| Lyna Mohamad |
AT 37 degrees Celsius, recording the hottest race ever in Formula E history, title defender Audi Sport ABT Schaeffler claimed its first podium of the season in Santiago de Chile last weekend with Sam Bird from the Audi customer team Envision Virgin Racing pocketing the first victory of the Audi e-tron FEO5.
The new electric racing car featuring the Motor Generator Unit (MGU) developed jointly by Audi and technology partner Schaeffler, right from the outset, was the car to beat under very difficult conditions.
Formula E driver Lucas di Grassi promptly posted the fastest time in the first free practice session on the new street circuit in Santiago’s O’Higgins Park and with an impressive margin of 0.526 seconds, the Brazilian distanced himself from the rest of the field and managed to drive “the best lap” of his Formula E career.
Both drivers in the Audi Sport ABT Schaeffler team qualified in the top six for the Super Pole qualifying with teammate Daniel Abt securing third place in scorching temperatures in the shade at the wheel of his Audi e-tron FEO5, after taking up the race from the third grid spot.
And thus the first podium for the title defenders Audi Sport ABT Schaeffler in the 2018/2019 ABB FIA Formula Championship season, while at the same time Abt also earned the extra point for the fastest race lap.
Abt commented that it was an incredibly tough race, saying, “It was extremely hot out there. But sometimes you just have to stay cool, and that’s what we did in the race.”
The first podium of the season is really important for their team, said Abt, adding that their squad worked hard and more than deserved the result.
He added, “We’ve underlined that we’re making progress and are on the right track. And we’ll continue to fight.”
Relegated from pole position to start from the back of the grid due to a rule infraction during the in-lap of the previous group qualifying, Lucas di Grassi fought his way up the field from 22nd position on the grid into ninth place, only to receive a time penalty as a result of a collision, which threw him back to 12th.
“In the race we saw many drivers making mistakes in very tough conditions,” said Team Principal of Audi Sport ABT Schaeffler Allan McNish.
McNish, feeling proud of Daniel Abt, added that after a strong qualifying performance under difficult conditions, Abt drove a clean race from start to finish and brought home the first podium result of the season for their team.
He said, “A superb job! Lucas had to fight his way back up from the very back of the field after his problem in qualifying and unfortunately didn’t score any points this time.”
Sam Bird from the Audi customer team Envision Virgin Racing won the Santiago de Chile race where the British driver forced leading Nissan driver Sébastien Buemi into making a mistake and also kept the Mahindra of former DTM champion Pascal Wehrlein in check.
Meanwhile, Bird’s teammate Robin Frijns rounded off the strong performance of the Audi e-tron FE05 with a fifth place finish.
“After a hot action-packed and incredible Formula E race, it turned out to be an excellent result for Audi,” Head of Audi Motorsport Dieter Gass said.
“The first win of the season thanks to our customer team Envision Virgin Racing and the first podium for our factory squad.”
He noted that it was a pity that di Grassi was stripped of his pole position due to a minor infraction.
He said, “He would certainly have been fighting for victory in the race. We’re taking many positive insights from the weekend to the next round in Mexico.”
The fourth round of the Formula E season will be contested on February 16 in Mexico City.
Daniel Abt celebrated his maiden victory in the electric racing series there last year, thus laying the foundation for winning the teams’ championship.