History was made in Santiago, Chile at the 2018 Santiago ePrix. Techeetah’s Jean-Eric Vergne held off 4 drivers including his teammate to win the 37-lap race. Vergne started on pole with Sebastien Buemi alongside him and teammate Andre Lotterer 3rd. Sam Bird started 4th and season 1 champion Nelson Piquet Jr started 5th for Jaguar. At the start, the Techeetah duo made a good getaway while Buemi got bogged down. Piquet Jr got an even better start and slotted between the Techeetahs.
Behind them, in the midfield there was carnage as there were 3 separate incidents. Dragon Racing driver Jose Maria Lopez was taken out of the race on lap 1, at what was the closest thing to a home grand prix. Meanwhile, Maro Engel collided with compatriot Nick Heidfeld ending the latter’s race. Engel was able to continue, but went into the barriers a few corners later. The incidents brought out the safety car and every driver had to circulate behind for a few laps.
When the track was clear, it was business as usual. There were close battles everywhere as drivers jostled for position. Audi’s day began to sour as Daniel Abt began to face issues and he had to eventually retire. Meanwhile, reigning champion Lucas Di Grassi was determined to get some points on the scoreboard. Heidfeld was able to rejoin in his second car while the mechanics worked on the damaged Mahindra.
Soon the time came for the pitstops to change cars. This weekend, the teams were operating without a minimum pitstop time so it was up to the driver’s and team’s judgement. A few laps later, Audi’s day went from bad to worse as Lucas Di Grassi’s car sputtered to a halt. When he stormed back to the garage, it was clear from his body language that he was livid. After sometime, Heidfeld also pulled in to retire as his first car had not been fixed in time.
In the pitstop phase, championship leader Felix Rosenqvist was the biggest gainer as he rocketed up to 5th, courtesy a masterstroke strategy from Mahindra. Meanwhile, Vergne and rookie teammate Andre Lotterer were running 1st and 2nd with Nelson Piquet Jr. in 3rd holding off Buemi. Rosenqvist had his own problems to deal with, namely Sam Bird and Alex Lynn, the two DS Virgin drivers. A few laps later, Lynn suddenly slowed and ground to a halt. Somewhere at the back, Tom Blomqvist dove down the inside of Luca Filippi but overshot the chicane.
Back at the front, the intra-team battle was getting feisty and that allowed Piquet Jr. and Buemi to close up. Unbeknownst to them, Felix Rosenqvist and Sam Bird were also catching up. Then Buemi dove down the inside of Piquet Jr. and made the move stick. With time running out, Piquet Jr. tried to divebomb but overcooked it. Buemi, Rosenqvist and Bird didn’t need a second invitation and the Brazilian was down to 6th.
At the front, things were getting spicy as Lotterer fancied a look down Vergne’s inside. Then the duel began as the two went nose to tail and the Techeetah garage became littered with chewed fingernails. At one point, Lotterer seemed to be literally shoving Vergne. The chaos allowed Buemi, Rosenqvist and Bird to close right up and all 5 began to scrap it out. But in the end, JEV held on by the skin of his teeth to win and Lotterer bagged a maiden podium in his rookie season.
Renault e.Dams driver, Sebastien Buemi denied Rosenqvist a 3rd podium in a row and Bird had to settle for 5th. While the 5 battled, Piquet Jr. too was getting back in the mix, but it was too late for him to make an impression. With this win at the 2018 Santiago ePrix, Jean-Eric Vergne has taken over the lead in the championship from Rosenqvist and Sam Bird is still 3rd. The next race in the season is the Mexico ePrix on 3rd March.