Race review: what we learnt in Diriyah

After the podium celebrations have died down, we look back to the ABB FIA Formula E World Championship Season 8 opener in Saudi Arabia and dig a little deeper to surface some of the most important learnings from 2021/22's debut in the desert. Here's what we learnt in Diriyah. 

Mercedes makes its mark

Since the German manufacturer first made its debut in Formula E in Diriyah back in 2019, Mercedes-EQ has remained a permanent threat. Finishing its first campaign third in the Teams' World Championship standings, the car maker then went on to climb up the podium to be Teams' champion last season and, if it's performance in Diriyah is anything to go by, it looks to be on fine form once again.

After claiming a one-two finish for its own drivers Nyck de Vries and Stoffel Vandoorne in Round 1, it was the manufacturer's ROKiT Venturi Racing - using the Mercedes-EQ Silver Arrow 02 platform and powertrain - that claimed the win at the hands of Edoardo Mortara with Lucas di Grassi winding up third in Round 2.

If locking out four places on the podium in one race weekend isn't enough to prove your powertrain's performance, then we don't know what is. Keep a close eye on whether the Mercedes-powered teams can match that opening flurry up as the season rolls on to Mexico City on February 12

De Vries and Vandoorne celebrate Mercedes-EQ one-two in Diriyah at the Formula E season opener

 ...but who can bring the fight? 

While Mercedes might have been busy occupying the limelight over the two-day Diriyah duel, let's not forget Jake Dennis (Avalanche Andretti) and Robin Frijns (Envision Racing), who both ended up on the podium in non-Mercedes powered cars.

Alongside them, TAG Heuer Porsche in fifth in the Teams' standings and Jaguar TCS Racing in sixth both look strong early on in the season but if previous Formula E form is anything to go by, expect a fair amount to change and new challengers to emerge as the season rumbles on.

14 drivers left Diriyah with points 

With 14 of 22 drivers walking away from Saudi Arabia with points in hand, the season opener in Diriyah suggests that this season will be just as close-fought as the others.

Included in those 14 is Avalanche Andretti's new signing Oliver Askew, who defied the odds on his first Formula E outing to seal two points in Round 1. Making that all the more impressive was the fact that champions past Antonio Felix da Costa (DS TECHEETAH) and Sebastian Buemi (Nissan e.dams) left Diriyah point-less, alongside seasoned veterans like Alexander Sims (Mahindra), Maximilian Guenther (Nissan e.dams) and NIO 333's Oliver Turvey. 

Leading his fellow rookie drivers Dan Ticktum (NIO 333) and DRAGON / PENSKE AUTOSPORT's Antonio Giovinazzi - who both failed to score any points -  Askew appears to have got the hang of all-electric street racing faster than his contemporaries. Beginner's luck or here to stay? Time will tell, and Dennis' Season 7 run provides the blueprint for the American.

Jake Dennis' form is no fluke

Despite Season 7 being his first in Formula E, the British rookie finished third in the standings overall - and missed out at a title shot proper in the final race of the season. A remarkable feat by any standards in an FIA World Championship at the first time of asking, but to do so in the complex and unpredictable world of Formula E is something very special indeed.

Bouncing back onto the podium in the first round of Season 8 with another third-placed finish, Dennis has proved his fine form is down to more than just beginner's luck. The Andretti driver is currently sitting fifth in the championship with 25 points as the series rolls into Mexico City on February 12 and he'll be one to watch once again.

New qualifying format works wonders (for some!)

The innovative and all-new, knockout qualifying format, which sees drivers go head-to-head with each other in a series of Duels, proved to work wonders for some, while others fell foul of the new rules - there's no doubt it was impossible to take your eyes off of.

Both Mercedes-EQ drivers Vandoorne and de Vries picked it up early and stormed ahead with two convincing performances, good enough for Julius Baer Pole Position. Formula E's other former champions took their time to acclimatise to the new running order, and Jaguar TCS Racing in particular will be hoping for a better showing in Mexico, after shunts for both Mitch Evans and Sam Bird saw them shuffled well down the order - failing to make the Duels.

The best of team radio from Diriyah Round 1