Formula E – Santiago E-Prix Race Report

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SANTIAGO, CHILE - FEBRUARY 3: FIA Formula E - Ivan Yim, Managing Director, Techeetah, Andre Lotterer (BEL), TECHEETAH, Renault ZE 17, Jean-Eric Vergne (FRA), TECHEETAH, Renault ZE 17, and Sébastien Buemi (SUI), Renault eDams, Renault ZE 17, celebrate on the podium during the Santiago ePrix, Round 4 of the 2017/18 FIA Formula E Series on February 3, 2018 in Santiago, Chile. (Photo by Sam Bloxham/LAT Images/FIA Formula E via Getty Images)

The first Formula E Santiago E-Prix surely lived up to the hype. The teams were worried about the hot and sunny conditions in Santiago ahead of the race. They were mostly worried about battery temperature since you can drain your available energy levels at a faster rate. Battery cooling systems would be put to the test, and whoever could manage their energy well would have an advantage.

Formula E – Santiago E-Prix Race Report

The Starting Grid was as follows:

1: Jean-Eric Vergne                2: Sebastian Buemi

3: Andre Lotterer                   4: Sam Bird

5: Nelson Piquet Jr.                 6. Alex Lynn

7: Oliver Turvey                      8. Jose Maria Lopez

9: Daniel Abt                           10: Nicolas Prost

11: Maro Engel                        12: Jerome d’Ambrosio

13: Lucas Di’Grassi (Penalty)    14: Felix Rosenqvist

15: Nick Heidfeld                     16 Antonio Felix da Costa

17: Edoardo Mortara               18: Tom Blomqvist

19: Lucas Filippi                        20: Mitch Evans (Penalty)

Opening Lap

At lights out, immediately you saw Jean- Eric Vergne take off leaving Sebastien Buemi behind. Buemi got a horrible start and dropped two positions to Nelson Piquet Jr. and Andre Lotterer. Sam Bird also bogged down so he could not challenge Piquet going into turn one.

That wasn’t the only action of course, Jose Maria Lopez had a blistering start off the line, overtaking both Oliver Turvey and Alex Lynn through the first few corners. However his race came to an abrupt end when he came up on a recovering Sam Bird. Lopez tried to overtake Bird on the wrong part of the circuit and crashed into a wall exiting a corner. The Briton was just sticking to his line while Lopez ran out of room. Nick Heidfeld and Maro Engel both had issues with the wall and this brought out a safety car. The intense battle for track position was paused for a moment.

The race resumed at Lap five and Vergne caught Piquet out on the start, leaving him behind along with everyone else. A train developed behind Buemi who was driving defensive against Bird the entire time. He was losing ground to Lotterer each corner while he was busy holding off a charging Bird. Daniel Abt ended up pulling into the pits shortly after the restart due to having issues with the car. He had to retire and he didn’t finish the race.

Pit Stops

At some point of the race, each driver must change cars. No minimum pit stop time will be enforced for the first time in Formula E history. All the buckles have sensors on them which are monitored by the FIA. Nico Prost pitted early along with Alex Lynn, Tom Blomqvist, Oliver Turvey and Lucas Filippi. Prost had a horrible pit stop due to being at the start of the pit lane and lost time waiting for everyone entering the pitlane. Soon after pit exit, Turvey’s second car came to a halt, he got it running again, but he fell behind by almost 72 seconds.

Everyone else pitted on Lap 20, and all cars ran smoothly except for Piquet. Piquet lost time and lost two positions to Lotterer and Buemi. Lucas di Grassi’s bad luck continued when his second car came to a halt. He had to retire for the third time in four races, and they already replaced his inverter twice before this round. Lynn also came to a halt few moments later and he also had to retire. After having a strong showing in New York City last year, Lynn is struggling in his first full season.

Second Half of the E-Prix

Since the drivers pitted on Lap 20, everyone had more energy available to use to push for positions. Lap times got quicker and both Techeetah cars were quick all day. Lotterer was all over Vergne in every corner for multiple laps. He was waiting for Vergne to open the door and Lotterer almost collided with him attempting a move multiple times.

