Just Electric

Sam Bird reigns supreme in Santiago showdown

Envision Virgin Racing’s Sam Bird won an action-packed thriller in Santiago to cut Jerome d’Ambrosio’s lead in the FIA Formula E Drivers’ Championship to just one point.

In the build-up to the race, the temperatures reached 37 degrees celsius and subsequently led to concerns over how this would affect the drivers and the performance of the batteries.

When the lights went out, pole sitter Sebastien Buemi (Nissan e.dams) got a good start and led ahead of Pascal Wehrlein (Mahindra), whilst Sam Bird passed Daniel Abt (Audi Sport Abt Schaeffler) for third at the hairpin.

Further back, several cars amongst the midfield collided at the chicane which forced Audi’s Lucas Di Grassi and the Dragon car of Maximilian Guenther to go down the escape road.

Then, the yellow flag was brought out when the NIO of Tom Dillmann came to a halt, in what proved to be the first of many retirements.

As the field started to settle down, Buemi started to pull away from Wehrlein and set the early pace with the fastest lap of a 1:13.880.

The Swiss driver opted to use attack mode but had to cut off the Mahindra to stay in first place.   

DS Techeetah’s Jean-Eric Vergne had a decent start to the race, but his hard work was undone when the defending champion was spun around at the last corner.

The BMW i Andretti Motorsport car of Antonio Felix da Costa was involved in the incident, who himself was hit by Vergne’s team-mate, Andre Lotterer and consequently caused both Vergne and da Costa to drop to the back of the pack. 

Back at the front, Bird engaged his first usage of attack mode to move into second.

Shortly after, the full course yellow was deployed after Guenther stopped on the pit straight.

Whilst this took place, Edoardo Mortara (Venturi) was hit by Alexander Sims (BMW i Andretti) at the chicane and Guenther’s team-mate Jose Maria Lopez experienced the same fate courtesy of di Grassi under the yellow flag.

When the race restarted, Bird had managed get a run on race leader Buemi and attempted to find a way past at Turn 1, but the Nissan driver held his ground and continued to stay in front.

Stoffel Vandoorne was running well for HWA Racelab, but understeered and crashed into the wall and damaged his front wing and front suspension.

This brought out the full course yellow for the second time as the marshals recovered the debris on track. 

As the action resumed once again, Wehrlein had caught up to both Buemi and Bird and added more pressure onto the shoulders of the Nissan driver.

This quickly took its toll on the Swiss driver, who understeered wide into the barriers and like Vandoorne moments before, damaged both his front wing and front suspension, which handed the lead to Bird.

In the battle for sixth position, the second Virgin of Robin Frijns was locked in an intense fight with Mitch Evans.

Despite the Jaguar driver’s best efforts, Frijns slammed the door shut and held station.

The Dutchman that set his sights on fifth placed Mortara and got a good run on the approach to the chicane.

However, the Venturi driver moved over to the right which forced Frijns towards the wall and subsequently had to back off to avoid a collision.

At the following corner, the Dutchman made a rash manouvere and ran wide to let Mortara off the hook.

Meanwhile, Wehrlein used attack mode for the second time in the race as he pursued Bird for the race lead.

After initially staying close to the Briton, Wehrlein was forced to back off as his Mahindra began to experience temperature issues.

This allowed Sam Bird to calmly pull away and win the Santiago E-Prix, his eighth career victory in Formula E, while Pascal Wehrlein held on to finish second.

Alexander Sims crossed the line in third but received a post-race time penalty for his earlier incident with Edoardo Mortara and promptly dropped to eighth.

This promoted Daniel Abt to the final step of the podium, with Mortara, Robin Frijns and Mitch Evans all moving up one place.

Jose Maria Lopez was provisionally classified seventh, but was penalised for using too much power during the race, dropping him to tenth behind championship leader Jerome d’Ambrosio (Mahindra) and NIO’s Oliver Turvey.

Lucas di Grassi also finished in the points on track but was dropped to 12th behind the Jaguar of fellow Brazilian Nelson Piquet after the stewards penalised him for collision at the hairpin with Lopez.

Andre Lotterer faded towards the end and settled for 13th, with HWA Racelab’s Gary Paffett being the last classified finisher in 14th after Nissan’s Oliver Rowland crashed out late on. 

There was a scare after the race for winner Sam Bird and his Envision Virgin Racing team, as they were under investigation for being underweight – but there was to be no further action, so the British driver kept the win.

Post-race update: Jerome d’Ambrosio was penalised for a Full Course Yellow offence, dropping him from 8th to 10th and handing the championship lead back to Sam Bird.

Final Classification:

1SamBIRD36 laps
9José MariaLOPEZ45.376
12LucasDI GRASSI+1:03.552
14GaryPAFFETT-1 lap
NCOliverROWLAND-5 laps
NCAntonio FelixDA COSTA-13 laps
NCJean-EricVERGNE-14 laps
NCSébastienBUEMI-15 laps
NCStoffelVANDOORNE-19 laps
NCMaximilianGÜNTHER-24 laps
NCFelipeMASSA-24 laps

Aaron Lloyd Collins

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