Jan 30, 2019 - 4min read
Formula E returned to action over the weekend for the third race of the season. Santiago hosted yet another brilliant race that saw Sam Bird of the Envision Virgin Racing team take the top step of the podium, and our very own Alexander Sims put in a mighty-impressive drive!
So, what happened in the race?
A controversial qualifying format meant that all the drivers at the top of the Drivers’ championship went out first onto a slower track. The Audi-powered teams took advantage of this and Lucas Di Grassi of Audi Sport managed to claim pole position, only to be relegated to the back of the grid for a penalty after qualifying! This bumped Sébastien Buemi and Pascal Wehrlein up to the front row.
The race began in an unusually quiet fashion. A few minutes in and the only overtake towards the front was a calm pass down the inside of Daniel Abt by Sam Bird. About 10 minutes later, Bird followed this with an overtake on Wehrlein to move into second place. An impressive start for Bird!
As the race continued, it became clear that the roasting–temperatures were a challenge – the tyres began to overheat and grip became hard to find. Maximillian Günther stopped on track leading to full course yellows (the equivalent to a virtual safety car from Formula 1). On the face of it, slowing the pace down was great for everyone. Slower laps means less energy being used by the cars – preserving it for attacking when the race is resumed, they’re also more likely to have spare energy at the end of the race.
Soon after the first full course yellows were waved, Stoffel Vandoorne and the race leader Buemi also found themselves colliding with the wall and limped their cars back into the pits to retire. Once the resulting yellows cleared, Bird was sitting at the front of the pack, closely followed by a fired-up Wehrlein. In between all these incidents, Sims put in an impressive performance and had quietly worked his way through the grid, overtaking Gunter, Vandoorne, Edoardo Mortara and Abt to find himself running in third!
With five minutes remaining it became clear that the heat had started to impact the cars. After following closely corner after corner, Wehrlein began to apply the pressure on Bird. This aggressive driving means the cars were churning through their batteries, which were now beginning to deplete rapidly due to the nature of the racing. With just minutes remaining Wehrlein backed off due to rising temperatures in the car and Bird found his car with less than 3% remaining as he crossed the finish line in first place.
After a strong drive through the field from eighth, Sims followed in third place. However, he was later penalised due to an incident with Mortara earlier in the race, which put him down to seventh and Abt to third position.
The eagle has landed! Bird now in for a shot for the championship
A podium in Marrakesh and a win in Santiago propels Sam Bird to the top of the Drivers’ Championship, and Envision Virgin tops the Teams Championship. Now the only driver to win a race in every season of Formula E, will this be his year? There’s a lot of competition, but it looks like he could be a serious contender.
Pascal puts the pressure on
Pascal Wehrlein finally had the opportunity to show off his skills in Formula E. After missing the first race, he only managed one lap in Marrakesh due to a collision – but he used this opportunity in Santiago to show his racing colours. Should we expect to see him competing throughout the season? We think so.
Who said managing energy was easy?
As energy experts, one aspect that particularly interested us was the energy management of the cars on such an excruciatingly hot day. The full course yellows meant the drivers had more energy to play with, but we also saw cars that were competing right to the end struggle with battery levels. However, in some ways, you might regard this as the perfect race for Bird – finishing first meant he achieved the maximum result, but with minimal energy wasted, just what we like to see!
From Alexander Sims himself:
Compared to the excitement of the last race in Marrakesh, the Santiago E Prix seemed to go smoothly for Sims - he qualified ninth, started eighth, and finished third. It was only the unfortunate and harsh penalty that saw Sims relegated to seventh, after he crossed the line. Here’s what he had to say:
“On track, it was a good weekend,” says Sims. “Qualifying was sensible and we started from a reasonable position. The race went well – we had the opportunity to fight for position and have some good battles. The team did a brilliant job of managing the challenges we had with the battery in the hot ambient temperatures, and generally we did great to come through to third on track.
“Obviously the penalty was the overriding focus at the end of the race, which is shame because it came so late. We were very close, but I didn’t feel there was contact. However, I trust the investigation of the race stewards and accept the penalty. We still take a lot of positives from the race. To be three races into my first Formula E season and in a position where I should have had two podiums – and potentially even a win – is a good footing. I think we can pull together, build on this and try very hard in Mexico to bring home the good result that I feel we deserve.”
For more details on our partnership with Alexander Sims, click here.