Following its inaugural two rounds in Asia, the FIA Formula E Championship ventures to South America this Saturday (December 13) for round 3, the Punta del Este ePrix in Uruguay.


The Circuit

2014 FORMULA E PUNTA DEL ESTE E-PRIX

Punta del Esta street circuit

Date: 13 December 2014
Lap Length: 2.800km
Free Practice Session 1 Sat 08:15-09:00
Free Practice Session 2 Sat 10:30-11:00
Qualifying Group 1 Sat 12:00-12:10
Qualifying Group 2 Sat 12:15-12:25
Qualifying Group 3 Sat 12:30-12:40
Qualifying Group 4 Sat 12:45-12:55
FanBoost Winner Sat 15:40
Race Sat 16:00-17:00

* Session times are quoted in Uruguay SummerTime (UTC -02:00 hrs)

At 2.8km in length and featuring 20 turns, the Punta del Este track will stage the first event where the Formula E Championship will visit a street circuit that has not been specifically-designed for the series, with the basis of the track having previously been used by the South American TC2000 touring car series.

The tight layout of the circuit, combined with its position along Punta del Este’s Playa Brava Beach harbour front, has led to comparisons as the ‘Monte Carlo of South America’. Turns 5, 8 and 17 – all positioned after straights or faster sweeping turns are likely to provide the main locations for overtaking, while the Turn 19 hairpin will be critical for drivers looking to gain a run on their competitors through the final corner and on to the front straight in preparation for a passing opportunity at Turn 1.

Teams are also preparing for multiple road surface changes around the circuit, with finding a usable balance between the varying levels of grip that each surface provides likely to be a key feature of developing car setup.


Line-up Changes

Three changes to the field of drivers are in place for Punta del Este. China Racing reserve driver Antonio García will make his competition debut, substituting for Ho-Pin Tung who is competing in the Abu Dhabi 12 hour GT event.

Salvador Durán steps in at Amlin Aguri for Katherine Legge, while the highest-profile change is the inclusion of Toro Rosso Formula 1 refugee Jean-Éric Vergne, who joins the Andretti Autosport team – which has so far run Franck Montagny, Charles Pic and Matthew Brabham across the two rounds so far respectively. Vergne will take over from Montagny this weekend, with Brabham in the team’s second car.

Joining the Formula E championship less than three weeks after completing his Formula 1 duties, Vergne detailed his excitement, despite not yet having driven a Formula E car: “It’s not often that you get to race at this time of the year. I am really looking forward to this opportunity, especially given its location in a place like Punta del Este. Although I have no experience in this new series, I am excited about the prospect of racing in Formula E, and racing for such a prestigious team as Andretti. As always, the main objective of the weekend is to stay out front and finish the year on a high note. The weekend will be a little like a journey into the unknown, but it is a journey that I am thoroughly looking forward to!”

Speaking ahead of his debut, García shared similar sentiments: “I’m looking forward to my first Formula E race. The track is new for everyone so for me the main challenge is going to be learning the car, in particular managing the battery. Having two races under his belt, Nelson [Piquet] should help me with this, as well as being able to analysis his data from Beijing and Putrajaya to help me get up to speed. During testing at Donington, I felt comfortable in the car and was lapping within the top five, so that’s where we hope to be fighting in Punta del Este. I guess I now need to start promoting myself for FanBoost!”

Meanwhile, Mexican Durán has been impressed by the new series, and hopes the technology he will be racing with can lead to global improvements: “I’m delighted with the opportunity to join the Amlin Aguri team and am very grateful to embark on this new venture with an exciting new team in a brand new sport. This innovative championship signals a new era for motorsport and I’m looking forward to getting involved. I have been following the team and the championship closely and I can see that this car reacts differently which is a fantastic challenge. I am a big fan of both clean energy and this new electric technology and I believe innovation from this series will help develop transport solutions that will make a big difference to the lives of people right across Latin America and the world.”


The Form Guide

With his dominant win in Putrajaya backing up a strong run in Beijing, Virgin Racing’s Sam Bird is the current form driver of the series, and will be looking to eclipse his three-point gap to championship leader Lucas di Grassi in Uruguay. eDAMS.Renault’s Nicolas Prost has qualified fastest in both ePrix to date, however on-track incidents and penalties have stopped him from translating this into race results – a situation he will be looking to rectify this weekend. Prost’s team mate Sebastien Buemi finally showed some race weekend pace in Putrajaya after a strong pre-season testing program, and will hope to place his season firmly back on track in Punta del Este.

Practice 1 begins the ePrix at 08:00 Punta del Este local time (UTC -02:00), with Practice 2 at 10:30. The first of the four ten minute qualifying groups hit the track at 12:00. The drivers who win the online vote to receive FanBoost will be announced at 15:40, ahead of the one-hour race starting at 16:00.

Images via Panoramio

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Mitch Timms

Journalist at MotorsportM8
Professional motorsport engineer and all-round tech head.
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