Formula E 2020/21 sparked into life in Diriyah with its first rounds as an FIA World Championship, and inaugural night races. The season opener could hardly have been any more frenetic with eye-catching overtakes being pulled off all the way down the 24-car field as drivers looked to make an immediate impact on Season 7.
Whilst Nyck de Vries had it all in hand out front with a "chilled" lights-to-flag drive to a maiden Formula E victory in Round 1, there were 23 other drivers dicing for the same piece of asphalt in Diriyah, and none looked more fiesty than ROKiT Venturi Racing's Edo Mortara.
Mortara lined up fourth on the grid after an impressive performance in Group Qualifying saw the Swiss through to Super Pole in relative comfort - the new Mercedes-EQ powertrain looking strong out of the box in 2020/21 with de Vries topping each of the prior practice sessions and setting the fastest time, too, in qualifying.
Venturi were there or thereabouts with Mercedes power, too, and Mortara could have managed even more given he set the fastest final sector of anyone. A poor opening section of the lap by his own admission, however, ultimately cost him a real shot at pole, leaving him fourth.
The top six led away as you were over the opening couple of laps of race one with de Vries heading Pascal Wehrlein (Porsche), Rast (Audi Sport ABT Schaeffler), Mortara, Mitch Evans (Jaguar Racing) and Alex Lynn (Mahindra Racing).
Mortara's first real move of the season came during his initial ATTACK MODE activation and it proved to be an absolute masterclass as he threaded the needle at some 130mph, heading into the biggest braking zone on the circuit and the right-left chicane that follows at Turn 18/19.
Venturi racer Mortara had his full complement of power, and having briefly fallen to fifth after the opening quarter of the race regained ground and then some with a spectacular three-wide, double pass on Wehrlein and Evans - switching back at the last to go between the pair of them in one swoop. Even with just one race of the season in the books, Mortara's early candidate for overtake of 2021 is going to taken some beating.
The Swiss then made his way by a racy Rene Rast heading into the second Safety Car period of the race, caused by a coming-together between former teammates Alex Lynn and Sam Bird. The German had taken the lap-time hit of activating his final dose of ATTACK MODE, with Mortara having yet to follow suit. When the circuit went green, the Venturi driver jumped to activate his 35kW boost and Rast proved no match with Mortara moving out of the Audi’s slipstream on that long back straight to retake an eventual second place.
"I'm a dad and 34 years old!" said Mortara having just jumped out of his car. "When I'm in the car doing these moves my heart stops! Wehrlein moved at the last minute so I had to go on the left as I was quite surprised - I managed to outbrake both him and Mitch (Evans) into Turn 18.
"It was the key moment of the race and I was really happy to survive the chaos and finish second. It's exciting. Mercedes' has learned so much from the first year and we're benefiting from their work over the winter time and we will keep on fighting.
"The overtaking maneuver against Pascal (Wehrlein) was key but it used up too much energy. I have to be honest; there was a lot of luck involved with just a millimeter between us. I have to thank Mitch for giving me just enough space!"
"Maybe I could have given him even more space because I knew I wouldn't have a chance against him. Pascal stopped us because he had an energy disadvantage. It was good that we worked together to get him overtake.
"We had a good rhythm and our pace was good, even if I couldn't pass Edo. The first Safety Car cost us as we lost our ATTACK MODE. Without that we might have done even more but I'm so happy with the result!"
Published on 27th February 2021