Round three of the 2018/19 Formula E championship took place in sultry Santiago, a race in which tempers flared, chaos reigned, and record-breaking temperatures were set. Harry Slade picks his five standout performers from last week’s Santiago E-Prix.
Sam Bird – Race winner
This list would not be complete without the inclusion of the race winner, Virgin Racing’s Sam Bird. Firstly, the new championship leader produced a superb lap in qualifying, capitalising on his position in group two to qualify sixth, which became fourth when Lucas di Grassi and Stoffel Vandoorne picked up grid penalties. The Virgin frontman produced an almost perfectly managed race, in which he outraced Mahindra’s young German starlet Pascal Wehrlein during the race’s opening exchanges and then pressured former series champion Sebastien Buemi before the Swiss star ultimately ended up crashing.
This was by no means a routine win for Bird, as the aforementioned Mahindra driver came on strong as the race reached its climax. However, Bird’s superior experience in energy management shone through, and he secured an eighth career that can only be described as top-drawer. The question is now whether the Brit can use this as a springboard to greater success.
Pascal Wehrlein – Finished second
Prior to last weekend’s race, Wehrlein had never completed a full Formula E race, and after surviving the first lap intact this time, he was rewarded with a true litmus test of his talents in the hottest conditions that the all-electric series had ever seen. A race, therefore, in which experience could ultimately be the deciding factor in a battle which would prove to be on a knife-edge right up to the final lap.
Yet, the former DTM champion held firm, challenging series greats Bird and Buemi, showing impressive pace throughout. All of this coupled by once again beating team-mate Jerome d’Ambrosio in qualifying, this time by a mammoth 1.6 seconds. The German truly became a Formula E star in Santiago, keeping his cool while many of his more experienced rivals lost theirs.
Edoardo Mortara – Finished fourth
It has been a season of obscurity so far for Mortara, his sophomore season in the championship. Arguably overshadowed by the rightfully deserved hype of his more illustrious teammate Felipa Massa, it would be easy to forget Mortara’s burgeoning credentials. Those who previously underrated Mortara were given a strong reminder of his abilities with a scintillating display on the streets of Santiago.
Mortara single-handedly has lifted Venturi above its customer team HWA as well as the Dragon Racing team, while also moving him ahead of the former series champions; di Grassi and Nelson Piquet. Mortara’s race itself was spent holding off the Virgin of Robin Frijns, and despite being tapped into a spin by BMW Andretti driver Alexander Sims, the Swiss-Italian recovered to secure his best result since last season’s Hong Kong E-Prix 13 months ago.
Robin Frijns – Finished fifth
Frijns, like many, found himself caught out by the ever-improving track conditions in qualifying, leaving him a lowly 15th on the grid through no fault of his own. The Dutchman quickly put this setback behind him, however, and starred in the race, gaining 10 positions to claim a top five finish, a result which moved him up to joint-third in the drivers’ championship.
His race was characterised by his level of aggression in combat, as he duelled wheel-to-wheel with Mitch Evans and Mortara in the closing stages of the race, the latter whom he almost snatched fourth from on the final lap. Frijns was on the edge throughout but stayed out of trouble and it paid off.
Maximillian Günther – DNF
Maxi Günther’s Formula E career has begun with a baptism of fire, but ironically in the heat of Santiago, he began to fan the flames of doubt surrounding his ability. Paired with a teammate fabled for his one-lap expertise, Günther has struggled to match Jose Maria Lopez’ qualifying pace in the opening two rounds. However, the German reached new heights in Santiago, executing a perfect lap to start a superb seventh on the grid, narrowly missing out on superpole but crucially out-qualifying his teammate for the first time.
Günther ran in the points throughout the opening half of the race, notably heading his more experienced teammate, and the Dragon driver looked well on course to give not only himself but also his team’s first points of the season before another technical issue brought his afternoon to a premature halt. The wait will go on for the 2017 F3 runner-up to get off the mark in Formula E, but his performance in Santiago was a clear indicator of his potential.
Image Credit: Formula E
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