Round 4 of the ABB FIA Formula E Championship was run in Santiago, Chile.
Already prior to the Saturday Qualifying, Lucas di Grassi and the rest of the Audi Sport ABT Schaeffler team knew that it would be a difficult weekend. Due to a faulty inverter on the car, the team had to exchange it, which gave them a 10 grid penalty. He actually did the third fastest lap in the Qualifying, but was demoted to start the race as 13th.
Mitch Evens made a driving error on his Qualifying lap, and ended up only a few centimetres from the wall. Luckily he avoided hitting it, but had to start the race from the very last grid slot. Same thing happened to Luca Filippi, but he didn’t lose as much time as Evens, and therefore got 19th starting position.
Championship leader Felix Rosenqvist had a really bad qualifying, and was only going to start 14th. That combined with his worst enemy in the Championship starting 4th, was going to make it a tough race for the Swede. Bird made a mistake on his lap in the Super Pole, where he lost the rear of the car during breaking, and slid backwards into the wall. Fortunately there was only light damage to the car, that his mechanics easily could fix prior to the race.
Jean-Eric Vergne had secured Pole Position ahead of Sebastien Buemi and Andre Lotterer. Lotterer had some contact with the barrier too on his flying lap, which broke his front wing, and he had to creep over the finishing line. But due to the grid penalty for di Grassi and the off by Bird, he could still start the race in third.
The track in Santiago was very demanding, and very narrow in places. The risk of accidents on the first lap was extra high due to that.
Jean-Eric Vergne took the start, while Nelson Piquet Jr from 5th starting position made a lightning start and went round turn one side by side wtih Andre Lotterer, but managed to squeeze by, going into second.
Then all hell broke lose. Jose Maria Lopez hit the wall, which bottled up the field behind him. Nick Heidfeld was unlucky to get caught up the mayhem, which damaged his front suspension. He managed to limp back to the pits, where he changed over to the second car. Later on the opening lap, it was game-over for Maro Engel, who understeered into the wall in one of the tight 90 degrees corners.
Race control decided to send out the Safety Car to clear up all the debris.
While the Safety Car was on the track, the announcement for Fan Boost was announced. Lucas di Grassi, Sebastien Buemi and Jose Maria Lopez were the receivers of it – but little did that help the latter one, who had already retired.
After 15 minutes of cleaning up, the race went green again.
Piquet Jr instantly attached Vergne, and the two drivers actually hit on the straight, so one of the “mud-flaps” behind Vergne’s rear wear was taken off. The reason to the collision was Vergne starting to Lift and Coast down the straight, to save energy.
Daniel Abt entered the pitlane after only 8 laps. The German had received some damage to the steering during the chaotic lap one, which made the car drive in a strange way. He took the other car out of the pits, to continue the race – but almost one full lap down. When he eventually lost the lap, the team decided to retire him, since another potential Safety Car period would get him into the points anyway.
Edoardo Mortara was a bit off-piste on lap 11. The situation was very similar to the one that last him the victory in Hong Kong, locking up his rear wheels. By doing so, Mortara dropped to 17th.
Lucas di Grassi was slowly making his way up the field, and had made it into 7th even before the halfway point of the race.
Sam Bird was pushing Sebastien Buemi in the battle for 4th, with Buemi defending all he could. The previously announced Fan Boost wasn’t to be used until the second half of the race, so it wouldn’t help him in that specific situation. So it was all about defending until he got into the second car.
On lap 19 we saw Andre Lotterer overtake Brazilian Nelson Piquet Jr. in an amazing outbraking manoeuvre, at the end of the straight.
Sam Bird and Antonio Felix da Costa had saved up so much energy, that they were able to do one extra lap compared to everybody else, in their first car.
After all the car changes, Jean-Eric Vergne was leading ahead of Techeetah teammate Andre Lotterer, while Panasonic Jaguar Racing driver Nelson Piquet Jr was in third.
Lucas di Grassi barely made it out of the pits before his car stopped. That is far from the first time that it has happened to the Brazilian this season, and when he got his car back to the pits, he was furious and ended up pushing a camera that he believed was standing in his way. Zero Championship points for the defending Champion after four rounds doesn’t look good on the CV of neither di Grassi, nor Audi Sport ABT Schaeffler, who however has 11 points scored by Daniel Abt. But this is the third double-zero in a row for the team, which might start to get consequences for some people within the team.
Alex Lynn had to retire with 10 laps to go, which was very sad for the Brit, who had run most of the day near top-5.
Sebastien Buemi started attacking Nelson Piquet Jr, and the Swiss driver managed to get past.
The two Techeetah cars almost collided, when Lotterer tried to overtake Vergne round the outside. The latter wouldn’t have any of that and pushed the German very close to the wall. Both driver stayed intact and were able to continue 1-2.
Felix Rosenqvist had slowly sneaked into 4th position, following Piquet Jr making an error while trying to outbrake Buemi. That made Piquet Jr fall back to 6th.
With 4 laps to go, Vergne took his foot of the throttle in the middle of the straight, so teammate Lotterer smashed into the rear of his car. The two cars were tangled for a short amount of time, until they were ripped apart again.
All the mess made top-5 close right up. Felix Rosenqvist was only centimetres from the rear of Sebastien Buemi, but he wasn’t able to make it past.
Jean-Eric Vergne managed to keep first all the way to the flag, with Andre Lotterer in second and Sebastien Buemi in third.
After the race today, Jean-Eric Vergne leads the Drivers Championship, while Felix Rosenqvist, Sam Bird, Sebastien Buemi and Nelson Piquet Jr are on the next positions.
Techeetah has taken the lead in the Teams Championship ahead of Mahindra Racing and DS Virgin Racing. Panasonic Jaguar Racing are fourth, while last years Champions, Renault e.dams, currently sits fifth, only.
The next round of ABB FIA Formula E Championship 2017/18 will be run on 3 March in Mexico City, on a shortened version of the Formula 1 circuit.