Santiago E-Prix was a journey into the unknown for Formula E - Sam Bird
Envision Virgin Racing's Sam Bird believes that Formula E's Santiago E-Prix was a journey into the unknown for the all-electric single seater series, with extreme 37°C heat placing immense stress and therefore increased management on the tyres and battery of the Gen2 car.
The Santiago E-Prix marked Formula E's hottest race to date and due to high temperatures at the Parque O'Higgins Circuit, a number of drivers struggled with management, with DS Techeetah's Andre Lotterer suffering from a power deration in the closing stages while Mahindra Racing's Pascal Wehrlein was also forced to manage critical battery temperatures towards the end of his run to second place.
Bird, who started the race in fourth, was able to manage his customer Audi e-tron FE05 package perfectly to take the chequered flag in first at the finish line, clearing Daniel Abt and Wehrlein to move into second place before then race leader Sebastien Buemi crashed out in Turn 7 in the second half of the 45-minute + 1 lap event.
Navigating tricky racing conditions which not only meant that tyre and battery management had increased emphasis, high temperatures in the Chilean capital also caused the breakup of parts of the racing surface, resulting in extensive marbling out on track which posed another challenge for drivers to overcome.
“That was a great, but challenging race! No-one really knew going into this race how the battery and tyres would react in these extreme temperatures," said Bird, who now leads the Drivers' Championship by two points.
"The whole race we were going into the unknown. But to get the result we did is fantastic, and my thanks goes to everyone at Envision Virgin Racing for once again putting in the hours to give us this win.
"It’s been a steep learning curve for the team, with the limited testing we’ve had, so to find ourselves in a situation where we’re winning races – to go with pole positions and podiums from previous races – is an incredible achievement.”
While Bird stood on the top step of the podium, Robin Frijns also recorded a second consecutive points finish, fighting from 15th on the grid to take fifth at the chequered flag:
“Starting towards the back of the field was always going to make things tougher but we fought hard from the off and managed to gain some good ground early on," said the Dutchman.
"Towards the end I was really in the thick of it, but we came away with another strong result for me and the team.”
Taking 35 points away from the Santiago weekend, Envision Virgin Racing has also taken the lead in the Teams' Championship, holding a 12 point advantage over Mahindra.
“After the success of our double podium at the last race, it’s an amazing feeling to come here to Chile and go even better," added Sylvain Filippi, Managing Director of the British marque.
"The whole team, as always, put in a huge effort to prepare for this race and that hard work clearly shows in the results today. I’d also like to thank the whole Audi Sport team for their contribution to this result.
“The high temperatures were always going to make the conditions tough, but Sam and Robin drove superbly, and we now head to the next race in Mexico full of confidence.”
Formula E will return on February 16 for the Mexico City E-Prix, accompanied by the Jaguar I-PACE eTROPHY.