Formula E - Santiago Practice and Qualifying Result

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High track temperatures and a dusty track surface early on led to a mixed up grid in Santiago for race 3 in the FIA Formula E Championship. The top 5 in the championship failed to make the top half of the grid with season 4 champion Vergne only 13th and championship leader D'Ambrosio second last. Lucas Di Grassi took advantage to grab pole, but could yet lose it to a technical penalty.

Formula E returned to Chile for the second year after a popular and eventful race in season 4, but at the new 2.4km ,14 turn, Parque O'Higgins circuit, with a slightly more open and flowing nature than the season 4 Santiago Street Circuit, with the exception of the tight double hairpin arena section at the end of the lap (turns 13 and 14). Practice got under way in the morning with air and track temperatures sitting at 20°C and 27°C, but with air temperature expected to climb as high as 38°C during the race, potentially adding to the strain on drivers, batteries, tyres, and cooling; a certain consideration for the teams as they optimized their car set ups.

Practice 1 Report

Günther's difficult start to the season continued as his Dragon car stopped multiple times on his out lap and he returned to the pits for the mechanics to try and resolve the issues, only returning to the track with 20 minutes of the extended session remaining. BMW's Sims and Marrakesh winner D'Ambrosio had a slightly unnecessary battle, with the BMW the quicker car trying to pass the Mahindra who defended into the turn 13 chicane before holding the Englishman up for a lap. The early pace was set again by Vergne who despite the obvious pace in the Techeetah has yet to achieve a pole or race win in season 5, with Di Grassi and Wehrlein also setting good early pace as the track cleaned up. 10 minutes into the session Sebastian Buemi brought out the red flag after smashing into the inside wall at turn 7 having locked his brakes through the tricky turn 6 braking zone, the time taken to clear the Nissan e.dams car meant the first practice session was extended by 10 minutes. After the break the Audi powered Virgin's set the pace from the factory Audi's with the first high power runs. Vandoorne ran off the track in turn 12 as he sought to find the limit on braking, with Massa and Sims also caught out later in the session, while Frijns and Evans 4-wheel drifted their way through the turn 7 braking zone where Buemi had crashed. In the final 5 minutes all teams trialled their 250kW power modes with Lucas Di Grassi topping the session with the final lap, with Pascal Wehrlein continuing to impress in second and Sam Bird third.

Practice 2 Report

In practice 2 teams ran a number of qualifying power simulations. Abt was the first out on track for session 2, but importantly for Nissan Buemi was able to take to the track from the start of the session,the e.dams team having fixed the accident damage from practice 1. Most teams went straight into their qualifying simulations, with the exception of Buemi who was catching up for lost time, with Bird and Frijns setting the early pace. Da Costa was late to take to the track but like in Marrakesh qualifying he immediately turned up to 250kW, setting the second fastest time. F1 exiles Massa and Vandoorne continued to test the limits of the gen 2 Formula E car brakes, Massa running off again in turn 12 and Vandoorne nosing into the wall in turn 1. At the mid-point of the session Buemi moved the fastest time with his first 250kW run, but out of sync with the rest of the field as the track cleaned up, ending the session in 15th. With the second qualifying runs the Virgin's again topped the time sheets with Frijns 0.08s ahead of Bird, the BMW's of Sims and Da Costa were 3rd and 4th, but Sims lap was badly held up by Dillmann and he lost 0.4s through sectors 2 and 3 having matched Frijns through sector 1. With the final 250kW runs the Dragon of Lopez set the quickest time ahead of Frijns and Di Grassi.

Qualifying Report

By the start of qualifying the temperature had hit a searing 37°C and the increasing temperature would mean laptimes could not reach the heights of practice 2. The first group contained the championship leaders, and Frijns left the garage first and along with Vergne performed the standard outlap, 200kW, 250kW lap routine. Championship leader D'Ambrosio, Lotterer and Da Costa all choosing to run without a 200kW warm-up lap. D'Ambrosio made a mistake in his only fast lap, only managing 5th while Vergne lead the way from Lotterer though his time was 1.3s slower than the fastest from practice.

The second group included Bird and Sims who had shown well in practice along with Buemi, Evans and Abt. Di Grassi and Evans elected to skip their warm-up laps. In the end the track evolution allowed all 5 drivers to jump the times from group 1 with Buemi topping the times ahead of Di Grassi, Bird, Sims, and Evans. The first time such a dramatic track evolution has really been seen in the Formula E group qualifying format.

The track evolution effect was not as strong in Group 3, Piquet and Rowland going straight onto their 250kW laps but only managing 10th and 7th as they set their times. The practice pacesetter Lopez then managed to knock Vergne out of the super pole, but was immediately beaten by team mate Günther and the Audi of Abt, leaving Sims in a precarious position heading into the final group. Turvey could only manage 14th in his NIO. Championship leader D'Ambrosio was left languishing in last place.

In the final groups the strategy changed, rather than sitting in the pits and waiting for the last moment for the track to clean the drivers were sent to do their laps from the green flag to avoid the hottest track temperatures. Wehrlein continued his incredible qualifying pace to top the times and was joined in super pole by Vandoorne in 5th. The Venturi's of Mortara and Massa both made the top 10 but missed out on the top 6, while Dillmann was the slowest, keeping championship leader D'Ambrosio off the final grid spot. Paffett could only manage 17th. The top 5 in the championship will all start the race in the bottom half in what will be an incredibly mixed grid.

Into super pole were Abt, Vandoorne, Bird, Di Grassi, Buemi, and Wehrlein. Abt set a solid if unspectacular time 0.5s slower than the fastest time from group qualifying. Vandoorne and Bird then made small mistakes and were 0.27 and 0.3s down on the Audi man, but Vandoorne was immediately under investigation for failing to leave the pits fast enough. Di Grassi then beat Abt by 0.67s with a lap cutting the line between success and failure as the rear axle locked into turn 12, but Di Grassi was under investigation for a brake issue in the group qualifying session. Buemi then split the Audi's half a second down on Di Grassi. The last man to take the track, Wehrlein, could only manage 3rd 0.6s behind Di Grassi.

Qualifying Result

.Quali. groupGroup Super pole
1Di Grassi*Audi Abt2+0.3791:08.2903
2BuemiNissan e.dams2+0.201+0.5260
4AbtAudi Abt3+0.567+0.6680
5Vandoorne*Hwa Racelab4+0.499+0.9450
6BirdEnvision Virgin2+0.405+0.9630
8GüntherGeox Dragon3+0.680--
9SimsBmw i Andretti2+0.684--
11LopezGeox Dragon3+0.738--
12EvansPanasonic Jaguar2+0.772--
13VergneDs Techeetah1+0.844--
14RowlandNissan e.dams3+0.902--
15LottererDs Techeetah1+1.022--
16FrijnsEnvision Virgin1+1.042--
17PaffettHwa Racelab4+1.042--
18Da CostaBmw i Andretti1+1.088--
20PiquetPanasonic Jaguar3+1.242--
* Drivers under investigation for technical infractions.