Edoardo Mortara brilliantly won the third race of his Formula E career in an exciting second race at the Diriyah E-Prix.
With Nyck de Vries starting from pole position, the Mercedes driver was expected to dominate the race to make it back-to-back victories to start his season.
Although De Vries wasn’t romping away, he had everything under control having managed the first round of attack modes perfectly. So where did it all go wrong.
A poor attack mode strategy
Running in fourth place with half an hour to go, Lucas Di Grassi took his second attack mode and quickly closed the gap to the leaders.
Robin Frijns followed a lap later to slot in behind Di Grassi and it’s from this point onwards where De Vries and Mercedes made a series of mistakes.
Taking attack mode cost approximately one second at the Riyadh street circuit, and De Vries still had a one second gap to Di Grassi with 28 minutes remaining.
However, he opted to not take it so second-place Mortara did the opposite by taking attack mode to drop to fourth place.
De Vries was not in the lead but with three drivers in attack mode chasing, with Di Grassi leading the chasing pack,
Di Grassi’s bold move
Di Grassi had one lap left of attack mode, so closed his one second deficit to De Vries and went for it around the outside of Turn 17 to aggressively take the lead. It was a robust, but fair move, and more importantly a decisive moment in the E-Prix.
At the same time, Mortara overtook Frijns so in the space of a few second both Venturi drivers moved up one position. A lap later, Mortara moved past De Vries to make it a Venturi 1-2.
Strangely, De Vries still hadn’t taken attack mode and when he did, he lost out to Frijns and was now three seconds off the lead in fourth place. He simply had too much to do and didn’t manage his energy as well as his rivals.
Meanwhile back at the front, Di Grassi and Mortara swapped places, before Frijns also overtook the Brazilian to move into second.
How De Vries’ day got even worse
Once De Vries was out of attack mode, Jean-Eric Vergne was next to launch an aggressive attack on the defending Formula E champion by barging his way past at Turn 17.
De Vries lost his momentum on the exit of the chicane and was overtaken by Andre Lotterer.
Jake Dennis took advantage of the situation by going down the inside of the Dutchman at the final corner, and De Vries‘ teammate Stoffel Vandoorne and the Nissan of Oliver Rowland followed through.
From leading the race, De Vries dropped to ninth place, which later turned to 10th when Pascal Wehrlein got by.
The importance of strategy
De Vries definitely had the pace to win the race, but a series of strategic errors put him in a very awkward position.
Mercedes had the car to beat in the opening race on Friday, so when De Vries was vulnerable, everyone else pounced which is why some of the overtakes were very aggressive.
The beauty of Formula E is even when you have a car which is capable of winning, you can throw the race away with a poor strategy and that’s exactly what happened to De Vries in Diriyah.