The first session in Santiago has shown a slippery track and some standout performances as Edoardo Mortara, Mitch Evans and Jean-Eric Vergne all impress with speed while Jose Maria Lopez continues to steer Dragon out of their season-start slump. However, it was championship contender Sam Bird who led the way in the morning session.
Drivers and teams had described the track as filthy yesterday during shakedown, with leaves, dust and oil from road vehicles on the streets that make up the circuit making track walk Instagram stories more flavourful than they can be. Overnight work has substantially cleaned the surfaces but drivers were still sliding as they tried to find the limits, a Turn One runoff getting a lot of visiting time.
The only drivers to actually go beyond flirting with the walls were Sebastien Buemi, who whacked his right rear wheel into part of the plastic barrier, losing grip while cornering and Maro Engel, who ended the session with his front wing heavily involved in turn one. Given the tendency for incidents at the start of Formula E races, that particular bit of TecPro looks likely to be getting close to a lot of cars, today.
No drivers set 200kW laps during FP1, presumably concentrating on learning the circuit – and practicing pit stops, in the first race that will see no minimum pit stop time, with changed safety belts (in more of a WEC style than the single-seater ones previously used) and FIA sensors ensuring the drivers can’t leave without being strapped in. Alex Tai, team boss of DS Virgin Racing, said they were down to around 10 seconds of garage time, so expect to see drivers doing a lot of jumping this weekend.
Another good sign for the DS Virgin team was Bird topping the session, with a 1:19.439s lap at the end of FP1, a few tenths ahead of Felix Rosenqvist’s 1:19.646s and Vergne’s 1:19.701s. Evans had another fast session, after impressing in qualifying runs this season – he led the field for much of FP1 and finished P4 with a 1:19.819s, a hundredth of a second ahead of a much-improved-looking Andre Lotterer, who made his best ever session finish in Formula E with a 1:19.824s in P5.
Less good news for the once again stricken-looking Andretti cars, down in P19 and P20 and substantially off the pace. Tom Blomqvist managed a 1:23.380s for P19, seconds back from P18 Engel’s 1:21.870s.
Similarly, Jerome d’Ambrosio seemed to still be struggling with his Dragon car, unlike new teammate ‘Pechito’ Lopez, who already showed impressive pace in Marrakesh on only his first weekend with the team and who managed P7 here, his 1:20.176 nearly a second ahead of d’Ambrosio’s P16 1:21.033s.
It’s early yet in Santiago, with FP1 starting at 8am local time and track temperatures have not reached representative heats for the race; at only 16C air temp this session was relatively cool compared to the 30+C temperatures we can expect to see later. Assume that times will fall, as rubber is laid into the track – but also that battery stress is going to play a huge role here, with drivers fighting to cool enough to use regen. A slippery track and consequently unpredictable braking are all adding up to a very Formula E race indeed here in Chile.