BMW i Andretti Motorsport’s Max Guenther took a hard-earned victory in the scorching heat of Santiago after a fierce battle with DS Techeetah’s Antonio Felix da Costa over the final lap. Panasonic Jaguar Racing driver Mitch Evans came home third after Mercedes’ Nyck de Vries, third on the road, was demoted to fifth for a battery infringement.
Making a strong start from pole position, Evans led the way into the opening laps followed by Mahindra Racing’s Pascal Wehrlein, as Guenther slipped back several places.
After clean running in the opening laps, things started getting hectic for a number of Formula E front-runners. Guenther’s BMW teammate, championship leader Alexander Sims, came to a halt on track, prompting a full-course yellow while his car was retrieved and racing restarted with 37 minutes left on the clock.
Heading through Turn 10-11 after the restart, Nissan e.dams’ Oliver Rowland made contact Envision Virgin Racing’s Sam Bird, damaging his front wing and tipping the British driver into a span, which dropped him to 19th.
Picking up the Attack Mode power boost, Guenther advanced on Rokit Venturi Racing’s Edoardo Mortara, using the extra power to blast past the Venturi driver and move back into his starting position of third. With Mortara in fourth and his teammate Felipe Massa in fifth, the two Venturi cars trailed the podium sitters, biding their time.
Heading into Turn 10 together, Massa was forced wide by his teammate, hitting the wall and dropping to seventh. Reigning champion and DS Techeetah driver Jean-Eric Vergne took advantage to slip past into fifth — up from an 11th-place start.
Guenther fought his way past Wehrlein for second and then, still in Attack Mode, Guenther went for the lead, slipping past Evans on the approach to Turn 9.
Despite starting from the back of the grid, Audi Sport Abt Schaeffler’s Lucas di Grassi moved up into 12th, two places off his teammate Daniel Abt.
With 14 minutes to go, Wehrlein slowed, allowing Vergne to pass into third as well as his teammate Antonio Felix da Costa, who now sat behind him in fourth.
With the two DS Techeetah drivers in third and fourth, reigning champion Vergne’s front-left tire started rubbing on the wing, leaving a trail of smoke behind him. Vergne continued — now in sixth — before the wing broke off with just seven minutes to go, at which point the reigning champion pulled into the pits with his damaged car.
Making a break for second, Da Costa passed Evans on the long Turn 8, and set about hunting down Guenther for the win. With both cars coming into Turn 10 together, Da Costa forced the BMW driver wide, passing on the inside and into first.
But Guenther wasn’t giving up. With less than a minute left, the German was back on the attack. Although both leading cars had the same level of energy, Guenther stormed past Da Costa going into Turn 9, regaining his lead. The 22-year-old pulled away to win by 2.067s, becoming the youngest-ever Formula E winner.
“Today is a dream come true,” said Guenther. “For all of us, it was about managing the race in hot conditions and it was a straight fight to the finish. Having not made a great start on the dirty side of the track, which actually cost me position, we used the extra power for Attack Mode very cleverly. That ultimately allowed me to take the lead. In those temperatures, it was also important to keep an eye on the battery. We did that really well and on the final lap, Antonio had to coast a little earlier than me on the straight. I thought to myself, ‘It is now or never’ and went for the overtake. Fortunately, it came off!”
“It is a bit of an awkward situation losing the win to BMW i Andretti Motorsport as my old team,”admitted da Costa, “but congratulations to Max. I am happy where I am, and we are only going to get better and improve as a team. It is going to be a fun season.
“A lot of positives to take away, but I lost out at the start as I got a massive hit from behind and my steering was never straight for the rest of the race. However, we have speed in the car and that made all the difference. I lost a lot of time behind JEV (Vergne) and was fed some wrong information on temperatures and when it all came down to the last lap… these guys just managed it better.”