2018 Punta del Este ePrix
The 2018 Punta del Este ePrix (formally the 2018 ABB Formula E CBMM Niobium Punta del Este ePrix) was a Formula E electric car race held at the Punta del Este Street Circuit in the Uruguayan city of Punta del Este on 17 March 2018. It was the sixth round of the 2017–18 Formula E season and the third edition of the event as part of the FIA Formula E Championship. The 37-lap race was won by Techeetah driver Jean-Éric Vergne after starting from pole position. Lucas di Grassi finished second for Audi and Virgin driver Sam Bird was third.
|2018 Punta del Este ePrix|
|Race 6 of 12 of the 2017–18 Formula E season|
|Date||17 March 2018|
|Official name||2018 ABB Formula E CBMM Nobium Punta del Este ePrix|
|Location||Punta del Este Street Circuit, Maldonado Department|
|Course length||2.785 km (1.731 mi)|
|Distance||37 laps, 103.045 km (64.029 mi)|
|Weather||Hot and sunny|
|Driver||José María López||Dragon-Penske|
|Time||1:16.811 on lap 31|
Vergne won the pole position after di Grassi, Alex Lynn and Oliver Turvey were penalised for exceeding track limits in qualifying and maintained his start line advantage on the first lap. The race was temporarily neutralised between the fourth and sixth laps when officials extracted the car of Nick Heidfeld who stopped with power issues. Vergne led di Grassi at the restart and the latter remained close behind the former in the next thirteen laps until the field made mandatory pit stops to change into a second car. Di Grassi attempted to pass Vergne on their first laps out of the pit lane but this and similar manoeuvres by di Grassi were unsuccessful. Vergne thus maintained the lead under pressure to take his second victory of the season and the third of his career.
The result increased Vergne's advantage at the top of the Drivers' Championship to 30 points over Felix Rosenqvist and Bird maintained third place. Sébastien Buemi and Nelson Piquet Jr. did not finish due to respective energy and drive shaft issues but were still in fourth and fifth positions. Techeetah further extended their Teams' Championship lead to 27 points over Mahindra and Virgin had accumulated enough points to move past Jaguar for third with six races left in the season.
The Punta del Este ePrix, discontinued after the 2015–16 Formula E season because no financial agreement was reached by the Government of Uruguay to enable its continuation, was announced as part of the Formula E calendar in a meeting of the FIA World Motor Sport Council in Paris on 7 December 2017 after the authorities of São Paulo requested a cancellation of their planned race due to a delay in selling land to a private owner. The Punta del Este ePrix was part of an alternative plan devised by series founder and CEO Alejandro Agag in case any round of the championship was dropped.
Punta del Este was the sixth of twelve scheduled single-seater electric car rounds of the 2017–18 season and the third edition of the event. The ePrix was held on 17 March 2018 at the twenty-turn 2.785 km (1.731 mi) Punta del Este Street Circuit in the Maldonado Department of Uruguay. The circuit is situated on the Playa Brava Beach, meaning sand was laid on the tarmac surface and affected the levels of grip available to drivers. Also, the high ambient temperatures put strain on the car's batteries. Construction of the track started on 24 February, twenty-two days before the race; and continued for the next three weeks. 370 people were employed to work long shifts to complete the project.
Going into the race, Techeetah driver Jean-Éric Vergne led the Drivers' Championship with 81 points, twelve ahead of his nearest rival Felix Rosenqvist of Mahindra in second. Virgin's Sam Bird was in third position with 61 points and e.Dams-Renault driver Sébastien Buemi was a further nine points adrift in fourth. Nelson Piquet Jr. of Jaguar rounded out the top five with 45 points. Techeetah were at the top of the Teams' Championship with 99 points and the second-placed Mahindra were nine points behind. Jaguar (94 points) and Virgin (90 points) contended for third position and e.Dams-Renault stood in fifth place with 59 points.
The circuit underwent three cosmetic changes after the most recent edition of the race in 2015. All bar one of the flexible bollards that were situated around the track in the last two Punta del Este races were removed by officials from the world governing body of motorsport, the Fédération Internationale de l'Automobile (FIA), and the "sausage" kerbing at the entry to the circuit's four chicanes was dismantled. However, additional TecPro barriers were erected to improve safety around the track. These changes prompted officials to establish a specific area for drivers to stop in should they miss the turning point for the chicanes before rejoining the track during all sessions.[n 1] The alterations received a mixed reception. Piquet spoke his belief that it would assist drivers attacking the track's high-speed sections. José María López (Dragon) agreed that the kerbing could be negotiated without any major issues and António Félix da Costa (Andretti) praised the "fast and dangerous" nature of the circuit that the changes created. However, the Audi pair of Lucas di Grassi and Daniel Abt called for the further adjustment of the kerbs as they feared the possibility of an accident occurring.
