British driver Sam Bird wins at Santiago for the Envision Virgin Racing team, making him the only driver to have a win in every season of Formula E. Unaware that he was under investigation for being underweight during his post-race weigh-in, he accepted his trophy and fortunately was eventually cleared.
On the podium it was (1st) Sam Bird (Envisage Virgin Racing), (2nd) Pascal Wehrlein (Mahindra Racing), (3rd) Daniel Abt (Audi Sport ABT Schaeffler). Abt also got the points for fastest lap, and received one of the five fanboosts.
Overlooking the city atop an 850m hill in the centre of Santiago, sits the Cerro San Cristobal, a Virgin Mary statue.
“Heat” was the main word on everybody’s lips, and heat is certainly the enemy of batteries. If these massive 250 kWh batteries reach over 72 degrees the cars start to lose power and at over 74 degrees, it’s game over—the gen-2 cars losing power entirely. With ambient temperatures soaring between 37 and 39 degrees Celsius and track temperatures reaching 47 degrees, this was the hottest race in the short history of Formula-E. Certainly, the Generation 2 cars have had very little time in their log books at these temperatures. It was a worry for not only batteries, but of course also for tyres, and a test to the teams to manage power output.
Surprisingly the 50km/h speed limit while the yellow flags were out caused more problems for the batteries overheating than full speed. Perhaps this was less air passing over, I’m not sure. With regen expected to be affected by the heat, it was not surprising that by the end of the race, the leading car only had 5% power left, and second place Pascal Wehrlein was advised by team Mahindra to back off in order to conserve power. Fortunately, he had a safe lead on third place.
Sims crossed the line in third but was given a time penalty for hitting Edoarda Mortara (Venturi), dropping him back to 7th position, meaning Abt took 3rd place, Wehrlein jumped to second, and further down the track New Zealander, Mitch Evans, moved up to 6th. Sims queried the decision because he was fairly certain that he didn’t hit the car. On video, it did seem like it may have been a bad call by the track referees.
This is a challenging track the racers love, with 14 turns over 2.4km of multiple track surfaces and two hairpins, there is plenty of chance for passing. On the day though, with the track breaking up under the heat, drivers had enough problems fighting the track and not a lot of genuine passing happened throughout the race. The first driver to pick up damage from the track was Nio’s Dillman who came to a complete stop, causing the first of the yellow sector flags.
And so, it was a race of attrition with only 13 of 22 drivers finishing. For New Zealander Mitch Evans (Panasonic Jaguar team) this was especially so, as each car dropped out, Evans managed a steady uneventful climb one car at a time from a starting position of 11 up to a sixth position at the finish. Around the 30-minute mark of the 45 min race, Evans did create some minor battles, but none of them panned out.
The two biggest upsets involved Sebastian Buemi. The Swiss driver from the Nissan E.dams team, started in pole, after Lucas di Grassi who had earlier won the Julius Baer Pole Position was sent to the back of the grid for race start when the FIA’s governing body found him to be in breach of a new rule. The rule was brought in after the pit lane incident in Marrakesh two weeks ago, where NIO's Tom Dillmann crashed into the back of the Envision Virgin Racing cars. Brazilian driver, di Grassi, was found to have used more in the "inlap" during Qualifying then in the flying lap without any reason, causing him to lose his pole position.
With 30 minutes left, Buemi held his starting lead with Bird now in second and Mahindra’s Pascal Wehrlein in third. Nearly all of the 22 cars and drivers traded knocks and bodywork through the tight streets of Santiago. The Full Course Yellow was deployed after Max Guenther’s car (USA’s Geox Dragon team) stopped on the track.
With 15 minutes to go, a fault with Buemi’s brakes caused him to overrun the chicane (turn 6/7) and lose control on the marbles (track debris), shattering the front of his car. Limping to the pitlane, the Swiss driver’s hopes of a podium finish were dashed.
Shortly after, frenchman and reigning champion Jean-Eric Vergne, retired after he spun going into Turn 3, as did BMW i’s da Costa, reducing the field to just 15 cars.
Rookie E-Prix driver, Pascal Wehrlein moved into second. After a miserable debut in Marrakesh in which his race lasted only a few minutes, and where we saw him lose his cool as he stormed off the track, today Wehrlein took his first podium place in only his second Formula-E race. The winning driver at Marrakesh was the other Mahindra team member, Jerome D’Ambrosi, who finished 8th today in Santiago (later reduced to 10th after being handed a 5-second penalty for speeding under the Full Course Yellow.)
Series Results to date
D’Ambrosi manages to keep his first-place standing in the series though, but only by 1 point, with Bird right behind him on 44 and 43 points respectively. Antonio Felix Da Costa (BMW i Andretti) is trailing in 3rd with 28 points. Kiwi driver Mitch Evans is in 6th place with 22 points.
For the Series Team Standings, Envisage Virgin (using the Audi powertrain) has 71 points, followed by Mahindra Racing on 62 points, and DS Techeetah on 47 points. But with another 10 races to go, there is plenty of time for movement on the points board.
Race 4 is set for 16th February in Mexico City.
British Singer/Songwriter, Rita Ora, was on track wearing a hot pink short playsuit with silver ankle boots.
[Rachelle Tilsley - Leading The Charge - 27 January 2019 NZT]