faces, including the first Emirati female racing driver, the youngest winner of the British GT Championship, a former Andretti Formula E driver and a member of the FIA’s Women in Motorsport commission.
In the pit lane, the female drivers were ready to take on both the track, described as one of the toughest in Formula E, and the men. British 20-year-old Jamie Chadwick, testing for NIO Formula E, said she hoped we are entering a new era in which women prove themselves in the top open-wheel, single seater racing series.
Amna Al Qubaisi, 18, from the United Arab Emirates became the first Arab woman to test drive for a Formula E team when she piloted an Envision Virgin Racing car on the Ad Diriyah track. “Women testing for Formula E in Saudi Arabia is a big deal, and I am happy to be here. This is my first street race and it’s an amazing track” she said.
After the test session she was confident that the currently all male Formula E driver line-up could be challenged: “I have seen a lot of quick female drivers, very talented and quite capable of racing at the very front. Hopefully, in the future, we will see a lot of women competing on the same level as men.”
The 2018 ‘Saudia’ Ad Diriyah E Prix: what happened
On December 15, a sell-out crowd of over 23,000 watched the drama unfold on the track as Portuguese Antonio Felix da Costa, with BMW I Andretti Motorsport, edged out reigning champion Frenchman Jean-Eric Verne by 0.462 seconds to claim top spot on the podium.
Belgian Jérôme D’Ambrosio, of Mahindra Racing, completed the line-up on the podium finishing third in a day of drama at the stunning track created at the UNESCO World Heritage site. The day began with a morning of uncustomary rain which added a layer of difficulty as drivers were unable to take advantage of practice sessions in the morning.
But the weather failed to stop the action on the track, or the spectators from turning up, for the huge occasion for Saudi Arabia, which is the result of a partnership between Formula E, the General Sports Authority of Saudi Arabia (GSA) and the Saudi Arabian Motor Federation (SAMF), inspired by Vision 2030, which is driving reform in the Kingdom.
And, for those in the grandstands, it was a thrilling race as the 22 drivers battled their way through 21 turns for 33 laps over 45 minutes, making use of the new ATTACK MODE, which added another element of excitement to the fiercely fought contest.
It was a race which saw three drivers fail to finish but ultimately it was Costa, in his second career win, who lifted the trophy on the podium. The trophy was presented to him by His Royal Highness Prince Abdulaziz Bin Turki AlFaisal Al Saud, Vice-Chair of the Saudi Arabia General Sports Authority. Formula E reigning champion Vergne had to settle for second place and received his consolation trophy from His Royal Highness Prince Khalid bin Sultan Al Faisal Al Saud, President of the Saudi Arabian Motor Federation.
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The Ad Diriyah Circuit
The season opener of the ABB FIA Formula E Championship, the sport’s debut in the Middle East and the debut for the new more powerful Gen2 car, also represented a victory for the stunning racecourse, created within a matter of months through a collaboration among multiple government agencies in Saudi Arabia, promotor CBX and Formula E.
Gracious in defeat, Jean-Eric Verne said: “Racing in the desert, it seemed impossible three or four weeks ago, but they have done an incredible job.”
Third place driver Jérôme D’Ambrosio also paid tribute, calling the race in Ad Diriyah a “great way to start the season with a great atmosphere’.
Venturi Formula E’s new rookie driver Felipe Massa, said: “I think it is amazing to see the track they built, the show they are doing, the infrastructure they built here for the first race of the season. It is definitely great to be part of this, and great to be part of this championship.
“This is a country that is just at the beginning, the number of fans will grow each year. By the tenth year I’m sure all the fans will love the drivers and the championship. It is much more exciting, and this is the right time for me to enter Formula E.”
The final word went to the winner, Antonio Felix da Costa, who said: “I was saying how much fun the track was to drive, it is so much fun, your focus levels have to be so high. It is amazing what we are doing with Formula E, the countries we are visiting, and I hope we keep coming here. It was a really cool experience.”
A music legacy
The historical city of Ad Diriyah, the first seat of power for Saudi Kings, has been brought alive by the biggest festival of racing, live music and entertainment in the Kingdom. The first-of-its-kind three-day event included concerts by globally-acclaimed musicians.
Global music sensations Jason Derulo and Enrique Iglesias performed before a large crowd of enthusiastic fans on Thursday evening as the lights turned green for the Formula E festival of fun surrounding the 2018 ‘Saudia’ Ad Diriyah E-Prix. Then Hip-hop, pop & dance royalty Black Eyed Peas regaled the audience on Friday, when the band shared the stage with Egyptian singer-songwriter Amr Diab at the race venue.
Finally, fans were treated to a double-header of sensational acts with both US music heroes OneRepublic and superstar DJ/producer David Guetta headlining the biggest night of the three-day festival.
Venturi team principal Susie Wolff said: “The whole fact of being here and seeing what has been built up, and the concerts, it is all fantastic and shows progress.
“To be able to come here and put on this event which is breaking ground in a country which normally doesn’t have such events, for us is something very positive.
“From that perspective we are very proud to be part of such an event and happy to see such progress being made,” she concluded.
On stage Saturday night. OneRepublic’s Lead singer, Ryan Tedder, thanked the thousands of fans, who clapped, cheered and danced. He told the crowd: “This is amazing. This feels like history, this is exceptional.”
And, after his performance on Thursday’s opening night, Jason Derulo said: “It is an incredible thing to perform for a mixed crowd. Just to be a small part of history tonight is an unbelievable thing as an artist and a performer.”
The road ahead
The 2018 SAUDIA Ad Diriyah E-Prix was the first year of a 10-year partnership with Formula E, with plans by the General Sports Authority to continue to improve the infrastructure around the Ad Diriyah site.
His Royal Highness Prince Abdulaziz Bin Turki AlFaisal Al Saud, said: “For the thousands of people who came together to create this incredibly special event, today’s thrilling action exceeded what we hoped for when we first envisaged bringing Formula E to the Kingdom through Vision 2030.
“It has been a watershed moment and there are too many people to thank, the drivers, the teams and the Saudi people for welcoming this wonderful event into their hearts and coming in their tens of thousands.”
His Royal Highness Prince Khalid bin Sultan Al Faisal Al Saud, President of the Saudi Arabian Motor Federation, said: “What a truly exciting race, and what an occasion. The track has proven itself as a world-class venue for thrilling motorsport. This will fire up Saudi Arabia’s passion for motorsports and a year seems too long a time before we welcome Formula E back.