Techeetah couldn’t communicate with either driver and they knew something bad could happen if they kept battling. Their battle was making them lose time, and Buemi was closing the gap despite Piquet being all over him followed by Bird and Felix Rosenqvist. Rosenqvist moved up the grid during his pit stop to be in the hunt for decent points. Piquet made a bold attempt at an overtake against Buemi, but locked up his brakes and almost hit a wall. Basically the Brazilian driver threw away a potential podium.

Finally, the inevitable happened, on Lap 33 at the end of the straight, Lotterer ran straight into Vergne. Lotterer carried so much speed that it almost looked like he didn’t brake and his front wing mounted the rear of Vergne’s car. Pushing Vergne straight through the corner and both were lucky to get through it without any serious damage.

Buemi took advantage of this incident and closed the gap to both Techeetahs. Both Vergne and Lotterer were more interested in each other. Lotterer attempted to overtake a few more times and he fell behind. Buemi however couldn’t take advantage of Lotterer’s failed attempts and couldn’t get the move done. The Swiss driver was attempting overtakes while Rosenqvist was all over his rear wing. He just looked threatening and couldn’t get past Buemi at race end.

Race End

At race end, Vergne held onto the lead over Lotterer and the two Techeetahs finished first and second for the first time ever. Buemi recovered from a poor start and finished third for Renault e.dams, while Rosenqvist barely missed out on another podium. The Swede started fourteenth so Mahindra must have been delighted to see him make up so much ground. Sam Bird of DS Virgin Racing finished P5 again, followed by Piquet.

Mitch Evans finished seventh, making an impressive showing after starting 20th on the grid due to penalties. Jerome D’Ambrosio finished eighth, scoring his first points for Dragon Racing in season four. Antonio Felix da Costa took ninth place for Andretti while Nico Prost ground out 10th place for Renault e.dams.

Audi had the most difficult weekend of everyone, both cars not finishing due to issues with the car. This drops Audi to eighth place in the constructors’ championship and it doesn’t look good for the rest of the season. Lynn will be looking to come back strong and DS Virgin will be diagnosing the problem with his car. Cars that had opening lap issues were Nick Heidfeld, Jose Maria Lopez and Maro Engel.

Driver Standings

Vergne now takes the lead in the Formula E drivers’ championship with his second career race win. He now has 71 points compared to Rosenqvist with 66 points through four races, while Techeetah has taken the lead in the constructors’ championship over Mahindra. Surely Mahindra will have something up their sleeve for the next race, and Techeetah will be looking for another one-two finish.

Santiago E-Prix Race Result

1. Jean-Eric Vergne FRA Techeetah 37 laps
2. Andre Lotterer GER Techeetah + 1.154s
3. Sebastien Buemi SUI Renault e.dams + 1.959s
4. Felix Rosenqvist SWE Mahindra + 2.793s
5. Sam Bird GBR DS Virgin Racing + 4.490s
6. Nelson Piquet Jr. BRA Panasonic Jaguar Racing + 6.364s
7. Mitch Evans NZL Panasonic Jaguar Racing + 7.099s
8. Jerome d’Ambrosio BEL Dragon Racing + 13.308s
9. Antonio Felix da Costa POR Andretti + 14.811s
10. Nicolas Prost FRA Renault e.dams + 21.092s
11. Tom Blomqvist GBR Andretti + 32.924s
12. Luca Filippi ITA NIO Formula E + 44.127s
13. Edoardo Mortara SUI Venturi + 49.398s
14. Oliver Turvey GBR NIO Formula E + 1m 11.928s

Retirements

Alex Lynn GBR DS Virgin Racing 26 laps
Nick Heidfeld GER Mahindra 23 laps
Lucas di Grassi BRA ABT Schaeffler Audi Sport 21 laps
Daniel Abt GER ABT Schaeffler Audi Sport 11 laps
Jose Maria Lopez ARG Dragon Racing 0 laps
Maro Engel GER Venturi 0 laps

Main Photo:
Embed from Getty Images

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