Once again, the Santiago E-Prix brought the heat to Formula E with both the scorching temperatures and another memorable race. Here, Katy Fairman takes a look at the standout moments from the E-Prix which, it goes without saying, contains some major spoilers for Saturday’s race.
GOLD FOR GÜNTHER
If you followed Formula E last year, you’ll know that Max Günther got dealt a pretty bad hand during his time at Dragon. Despite the disappointment he experienced, Günther remained a ray of sunshine and impressed the entire paddock with his maturity and skills in a car that didn’t allow him to demonstrate how good he truly was.
Then, following Antonio Felix da Costa’s departure from the team, Günther got his big break after being confirmed to be partnering Alexander Sims at BMW for season six. Finally, a chance for young German to show what he was capable of – and boy, did he show the world during the Santiago E-Prix!
Placing his car on the front row behind Jaguar Racing’s Mitch Evans, Günther managed to overtake him for the lead with just over 22 minutes remaining and seemed to be powering ahead until he was eventually caught up by da Costa. With just minutes to go until the chequered flag, da Costa pushed past Günther in what many would describe as an ‘unfair’ overtake. The Techeetah driver still led the race as the final lap began, but Günter zoomed around the outside at Turn 9 to reclaim the lead of the race with an outstanding piece of overtaking.
He held on to take the first place spot, and in the process, became a Formula E winner for the first time. A masterclass victory from the youngest driver on the current grid, who also becomes Formula E’s youngest race winner too – making it two consecutive wins for BMW following Sims win in Diriyah.
It was a poignant victory for Günther, as fellow Formula E journalist Tobi Bluhm pointed out…
IT ALL WENT WRONG FOR EVANS
It seemed to be going so well for pole-sitter Evans. He took a commanding pole position, his second in Formula E, but remained reserved in the post-qualifying interviews.
Then came the race, which Evans’ started brilliantly. He comfortably led the first half of the race, even using his two attack modes early on to extend his advantage, but then from nowhere Günther saw his opportunity while in attack mode himself and snatched the lead from underneath him. Evans remained cool under pressure though and many believed he would fight back in the latter laps and take the victory. However, soon da Costa overtook Evans too and the idea of the win looked to slip from his grasp – something that seems an all too often and brutal occurrence for Evans.
He crossed the finish line in fourth, but a penalty for Mercedes’ Nyck de Vries meant he was promoted to third. Yet another weekend full of ‘what could have been’, but on the bright side it is great to see Jaguar Racing claim another pole position trophy.
EYE SPY WITH MY DRIVER’S EYE
A new camera angle was introduced during the Santiago E-Prix weekend which received much praise and great interest from motorsport fans. The “Driver’s Eye” features a small camera which was mounted into select helmets this weekend in an attempt to show the audience what racing looks like from a driver’s perspective.
The setup, which is fully homologated by the FIA, proved a huge hit across social media (at the time of writing, 83% of fans in our Twitter poll said they liked the new view) with many fans demanding this also be made a permanent feature in other championships such as F1.
WHO NEEDS A FRONT WING ANYWAY?
Santiago often provides us with a nail-biting E-Prix, which is why we are upset to learn that its future is uncertain on the Formula E calendar. Despite the modifications to the track this year, the circuit continued to provide some quality overtaking opportunities which resulted in some faultless examples as well as those that drivers probably don’t want to talk about again after today.
These bold overtakes often resulted in damage to several cars on the grid (duh, this is Formula E) and we saw an astonishing seven cars retire over the course of the race – almost a third of the entire field.
One issue that seemed to befell several drivers during the race was front wing damage – and it was often severe. Oliver Rowland saw his smashed into smithereens early on in the race, whereas current Formula E champion Jean-Eric Vergne suffered heavy damage to the left side of his yet continued to race with the carbon fibre dragging along the track surface. Although he attempted to ‘ping’ off the damage at several points during the lap, the dark plumes of smoke continued to fill the track and caused many fans online to label him as “reckless” with one claiming he “cost [his] teammate the victory”.
CHAMPIONS STRUGGLE IN SANTIAGO
Although Formula E has a habit of being utterly unpredictable when it comes to racing, there is normally some consistency in that the previous drivers’ champions are normally somewhere near the top of the table. However, this year Vergne, together with long-time rivals Lucas di Grassi and Sebastien Buemi, have all had tough starts to the season, some particularly worse than others.
Di Grassi has achieved the most from the three and sits fifth in the current drivers’ standings after securing a second-place finish in Diriyah, but double-champion Vergne places just 16th with only four championship points to his name. Worst of all is Buemi, who sits at the bottom of the standings with not a single point to his name thus far.
Finishing seventh in Santiago, di Grassi managed to add some more points to his tally, but for Buemi, the best he could manage was a lowly 13th place finish. After Vergne’s issue with the front wing, he pitted for a new one before ultimately retiring a few laps later for his second DNF from just three races this season.