On Saturday evening, it looked as if a natural disaster had raged through the O’Higgins Park in Santiago de Chile: several parts of the racetrack with cracked asphalt, debris at the end of corner 3 and endless amounts of rubber next to the racing line. And this was only the third race here of the Formula E season to take place this afternoon. But this was no ordinary race: temperatures of up to 37.9 degrees Celsius placed the highest demands on both man and machine. It was all the more remarkable that Daniel Abt kept a cool head in Chile and clinched the first podium place of the season for Audi Sport ABT Schaeffler.
Santiago: Daniel Abt and Audi clinch their first Formula E podium place
Audi Sport ABT Schaeffler clinched their first podium place of the season at the Formula E race in Santiago de Chile. After Lucas di Grassi caused amazement in the qualifying round, Daniel Abt remained cool-headed during the hottest race in the history of Formula E...
Abt and teammate Lucas di Grassi had already gotten a taste of the oppressive heat of the day of the race on Thursday before the E-Prix. In the kitchen of the famous steak house “Los Buenos Muchachos” the two Formula E drivers learned a lot about how to prepare a perfect steak. Together with chef Francesco Montenegro, they had previously bought the meat at the Santiago market.
The pitfalls of the new street circuit in Chile
During their track walk on Friday morning, the Audi team gained a first impression of the brand-new street circuit in O’Higgins Park – Formula E had had to find a new location in Santiago after the E-Prix 2018. It was already clear early on that the track would be particularly demanding for the tires due to the long drawn-out, left-hand bends. “The differences in the road surface are also tricky,” team boss Allan McNish explained, pointing out that the cars would sometimes be driving over concrete slabs, while other parts of the track had been newly asphalted especially for the race.
Audi e-tron FE05 sets the pace
On Saturday morning, things finally got serious. Already in the first free practice session, Lucas di Grassi proved the potential of the Audi e-tron FE05 and set the best session time. In their two customer cars of the Envision Virgin racing team, Sam Bird and Robin Frijns also demonstrated the performance of the Audi powertrain in both training sessions.
Di Grassi in the qualifying round: best lap of his Formula E career
After di Grassi and his teammate Abt both qualified for the super poles in the group stage, the Brazilian drove a truly fabulous lap on the almost 46-degree hot tarmac in Santiago. He was able gain more than half a second on second-placed Sebastien Buemi. In di Grassis’s own words, this was the “best lap” of his Formula E career. His family was there to watch: this was his son Leonardo’s first car race that he experienced in Santiago together with his mother Bianca. Leonardo di Grassi was born shortly before the New York E-Prix in July 2018.
New Formula E rule with consequences
However, di Grassi’s joy about his supposed fourth pole position in the Formula E race was short-lived. “For no apparent reason, the driver put more strain on the brakes during his in-lap in the qualifying round than on his fast lap in the group phase,” the race manager reported a good two hours before the start of the race and cancelled the Audi driver’s lap times. This is a new rule that Formula E introduced just before the weekend. Di Grassi therefore had to tackle the Santiago E-Prix from the last position in the grid. Daniel Abt started in third place.
Abt keeps a cool head, di Grassi is punished once again
In the end, it was a good race for Abt. Although the man from Kempten dropped back one position against the subsequent winner Sam Bird in the first lap, he drove a largely sound and consistent E-Prix. Only Alexander Sims had to let Abt pass in the course of the race, but the BMW pilot was punished shortly after the end of the race for a maneuver against Edoardo Mortara (Venturi) which once again cost him the third place. Abt inherited the podium position ‒the first for the Audi team this season. “Sometimes you just have to stay cool. We did that today,” Abt commented after an “incredibly tough race”. Sam Bird secured the first Formula E victory for the Audi e-tron FE05.
Di Grassi in the race: first he races to catch up, then there’s a collision
Lucas di Grassi was less fortunate in this race. He fought his way from 22nd to ninth place. His race to catch up nearly earned him two points. But then he received a time penalty due to a collision with Jose Maria Lopez (Dragon), which put him back in twelfth place. Even though the champion of the second Formula E season only scored nine points in three races, he proved in Santiago that he has the pace to win. At the next race in Mexico City on 16 February he will do everything he can to finally convert this potential into actual points.
Next stop for di Grassi and Abt: the Audi Sport Fitness Camp
But before the fourth race of the season begins in Mexico, di Grassi and Abt are off to the Canary Islands. Together with their colleagues from the DTM, they will be doing their annual fitness training at the Audi Sport Fitness Camp on Lanzarote in order to be ready to clinch their first victory for the Audi team.
Audi e-tron FE05 shines in record heat
In the hottest ever Formula E race, title defender Audi Sport ABT Schaeffler has claimed its first podium of the season in Santiago de Chile. Sam Bird from the Audi customer team Envision Virgin Racing pocketed the first victory of the Audi e-tron FE05.Read more
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