On the Wednesday evening before the ePrix, a meeting was held between several drivers, Formula E Teams Association representative and Andretti team principal Roger Griffiths and officials from the FIA to discuss procedures of improving the safety of car switches during the mandatory pit stops. The meeting was called following the communication of further clarifications and remainders to all teams of pit stop procedures and in response to an injury sustained by a Techeetah mechanic by driver André Lotterer in the preceding Mexico City ePrix.[n 2] These clarifications included keeping the steering wheel installed in the driver's first car until it came to a halt and the FIA wanted all teams not to fully install the safety harness until the driver clambered into his second vehicle. Additionally, the FIA stressed that the responsibility of ensuring pit stop and seat belt fastening safety remained with teams and drivers. The FIA also added a new regulation authorising stewards to review incidents on and away from the track after the end of future races.
Practice and qualifyingEdit
Two practice sessions—both on Saturday morning—were held before the late afternoon race. The first session ran for 45 minutes and the second lasted half an hour. A half hour shakedown session topped by López and di Grassi was held on the Friday afternoon prior to practice to allow teams to check the reliability of their cars and electronic systems. Conditions for the first practice session were cold and the maximum amount of available grip could not be reached because of the sand on the asphalt surface. Buemi used 200 kW (270 hp) of power and set the session's fastest lap at 1 minute and 14.536 seconds, 0.343 seconds faster than anyone else on the circuit. His closest challenger was Mitch Evans (Jaguar) in second and di Grassi placed third. The rest of the top ten were Alex Lynn (Virgin), Vergne, Bird, Piquet, Oliver Turvey (NIO), Abt and Nico Prost (e.Dams-Renault). During the session, which had several drivers finding their limits with the track and kerbing and causing them to venture into the circuit's run-off areas, Evans stopped in the entry to the pit lane with a technical problem with ten minutes remaining and required outside assistance for recovery to his garage. Buemi made a driving error which removed his rear wing endplate by glancing a barrier lining the circuit and this necessitated its replacement.
Di Grassi was fastest in second practice with a new unofficial track record of 1 minute and 13.672 seconds, with Bird and Evans four-tenths of a second adrift in second and third. Turvey, Prost, Vergne, Edoardo Mortara (Venturi), Nick Heidfeld (Mahindra), Tom Blomqvist (Andretti) and Lynn filled positions four to ten. Blomqvist possibly broke his right-rear suspension when he tapped the turn nine barrier after leaving the corner. Then, an oversteer caused Blomqvist to lose control of the rear of his car and heavily damaged the vehicle in a heavy impact with the turn ten and eleven chicane wall after mounting the kerbs. This prompted the session to be red flagged for five minutes, and the size of the impact threw his drivetrain onto the track.
Saturday's afternoon qualifying session ran for an hour and was divided into four groups of five cars. Each group was determined by a lottery system and was permitted six minutes of on-track activity. All drivers were limited to two timed laps with one at maximum power. The fastest five overall competitors in the four groups participated in a "Super Pole" session with one driver on the track at any time going out in reverse order from fifth to first. Each of the five drivers was limited to one timed lap and the starting order was determined by the competitor's fastest times (Super Pole from first to fifth, and group qualifying from sixth to twentieth). The driver and team who recorded the fastest time were awarded three points towards their respective championships.
The first group of five drivers was predicted to be a disadvantage as the circuit was still slippery from the sand being blown from the beaches but had no one make contact with the barriers lining the track. Di Grassi was the early pace setter with Maro Engel, Jérôme d'Ambrosio, Luca Filippi and Blomqvist following in positions two to five. Lynn was the second group's fastest driver despite losing time in the third sector which prevented him from going quickest overall. Lynn demoted the previous fastest group driver López who made an error on his lap and took third, behind the second-placed Lotterer but ahead of Félix da Costa. Prost was the second group's slowest competitor because he bent his car's steering arm when he came into contact with a trackside bollard and this speared him into the wall at a 45-degree angle at high speed leaving the turn fifteen and sixteen chicane. His team was thus forced to repair his car for the afternoon's race. In the third group, the conditions of the track had vastly improved that the majority of the drivers were able to go faster than di Grassi in the first and second sectors but none were able to eclipse his overall fastest lap time. Evans was the fastest of all the five drivers in the group with Turvey following in second. Both demoted Abt to third and Mortara placed fourth. The session was disrupted when Heidfeld approached the turn seventeen chicane too fast and understeered into a TecPro barrier. This was detrimental to Mortara who had to abandon his first attempt at recording a timed lap and was granted dispensation for a second try which he did not take up.
