Mercedes' Nyck de Vries emerged as the winner of the first of this weekend's two Valencia E-Prix races in Spain, after wet conditions triggered multiple safety cars that confused the teams' efforts to accurately calculate energy usage.
Long-time race leader António Félix da Costa was among those to run out of energy on the final lap dropping him to seventh place in the final results classification, costing him a near-certain victory.
Instead, de Vries was joined on the podium by Drgaon's Nico Muller and by his own team mate Stoffel Vandoorne, who had been forced to start from the back row of the grid despite topping superpole after all his qualifying times were deleted for using a tyre not declared in the 'technical passport' for his car
That had left DS Techeetah's da Costa on pole position for the race ahead of BMW's Max Guenther, the pair having previously been fastest in first and second practice respectively. Mahindra Racing's Alex Lynn started from third alongside Nissan e.Dams' Sébastien Buemi, with de Vries seventh behind Norman Nato after serving a five-second penalty held over for causing a collision in the previous round.
Wet track conditions under dark clouds meant that race control ordered a single lap behind the safety car to start proceedings. An initially cautious first lap soon got feisty, and Buemi was tapped into a spin at the chicane by Porsche's André Lotterer who had been battling with Venturi's Norman Nato. Buemi was left beached in the gravel, forcing a safety car to be deployed.
The rain was picking up again when the race resumed. Da Costa quickly pulled away from the field as Guenther and Lynn quickly succumbed to a charging de Vries who was soon up to second place.
Guenther was the first of the leaders to activate attack mode, with the rest of the top six then following suit with alacrity. The BMW ended up losing out and started dropping positions, before Guenther locked up and spun off into the gravel and hit the barrier to trigger another safety car for retrieval.
Da Costa continued to lead at the restart with a two second lead over de Vries, Lynn and Mahindra's Alexander Simm who had sliced through the field from 11th on the grid and who soon dispatched Lynn for third to add another scalp to his tally.
Dragon's Sérgio Sette Câmara triggered another safety car on lap 14 having found the gravel in turn 9 following a clash with Jaguar's Mitch Evans, who was able to limp home to pit lane to retire. At the same time in a separate incident, Vandoorne also ran wide and tangled with Muller in the second Dragon costing him a five second penalty.
Another confident restart from da Costa allowed the Portuguese driver to apply his fan boost to eke out enough space to then activate his attack mode for a second time without ceding the lead to de Vries. Meanwhile Nissan e.Dams' Oliver Rowland and Envision Virgin pair Robin Frijns and Nick Cassidy were all able to overpower Lynn, with Jaguar's Sam Bird also up to eighth by the time Pascal Wehrlein retired with brake issues. Lotterer and Edoardo Mortara then made contact and found the gravel at turn 1 to trigger yet another safety car with just over four minutes remaining.
The race restarted with two laps to go, da Costa in complete control over de Vries while Sims had to battle hard to stay ahead of Rowland. However energy levels were now becoming critical and it appeared that the disruption caused by all those safety car interruptions and the resulting race control compensations - a 1kWh reduction for every minute spent behind safety car - had left half of the drivers with insufficient battery power to make it to the finish.
Da Costa was one of the cars to run dry, leaving de Vries claiming the chequered flag ahead of Muller, Vandoorne, Cassidy and Rene Rast (Audi) with Frijns finishing sixth ahead of da Costa, Lynn and Bird. Lucas di Grassi (Audi) rounded out the top ten with BMW's Jake Dennis and DS Techeetah's Jean-Éric Vergne the last of the official finishers albeit over two minutes behind.
Rowland and Sims had originally been in the top ten but were disqualified soon after when their energy usage was reviewed. Also listed as not completing the race were Oliver Turvey, Tom Blomqvist, Norman Nato and Edoardo Mortara.
The result puts de Vries top of the drivers championship with 57 points, nine ahead of Vandoorne with Bird slipping to third place ahead of Frijns and Evans. In the team standings, Mercedes now have 105 points with Jaguar second on 84 points, and Envision Virgin Racing on 58 points putting them three ahead of DS Techeetah