23 Jan 19
After one of the most intense showdowns in Formula E history took place in the heart of Santiago last season, we’re back for more wheel-to-wheel combat as 22 new Gen2 cars make their debut in South America. Buckle up, this one’s going to be big. But ahead of all the action, we take a look at the lesser-known stats and facts behind the second battle for Santiago’s streets on Saturday, January 26.
After racing around Parque Forestal last season, the second race in Santiago moves three miles down to Parque O’Higgins, where all 22 cars and drivers will navigate a 2.348km circuit on roads inside the city’s second biggest park, named after one of Chile’s founding fathers, Bernardo O’Higgins, who was a leading figure in the country’s fight for emancipation from Spain in the 19th Century.
Despite the backdrop of the snow-capped Andes mountains, January is the hottest month in the Chilean capital with drivers facing boiling hot conditions and track temperatures expected to rise above 36ºC. With two Practice sessions, Qualification and the race all in one day, will all drivers manage to keep their cool?
While it’s only Formula E’s second time in Santiago, the race on Saturday will be the seventh time the street racing series has raced in South America, following three races in Buenos Aires and three in Uruguay’s Punta del Este over the past five years. Nissan e.dams’ Sebastien Buemi (then racing for Renault e.dams) has won three of the South American races while reigning champ Jean-Eric Vergne (DS Techeetah) has won two including the debut race in Santiago. Sam Bird (Envision Virgin Racing) and Antonio Felix Da Costa (BMW i Andretti Motorsport) have one win each while none of Formula E’s four South American drivers are yet to win a race on their home continent.
Sam Bird claimed the point for the Fastest Lap in the inaugural Santiago E-Prix last season, with a time of 1:20.235, but it wasn’t as quick as the 1:18.662 posted earlier in the day in second practice by Jean-Eric Vergne. Will the Frenchman reign supreme this time?
It was in Santiago last season, on 3 February 2018, that Techeetah recorded Formula E’s first ever team one-two finish. Jean-Eric Vergne led Andre Lotterer over the finish line for the historic win, but it might have turned out so differently after a late aggressive move by the German threatened to derail their ambitions. At the end of the straight on lap 33 out of 37, as Lotterer attacked Vergne he locked his tyres and ended up with the front of his car lodged in the Frenchman’s rear wing, pushing him into Turn 3. Fortunately, both drivers managed to make it through unscathed in a dramatic climax to the race.
Jean-Eric Vergne finished fifth in Marrakesh, and that all points to a JEV victory in Santiago next. Remarkably, all four of the Frenchman’s E-Prix wins last season arrived immediately after he secured a fifth-place finish in the previous race. And that bizarre sequence started with JEV coming fifth in Marrakesh last year, which was followed by a win in Santiago. Then came his P5 in Mexico City followed by victory in Punta del Este, while another fifth position arrived in Rome which preceded his home win in Paris before he finally closed out the season with the same two results in the New York double-header. Strange but true.
Only 14 cars finished last season’s Santiago E-Prix, which saw a total of six retirements with after the twisting street track and its unforgiving lumps, bumps and concrete walls proved a tall order for the grid. With a new venue and a brand new circuit, expect similar amounts of confusion and chaos as we go wheel-to-wheel in Parque O’Higgins.
Despite winning the race last year here in Santiago, Jean-Eric Vergne has secured podium finishes in the last three E-Prix in South America, indeed winning the last two (in Santiago and Punta del Este), plus a second place in the last Buenos Aires E-Prix, staged in February 2017.
In Santiago last year, Panasonic Jaguar Racing’s Mitch Evans produced his worst Formula E qualifying performance after locking up at Turn 3 and ending up starting the race at the back of the grid. Over at Geox Dragon, Argentinian driver Jose Maria Lopez’s race lasted a miserable 25 seconds after hitting the barrier at Turn 4. With Santiago only 600 miles from his hometown of Río Tercero in Argentina’s Cordoba province, Pechito will be looking to make more of an impression (although not in the barrier) for his second assult in Santigo.
For former champion Sebastien Buemi, the Swiss driver will be looking to add Santiago to the list of South American countries in which he’s secured Formula E victories after winning in Buenos Aires and Punta del Este (twice). Finishing third in Santiago last season, the Nissan driver has made it to the podium in five of the seven South American races. After starting second last time, could this be his year?
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