The Formula E race hosted by Chile in the city of Santiago offered a lot of excitement for the second year in a row. Its tight 2.4 kilometre layout with a mix of concrete and tarmac makes it a challenging race, especially with the new, faster Gen2 cars. High temperatures made things even more difficult for the electric powertrains and on raceday, the Chilean 2019 ePrix became the hottest Formula E race till date with ambient temperatures touching 37-degree Celsius.
In qualifying, it was rookie Pascal Wehrlein who took pole position in his Mahindra M5 Electro ahead of Sebastian Buemi, Sam Bird and Lucas di Grassi. In the Super Pole shootout, it was Audi man Di Grassi with the fastest lap but his time was controversially disqualified as he was found to be in breach of a new rule, especially for the Santiago ePrix. Thus, the Brazillian started from the back of the grid while Buemi started from pole position, alongside Wehrlein. The second row on the grid was occupied by Bird in third and Stoffel Vandoorne in fourth ahead of Daniel Abt with Venturi driver Edoardo Mortara starting sixth. Dragon racing’s Maximilian Gunther in seventh qualified faster than BMW’s Alexander Sims and ahead of teammate José Maria Lopez who was 10th, after Felipe Massa ninth on the grid.
Quick word on the Ts and Cs for Attack Mode with the activation zone off the driving line around Turn 3 which would give them an extra 25kW of power for four minutes. All drivers have to use Attack Mode twice over the course of the race.
The opening lap of the 2019 Santiago E-Prix was cleaner than expected despite various tight sections like the chicane and the tricky Turn12 – a sharp left after a long curved left. Buemi got off the line pretty well to stay ahead of the pack into the first set of corners. However, Buemi’s teammate Oliver Rowland was able to make his way up from starting 13th to P10 within the first lap while Jerome D’Ambrosio started 20th and was running in last after a terrible start off the line. Bird lost out to Abt in the opening exchange but regained his third place with dive down the inside in the penultimate corner. Jean-Eric Vergne got up in some early scraps as well and found himself facing the wrong way on the final corner of the circuit after being scooped up by Antonio Felix Da Costa who himself got punted by the other Techeetah of Andre Lotterer. As a result, the defending FE champ was in P20 while Tom Dillman’s limping Nio was in last place and a lap behind.
Around 10 laps in and Buemi had already used attack mode once to extend his lead while Bird used it to get past Wehrlein. Di Grassi had moved up to P16 while Rowland slammed Massa into the wall to move up to P9. Other big incidents during the race involved Sims just slightly nudging the back of Mortara as they went into the chicane which sent the Venturi driver into a spin. But despite the 360-spin, he only lost two places. Lucas Di Grassi drove into the back of Lopez which sent the Argentine into a spin while Geox Dragon’s Gunther was stationary on start-finish straight, but off the racing line. The first full course yellow of the race was called into effect to move the German’s car off the track area. Gunther was the third retirement of the race thus far after Tom Dillman and Felipe Massa whose car was seriously damaged after being hit by the Nissan e.DAMS of Rowland.
Next to go was Vandoorne who was running in P6 but made a mistake by carrying too much speed into Turn 3, going off the racing line and sliding into the wall. The high temperatures and tight corners were not the only threats in this race as broken bits of tarmac had accumulated on the track and were behaving like marbles that would send a driver sliding if he goes off the racing line. That’s part of why Stoffel slid into the wall so hard he broke his front suspension and his front aero elements. The most significant retirement came around 5 minutes later when race-leader Buemi was also caught out by the marbles and slid into the wall at Turn 7. The Swiss racer had been battling Sam Bird for some laps now and a small error to drive off the clean tarmac brought him limping into the pits to retire his car as the Envision Virgin racer took the lead in the Santiago E-Prix with less than 15 minutes to go.
While Sam and Pascal were comfortably ahead of Alexander and Daniel, there was a tremendous battle for P5 between Mortara and Frijns. The Venturi driver was about to be passed by the Virgin car as they headed towards the tight chicane before closing the door quite rudely and dangerously. Even Rowland ended his race with a broken car with Vergne and Da Costa retiring their cars as well. In the last few minutes, Wehrlein looked like he could pip Bird for the lead but an overheating problem with his Mahindra FE racecar forced him to back down and settle for a P2 finish, which is not bad for his second appearance in the sport.
Sam Bird became the first driver to have won a race in every season of Formula E so far and while Alexander Sims crossed the line in P3, he was handed a 5-second time penalty for that slight nudge to Mortara and thus classified P7 in the final standings. This moved Daniel Abt up to the podium step, his first of the season, while also clocking the fastest lap of the race to earn that extra championship point.
In the overall standings for the 2019-19 Formula E season, Sam Bird is now leading the Driver’s Championship with Jerome D’Ambrosio just two points behind thanks to his P10 finish. After his amazing start to the season, Antonio Felix Da Costa suffered a second DNF in a row and is now tied for third with Frijns and JEV. In the constructor’s championship too, it is Envision Virgin Racing atop the table with a 12 point lead over Mahindra Racing while Audi is off to a slow start yet again.
The racing resumes in Mexico in a few weeks time and the chaos will resume all over again. This is what makes Formula E so exciting with so many potential race winners and the tiniest margins for errors. Share your thoughts on the Berlin E-Prix in the comments below and subscribe to The Auto Loons for plenty more to come all season.
Full race standings:
- S. Bird Envision Virgin Racing – 47m02.511s
- P. Wehrlein Mahindra Racing +6.849
- D. Abt Audi Sport ABT Schaeffler +14.529 [FL]
- E. Mortara Venturi Formula E Team +17.056
- R. Frijns Envision Virgin Racing +20.276
- M. Evans Panasonic Jaguar Racing +23.755
- A. Sims BMW i Andretti Motorsport +27.590
- O. Turvey Nio Formula E Team +45.059
- J. Lopez Geox Dragon +45.376
- J. D’Ambrosio Mahindra Racing +46.984
- N. Piquet Jr. Panasonic Jaguar Racing +48.635
- L. Di Grassi Audi Sport ABT Schaeffler +1:03.552
- A. Lotterer DS Techeetah +1:19.706
- G. Paffet HWA Racelabs +1 Lap
- O. Rowland Nissan E.DAMS DNF
- A. Da Costa BMW i Andretti Motorsport DNF
- J. Vergne DS Techeetah DNF
- S. Buemi Nissan E.DAMS DNF
- S. Vandoorne HWA Racelabs DNF
- M. Gunther Geox Dragon DNF
- F. Massa Venturi Formula E Team DNF
- T. Dillmann Nio Formula E Team DNF