The fourth group had the first five in the Drivers' Championship eager to compete in the improved track conditions. Vergne eclipsed di Grassi to become the fastest overall driver in the group stages with a lap time of 1 minute and 13.672 seconds. Buemi lost momentum in the second sector and was second. Bird was the first driver to attempt a timed lap but slower traffic, understeer, and tapping a wall at turn eight meant he took third. Rosenqvist was similarly slow and minor contact with the turn nine wall put him fourth. Piquet was set to reach super pole but mounted the kerbing at turn ten and was sent into the barriers and started 20th. At the end of group qualifying, the lap times set by Vergne, di Grassi, Lynn, Evans and Turvey progressed them to super pole. Di Grassi clinched provisional pole position through a large amount of commitment heading towards the first chicane with a lap of 1 minute and 13.948 seconds but was put under investigation for hitting the bollard at turn sixteen and seventeen. He was joined on the front row of the grid by Lynn who was 0.241 seconds slower in spite of damaging his front wing by clouting the bollard on his lap. Evans posted the third-fastest lap after glancing a wall at turn nine through pushing hard. Turvey drove methodically through the first chicane though he was almost a second slower than Vergne's fastest group qualifying lap due to him being untidy in the final sector and was fourth. Turvey was also placed under investigation for glancing the bollard. Vergne was the favourite to take pole position but an error at the start of his lap put him fifth but avoided contact with the bollard.
After qualifying, di Grassi, Lynn and Turvey's lap times were discarded and dropped one place while Evans was demoted to 16th because his car's weight distribution was 300 grams (11 oz) outside the amount permitted. Filippi dropped three places for overspeeding under red flag conditions during practice and Blomqvist started at the rear of the grid for changing his gearbox. López was mandated to start from 18th after it was discovered the pressure in two of the four tyres fitted to his car were below the minimum mandated amount of 1.60-bar (160 kPa). Mortara originally had a ten-place grid penalty for changing his chassis by damaging it over a kerb in shakedown but it was annulled when Venturi determined that any sufficient fixes could not take place in Punta del Este and it was shipped to chassis designer Dallara for evaluation and repair. The result of the penalties meant Vergne inherited his third pole position of the season.
The race began at 16:03 Uruguay Time (UTC−03:00) on 17 March. Weather conditions at the start were dry and sunny. The air temperature ranged from 28.85 to 30.56 °C (83.93 to 87.01 °F) and the track temperature was between 35.5 and 37.2 °C (95.9 and 99.0 °F). A special feature of Formula E is the "Fan Boost" feature, an additional 100 kilowatts (130 hp) of power to use in the driver's second car. The three drivers who were allowed to use the boost were determined by a fan vote. For the Punta del Este round, Abt, Buemi and Rosenqvist were handed the extra power. The number of laps contested was increased from 33 in 2015 to 37 for 2018 in order to showcase Formula E's technological developments. Vergne maintained his pole position advantage heading towards the first corner. Di Grassi stayed in second after withstanding a challenge from Lynn and Turvey followed close behind in fourth. The rest of the field negotiated the chicane without incident although Mortara ran wide and dropped to the back of the pack. Di Grassi regained some ground and quickly drew closer to Vergne while Turvey was unable to remain with the leaders and Abt started to battle him. Further back, Lotterer and Bird got close to one another in a battle for sixth.
Piquet lost positions to Filippi, Rosenqvist and Evans as he was placed wide at the final chicane and Vergne completed the first lap with di Grassi following closely in second. On the second lap, Bird attacked Lotterer approaching the turn eight and nine hairpin but the latter resisted his manoeuvre. Soon after, Heidfeid's car developed a technical system error that shut it down after leaving the first chicane and he stopped at the side of the track. Race control offered Heidfeld a small amount of time to restart his car but could not do so while his teammate Rosenqvist overtook Filippi for twelfth on the third lap. Meanwhile, Buemi out-braked Bird to pass him for sixth at the turn eight and nine chicane. Buemi slowed to stop him running too deep and prevented Bird from re-passing him. The safety car was deployed on lap four to enable officials to extract Heidfeld's car and two drivers overtook under these conditions. Buemi passed Lotterer and Engel likewise got ahead of Bird but no action was taken against Buemi and Engel. Vergne led the field back up to speed at the lap-six restart with di Grassi following. The pair gradually began pulling away from Lynn. Piquet fell to the rear of the field when his car developed drive train problems due to him hitting a wall earlier in the ePrix.
