Sam Bird battled to victory in the opening race of the 2019-20 Formula E season on Friday in Diriyah as Porsche and Mercedes recorded podium finishes on debut.

Envision Virgin Racing driver Bird qualified fifth, and spent the early stages of the race trailing pole-sitter Alexander Sims, the Mercedes duo of Stoffel Vandoorne and Nyck de Vries, and Venturi’s Edoardo Mortara.

Bird was only able to jump Mortara with his first Attack Mode usage, but opted to take his second power boost early in a bid to get the jump on the cars ahead.

Bird and Porsche’s Andre Lotterer were able to catch the leading train of cars quickly, moving into P2 and P3 respectively after Vandoorne was able to lead them past Sims, with de Vries dropping back when he took his second Attack Mode boost.

Vandoorne was unable to prevent Bird from passing for the lead on Lap 28, and lost any advantage from his remaining Attack Mode after taking the boost just before the Safety Car was called following a crash for Daniel Abt, which also caused him to fall behind Lotterer.

The race resumed for three green flags laps at the end, with Bird staying cool at the front to lead home Lotterer and Vandoorne.

The result means Bird and Virgin have won races in all six seasons of Formula E, putting both into an early championship lead.

Lotterer matched his best Formula E result in second place for Porsche on the marque’s debut in the series, crossing the line ahead of Vandoorne, who gave Mercedes P3 in its inaugural race as a fully-fledged team.

Oliver Rowland rose to P4 for Nissan e.dams in the final stint ahead of Robin Frijns and de Vries, while Sims dropped to seventh in the closing stages. Mortara took eight, while Jerome d’Ambrosio and Mitch Evans completed the top 10.

Reigning champion Jean-Eric Vergne retired early due to a steering issue, having spent the race on the fringes of the points for Techeetah.