Punta del Este ePrix Race Report
The FIA Formula E Championship once again provided a spectacular day of racing at the Punta del Este ePrix in Uruguay today. During the third round of the series, Andretti Formula-E Team achieved its first pole position and #FanBoost win with F1 driver Jean-Éric Vergne on his debut with the team and the series. However, the race was not without its fair share of drama and both the No. 27 and No. 28 Andretti challengers were to come away with only three points this weekend.
Characterized as the St Tropez of South America, Punta del Este is famous for its golden beaches, casinos and stunning marina. The 2.808-kilometres long ePrix track set along the coast featured 20 corners and four chicanes, which, combined with bright, windy weather and sandy patches of tarmac, provided a variety of challenges for the visiting ten teams.
No. 27 car driver Jean-Éric Vergne very quickly acclimatised to life in Formula E. With seat fittings completed the night before, he was happy handling the cars technology with his new team during Friday's shakedown and continued to make impressive progress during the free practice sessions on Saturday morning. After picking group one (of four) in the qualifying lottery, JEV was one of the first out on track in the midday sunshine. He soon set the bench-mark that no other driver from any group was able to beat - a qualifying lap time of 1:15.408 mins - to take his, and the team's, first pole position in the Championship and three valuable points.
Matthew Brabham took up his reserve driver duties once again replacing an absent Franck Montagny in the No. 28 Spark-Renault SRT_01E. Matty had an extremely encouraging start, but on Saturday morning his luck began to wane. During the first free practice session, bolts securing one of the 'sausage' kerbs ripped in to the underside of Matty's car, compromising the tub and requiring major repairs by the team. Matty was then limited in the number of laps he could complete in second practice in his remaining car and an early incident clipping the wall in qualifying group two meant that he would start the Punta del Este ePrix from the back of the grid.
The ePrix in the afternoon provided the electrifying mix of exciting manoeuvres, thrills and spills that we have come to expect from the all-electric racing series.
Matty made a great start and avoided incidents ahead to pick his way through the field to run in P11 by his pitstop. A solid effort by the team got Matty back out in his newly repaired car in P9 and he was running in P6, battling within the points positions, when a misjudgement at the turns 14/15 chicane meant his race ended prematurely, only four laps from the chequer.
Jean-Éric Vergne was sitting pretty in pole position on the Punta del Este grid when it was announced that he had won one of the three FanBoosts for the ePrix. However, after a clean get away as the red lights went out, the team opted to use the FanBoost early, but the power failed to materialise. JEV lost position to Piquet Jr to run in P2, but repossessed the race lead on Lap 13. His first ePrix pitstop ran like clockwork, but a safety car deployment meant that he re-joined the track action in a disappointing P9. Ensuing penalties and incidents by other teams meant that JEV was on the gearbox of race leader Buemi by Lap 22. But the dream end to his debut race and Andretti Formula-E Team's first win, was not to be and a right-front suspension failure meant that he had to retire from the race on the penultimate lap.
Roger Griffiths, Team Principal, Andretti Formula-E Team
"It's been a day of mixed emotions. Obviously we were pleased to welcome JEV who settled very quickly into the team and whose sheer speed was demonstrated in qualifying. Everyone was very excited to get pole and are naturally disappointed in the final outcome of the race, but we're encouraged by our performance and it shows that we truly had the whole package. An unfortunate suspension failure put an end to the chance of our first ePrix win. It was a disappointing race for Matty, the early damage to his chassis limited practice running and compromised preparations for his race. We were encouraged by his moves through the field up to sixth, but unfortunately the deserved result was not there. Formula E continues to impress; the event here at Punta del Este was a fantastic race in a superb city."
Jean-Éric Vergne, No. 27 Spark-Renault SRT_01 E
Captured the pole position for the 31-lap race
The Frenchman was shown finishing in P11 due to a suspension failure after leading in his debut event
"It was a great weekend and I am very happy to be here with the Andretti Formula E Team. I didn't have any expectations, as a racing driver you just want to jump in to whatever you do and you want to win, of course. I did my homework and tried to be as quick as possible; the pole position was great after all the work we had done in such a short period of time. Unfortunately, in the race, these kinds of things happen, and we would have been first or second which would have been an excellent result. Overall it was a great debut and I am very happy. It has been a superb experience and one that I would have only done with the Andretti team."
Matthew Brabham, No. 28 Spark-Renault SRT_01 E
The American went from the back of the starting grid (P20) to P6 before an incident resulting in a P17 finish
The Punta del Este ePrix was the 20-year-old's second FIA Formula E series call-up as reserve driver
"The team did an amazing job, working really hard on my car all weekend, so I am obviously disappointed with our result today. Andretti is one of the best teams in the field and we have great potential, we've just got to string it altogether and have everything fall in to place and we'll be there, challenging for wins. For me, I worked quite hard in the race, coming from the back and getting all the way up to where I was. The car was handling great and we had some good moments, racing against these guys was quite fun for me as well and I was learning a lot out there, but I made a mistake, pushing a little bit too hard, and lost the rear on the entry of the corner and got some air and then ended up in the wall. It was a little bit disheartening, and I am disappointed, but up until that point it was going well, so I have to take the positive from that."
Andretti Formula-E Team is now fifth in the Championship. The fourth round of the FIA Formula E Championship takes place in Buenos Aires, Argentina on 10th January, 2015. For information about the Andretti Formula-E Team, visit www.fiaformulae.com/andretti and stay up to date on Twitter via @AndrettiFE.