Formula E finally got the chance to kick off its seventh season this weekend with the 2021 Diriyah ePrix in Saudi Arabia, and it proved something that folks have been wondering about for a while: FE night races are awesome.
This doubleheader was the first time the series put on a race under the lights, since the previous concerns about sustainable lighting have finally been solved. And it was wonderful. The series knows how to put on a show, and with the pre-race light show, where certain parts of the track were lit up as drivers were introduced, was a hell of a lot of fun. Drivers developed one-off glow-in-the-dark helmets. And, in typical Formula E fashion, drivers got a little wild. The cover of darkness only made things all the more intense.
During the first race, Mercedes racer Nyck de Vries led every lap from pole position to take the first win of the season—despite having less power than his competition throughout much of the race. But de Vries showed the power of regenerative braking, managing to dance to the end despite two safety cars.
Mercedes was forced to start on the back foot for race two. During practice, Edoardo Mortara, driving a Mercedes powertrain, suffered from an overall braking failure, which sent him heavily into the wall. He was taken to the hospital and declared fine, but all Mercedes powertrains were pulled from the track during qualifying until the cause of Mortara’s issue was determined. The FIA gave all Mercedes drivers permission to race, but they had to start from the back. Mortara didn’t take part; his team was unable to finish repairing the car in time for the event.
Instead, Envision Virgin Racing driver Robin Frijns landed on pole position, although he was quickly usurped by Jaguar Racing’s Sam Bird. The race was red flagged with just under three minutes left as a result of Tom Blomqvist, Maxi Guenther, Sebastien Buemi, and Mitch Evans all running off the track. As a result, Bird took the victory. He’s won a race in every single season of FE.
But above all else, there was something extra special about seeing an FE race take place under the lights.