Bird got a fast exit leaving the turn one and two chicane, allowing him to draw alongside Lotterer on the inside line entering the turn eight and nine chicane and passed him for sixth. The manoeuvre's effectiveness lost Lotterer four places to Engel, Félix da Costa and Rosenqvist within two laps. On lap 11, Buemi was out of contention for a strong result when he made an error that put him wide onto the dusty line and into a wall. Buemi's barrier glance deranged his left-rear suspension rod and he entered the pit lane to get into his second car on the following lap since the problem had worsened. Rosenqvist moved into the top ten soon after by overtaking Félix da Costa and d'Ambrosio. Meanwhile, Abt moved past Turvey for fourth and Rosenqvist was overtaken by Engel. After damaging his vehicle on lap nine, Mortara switched into his second car on the sixteenth lap because steering damage necessitated the change, requiring him to conserve electrical energy for the rest of the ePrix. Then, as Turvey saved electrical energy, Bird got ahead of him to claim fifth place and Abt overtook Lynn soon after.
Vergne was affected by radio communication issues that made him uncertain as to how much electrical energy he had left as di Grassi followed close behind but was unable to affect an overtaking manoeuvre by the time they entered the pit lane for the switch into their second cars on lap 19 with the majority of the field following suit. López led for one lap before he, d'Ambrosio and Prost came in on the next lap. After the pit stops, Vergne and di Grassi retained first and second places. Abt was third and Bird left the pit lane alongside teammate Lynn and got past him for fourth. Similarly, Rosenqvist and Evans moved to fifth and sixth. Di Grassi attempted to pass Vergne on the left driving towards turn seventeen on his first lap out of the pit lane and the pair briefly made contact which led to di Grassi locking his brakes and got sideways. Di Grassi lost almost two seconds of time but began closing back up to Vergne. Two laps later, Bird pressured Abt and the battle continued until Abt went into the pit lane on lap 23 because his seat belts unbuckled under braking though post-race data confirmed that the shoulder harnesses were correctly fitted. Abt rejoined in 15th after Bird took over third.
Before lap 28 ended, Evans overtook Rosenqvist for fifth and the latter attempted to regain the position by using his FanBoost but was unsuccessful. Upfront, di Grassi made several unsuccessful attempts at passing Vergne and their battle allowed Bird to close up. López earned one point for setting the race's fastest lap on lap 31 by completing a circuit in 1 minute and 16.811 seconds. Two laps later, Lynn lost fourth to Evans who put him onto the dirty side of the track and overtook him on the left through turn thirteen. Lynn was then left to fend off Rosenqvist. Di Grassi's best opportunity to pass Vergne was denied at the end of lap 34 as he nudged the latter wide at the final corner but was not able to accelerate faster than Vergne on the start/finish straight and gain the lead. The duel for first was the main focus for the rest of the race. It enabled Bird to get his best chance of taking the lead but was denied his opportunity after a minor driver error on the final lap. This along with Bird being required to conserve electrical energy and manage battery temperatures dropped him out of contention.
Di Grassi made one final try of claiming victory which had him gently nudge the rear of Vergne's car approaching the final turn but Vergne maintained his advantage on the start/finish line to clinch his second win of the season and the third of his career. Di Grassi finished 0.447 seconds behind in second place and Bird completed the podium in third position. Off the podium, Evans took fourth with Rosenqvist moving past Lynn late in the ePrix to claim fifth and Turvey placed seventh. The Dragon duo of López and d'Ambrosio took eighth and ninth due to their strategy of running one lap longer than the rest of the field and Engel completed the top ten. Félix da Costa, Lotterer, Filippi, Abt, Prost, Blomqvist and Mortara were the final classified finishers. Of the other two retirements, Buemi completed 29 laps after he could not complete the race due to his early car swap and Piquet's drive shaft failed after 25 laps.
The top three drivers appeared on the podium to collect their trophies and spoke to the media in a later press conference. Vergne remarked that the win was possibly "the hardest [of his three victories], and probably the one I'm most happy with in terms of my driving, my whole race", and that while his team lacked the resources that others had to improve the car, the race demonstrated "the proof to everybody that I have a lot of pace." Second-placed di Grassi spoke of his annoyance over losing pole position which he felt was unfair. While he acknowledged that overtaking was difficult in Punta del Este, he congratulated Vergne on the victory, "Today we had the fastest car for pole and to win but we came second." He affirmed that it would not be the last time that Audi would contend for victories in the season. Bird dedicated his third-place to broadcaster and motorsports journalist Henry Hope-Frost who was killed instantly when his motorbike collided with a car on the A286 road near Haslemere in Surrey nine days prior to the ePrix, "There was a lot of fever out there today and I think he’d have been pretty happy with the driving out there today." He spoke of his effort of staying within reach of Vergne and di Grassi and revealed he wanted them to challenge both slightly more so he could have an opportunity of winning the race.
