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Sam Bird fastest in FP1 on dusty Santiago streets

After a long break, Formula E returned in earnest on the streets on Santiago, Chile for round three of the 2019/20 ABB Formula E championship, and it was Envision Virgin Racing’s Sam Bird that set the early pace on the dusty streets with a 1:04.914.

On a cool morning in Santiago, it was a case of street sweeping as all drivers except championship leader Alexander Sims made it out of the pit lane at the session’s start to explore the track. The Brit was shaking his head as the BMW Andretti squad were looking to rectify an early software niggle, but he soon made it out to justify their pace shown at the opening rounds in Diriyah.

It looked to be the experienced heads that set the early pace, with Felipe Massa and then Andre Lotterer setting the quickest times and being the first to dip into the 1:07’s. But as soon as Sims had fixed his issues in the garage, he was back out and immediately on the pace, with the current championship leader setting a new benchmark after the first 15 minutes of running.

Things got a bit hairy into the final corner for Nissan’s Oliver Rowland and BMW’s Maximillian Günther as the man from Barnsley tapped the back of the young German to inflict a little nose damage, but the stewards deemed it a ‘racing incident’ and no penalty was issued.

The times were eventually dropping in the meantime, with Jaguar’s Mitch Evans setting a 1:07.074 and therefore showing his credentials.

The times were incredibly close at the halfway point, with the top 17 cars all lapping within a solitary second of each other just as Oliver Rowland was the first driver into the 1:06’s. His confidence was clearly unaffected after this earlier scuffle with Günther.

Our first representative 250kw lap came from DS Techeetah new boy Antonio Felix da Costa, who set a 1:05.537 to go a full second faster than anyone so far. The track was slowly cleaning up, as drivers and teams were beginning to make their qualifying simulations.

The only notable off in the session came from Porsche’s Neel Jani at turn one, but he was able to salvage the spin and rejoin safely to continue running. The Swiss driver appears to be struggling on his return to Formula E as part of Porsche’s first foray into all-electric racing.

At the session’s end, however, it was Envision Virgin Racing’s Sam Bird that set the fastest lap of 1:04.914 to once again confirm the team’s title aspirations. We’re expecting a much faster FP2 as the track sweeping continues.

But Formula E is back, and the street if Santiago looks to throw up another cracker of a race in season six.

Picture source: FIA Formula E