Jean-Eric Vergne claimed victory in a tense Santiago ePrix, leading home Techeetah teammate Andre Lotterer after the pair made contact more than once in the final stages of the race. Techeetah made history by becoming the first team to finish a Formula E race in first and second place.
Vergne led away from pole position, with Piquet making a storming start to take second from fifth on the grid. The racing was halted moments later when the safety car was brought out to retrieve Jose Maria Lopez and Maro Engel who had each ended up in the wall from separate incidents.
After the restart, Piquet put Vergne under pressure for a few corners but did not have enough to make a pass allowing Vergne to settle into a rhythm and set about extending his lead.
After conserving energy in the first part of the race, Vergne was able to build up a 3 second gap over Piquet. After a quick pitstop by the Techeetah team, Vergne’s teammate Lotterer was able to close and pass Piquet before gradually narrowing the gap to Vergne at the front.
With both drivers suffering radio issues and unable to communicate with their engineers, Vergne was unaware of how much energy he had in reserve and was forced to run conservatively allowing Lotterer to close. In the final few laps, Lotterer attacked Vergne, with the two teammates making contact on several occasions, and almost gifting the win to Buemi.
Vergne defended superbly in the last two laps and his aggressive approach to keeping Lotterer at bay was as tense as we’ve seen in Formula E this season. Lotterer came close to snatching his maiden Formula E win, but Vergne took the flag by just over 1 second to record an historic 1-2 finish for his team.
“It’s racing in the end. We are mates,” said Lotterer after the race. “I had some pace in the car. I’m still learning. Not so easy to overtake! It’s a good beginning. I’m so happy to be up here. Life is good you know?!”
Buemi claimed third place but was frustrated to have finished behind two drivers running a customer Renault powertrain. The Renault e.Dams driver had a busy afternoon battling with Piquet and Bird throughout; snatching third from Piquet when the Brazilian outbraked himself under pressure and ended up in the wall on lap 29 of 37. Piquet recovered to finish sixth but missed out on a first podium finish since the Moscow ePrix in season one.
Championship leader Felix Rosenqvist drove sensationally to take fourth place after starting 14th on the grid. The Mahindra driver displayed superb energy management and patience while running in traffic, moving up to fifth after the pitstops before snatching fourth as a result of Piquet’s error.
Sam Bird ran fourth in the opening stages of the race, but slipped back after the pitstops. The DS Virgin driver attempted an alternative strategy by staying out a lap longer than his rivals, but it didn’t work out as planned. He recovered well to regain time and was another driver to benefit from Piquet’s error as he claimed fifth place late on.
Mitch Evans drove a stunning race in the second Jaguar to finish seventh after starting last on the grid. The Kiwi finished just 0.7s behind teammate Piquet who ran second in the early stages of the race. Jerome D’Ambrosio scored the Dragon team’s first points of the season with eighth place, ahead of Andretti’s Antonio Felix Da Costa and Renault e.Dams’ Nico Prost.
It was another disastrous race for the Audi team as both reigning champion Lucas Di Grassi and teammate Daniel Abt failed to finish the race. Abt’s race ended early on after contact on the opening lap forced him to pit with damage, but Di Grassi’s race was looking more promising until he pulled over shortly after his pitstops with what appeared to be an electrical issue. Di Grassi is yet to score a point this season.
Alex Lynn was running high up in the points when his DS Virgin Racing car failed with ten laps to go. Nick Heidfeld was another non-finisher after he suffered suspension damage on his Mahindra after a collision on lap one.
Images: Techeetah and Renault e.Dams
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