Di Grassi was summoned to meet the stewards after the race and incurred a €10,000 (£8,750) fine and three penalty points on his race licence for wearing non-compliant fireproof underwear but was allowed to retain second in what was described by AOL's Andrew Evans as "one of the strangest racing penalties ever seen." Di Grassi apologised to the stewards, vowed that it would not be repeated in the future and revealed to the press that he made the decision because Punta del Este's hot weather conditions caused his previous pair to soak up body sweat. The stewards also investigated Abt's seat belt incident but decided that no further action was necessary. Abt was mystified as to how his seat belts had become unbuckled under braking, saying, "This we have to figure out, but of course in that situation what do you do? You risk your life or you come in - for me it's no choice." Audi team principal Allan McNish surmised that Abt's issue prevented the driver from getting onto the podium but was more positive that both his team's cars had reached the end of the race.
Evans reckoned he could have taken his first victory and revealed the weight issue that demoted him to 16th was due to a change of battery between second practice and qualifying that was 3 kg (6.6 lb) lighter than the one it replaced but respected the steward's consistency, "We can't argue with it - that's the way it rolls. We had a good fast car, and I'm happy to be heading to the next few races hopefully in a position to fight for the win." Evans's view was reiterated by Jaguar team principal James Barclay who reserved praise for the driver's fast pace, overtaking abilities and the car, "The reality is, we’ve shown we have the car that’s really fast. I’m not surprised considering how much work we’ve put into it, but it’s really positive to see that we’ve made one of the biggest steps and that’s really good and I’m really proud of the team." Buemi apologised to his team for hitting a wall on lap eleven and stated his belief he could have completed around three or four additional laps had the safety car been deployed for a second time.
The consequence of the final positions further extended Vergne's Drivers' Championship lead to 30 points over Rosenqvist while Bird's third-place finish allowed him to further close the deficit to the latter by five points. Buemi and Piquet remained in fourth and fifth places despite their non-finishes. Techeetah increased their Teams' Championship lead to 27 points over the second-placed Mahindra while Virgin's results moved them to third place. Jaguar followed a further seven points behind in fourth and e.Dams-Renault maintained fifth position with six races left in the season. Though he reiterated his happiness over winning the race, Vergne admitted he was focused on the championship battle and approached it on a race-by-race basis.
|2||1||Lucas di Grassi||Audi||—||—||21|
|11||28||António Félix da Costa||Andretti-BMW||1:14.973||+0.792||11|
|16||3||Nelson Piquet Jr.||Jaguar||1:42.656||+28.475||14|
|20||6||José María López||Dragon-Penske||—||—||185|
- ^1 —Lucas di Grassi, Alex Lynn and Oliver Turvey had their lap times deleted and demoted one place for exceeding track limits during super pole.
- ^2 —Luca Filippi dropped three positions for speeding under red flag conditions during the second practice session.
- ^3 —Tom Blomqvist started from the back of the grid for changing his gearbox.
- ^4 —Mitch Evans had his lap time deleted and was demoted to 16th because his car's weight distribution was 300 g (11 oz) outside the amount permitted.
- ^5 —José María López started from 18th as two of his tyres were below the minimum mandated pressure of 1.60-bar (160 kPa).
Drivers who scored championship points are denoted in bold and by a .
|1||25||Jean-Éric Vergne||Techeetah-Renault||37||50:43.809||1||28 6|
|2||1||Lucas di Grassi||Audi||37||+0.447||2||18|
|8||6||José María López||Dragon-Penske||37||+12.612||18||5 7|
|11||28||António Félix da Costa||Andretti-BMW||37||+27.335||11|
|17||4||Edoardo Mortara||Venturi||36||+1 Lap||13|
|Ret||3||Nelson Piquet Jr.||Jaguar||25||Drive shaft||14|
Standings after the raceEdit
- Notes: Only the top five positions are included for both sets of standings.
Notes and referencesEdit
- Drivers were mandated at two of the four chicanes to keep within a blue line designating the area in which they must venture into so they could rejoin the circuit.
- The minimum pit stop time was discarded at the Santiago round as the FIA believed the best possible time had been achieved but was heavily criticised by drivers who felt safety was compromised.
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- Media related to 2018 Punta del Este ePrix at Wikimedia Commons
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