Following a one year hiatus, Uruguay’s Formula E event – the Punta del Este ePrix returns this Saturday, March 17.
|Punta del Este Circuit|
|Location||Punta del Esta, Uruguay||Circuit Length||2.785 km / 1.731 mi|
|Opened||2007||First Formula E Event||2014|
|Direction||Anticlockwise||Race Lap Record||1:17.413, Sébastien Buemi (Renault e.Dams( – 2015|
Dubbed ‘the Monaco of South America’, the streets of the seaside resort town of Punte del Este in Uruguay have been welcoming motorsport since the early 1980s.
Its inaugural race was in 1981 when it staged a round of the Argentine Formula 2 championship on a layout that wound its way around the streets straddling the Mansa beach. It quickly grew into a fixture event on what became the South American Codasur F2 series, with Argentine driver Guillermo Maldonado winning a staggering four times between 1981-85. The local Formula 3 championship staged races in 1987-88 and the engines fell silent for over almost two decades.
In the mid-2000s a group of local businessmen successfully lobbied for a return to racing, and in 2007 it managed to secure a round of the highly popular Argentine TC2000 touring car series, with support billing from the Renault Megane Cup and Formula Renault Argentina championships.
The new layout was set up on the eastern side of the city peninsula alongside the Playa Brava beach, with several high-speed sections that only served to highlight the proximity of the unyielding concrete walls that lined the circuit.
While the circuit has undergone a number of minor layout changes, its daunting characteristics have gone untouched and it is a challenge that will reward the most committed of racing drivers. The added hazard of the beach’s sand being constantly blown onto the track only adds to the thrill of a truly great venue.
As a two-time Punta del Este winner and the holder of both the qualifying lap and race lap records, few are better qualified to provide an insight into the 2.785-kilometre circuit than Sébastien Buemi: “It’s the most unique circuit, With a lot of quick, tight chicanes. It’s a very high-speed circuit, which I enjoy.”
The 2018 ePrix is due to run for 37 laps – four laps longer than when the series last visited the circuit in late 2015, and six laps longer than the inaugural event in 2014. While energy use and battery management has improved in the series over the intervening years, the increased distance will still provide a challenge to teams and drivers.
The Form Guide
The event also marks the halfway point of the season, which so far has shown a different group of drivers rise to the front compared to the previous three seasons.
Techeetah’s Jean-Éric Vergne currently leads the Drivers’ Championhip standings by 12 points ahead of Felix Rosenqvist, with Sam Bird a further eight points back. Despite Vergne and Bird having a quiet event last time out in Mexico City – and in Rosenqvist’s case, failing to finish after leading – they remain at the head of the field and are likely to again feature in the results in Punta del Este. Vergne also has a strong history in Uruguay, taking pole position here on debut in the series during season one.
History at Punta del Este suggests Sébastien Buemi will be strong this week. The Season 2 champion is the winner of both races held to date held at the circuit, and will be looking to make it three wins in a row. The Swiss driver and his Renault e.Dams team has progressively been improving their performances after a poor start to the season with second place in Mexico leaving Buemi fourth in the driver’s standings, 29 points behind Vergne.
The last round in Mexico City was won by Daniel Abt, with the Audi Sport ABT Schaeffler team suffering a truly horrific start to the season prior to the German’s first career victory. Abt – along with team mate and reigning champion Lucas di Grassi – will be looking to build upon their momentum from Mexico, with race wins the team’s primary focus moving forward.
Jaguar drivers Nelson Piquet Jr and Mitch Evans are also likely to be in the mix in Punta del Este. The pair sits fifth and seventh in the championship respectively (sitting either side of Abt), with Piquet scoring three fourth place positions so far this season. While the inaugural series champion’s hunt for his elusive first podium with the team continues, the form to date suggests it’s simply a matter of time.
The Punta del Este ePrix commences on Saturday with opening practice at 08:00 local time (UTC -03:00), ahead of practice two at 10:30. Qualifying is scheduled for a 12:00 start, with Super Pole from 12:45. The 2018 CBMM Niobium Punta del Este E-Prix race start is set for 16:00 local time.
|2017-18 ABB FIA Formula E Championship – Punta del Este ePrix|
|Date||17 March 2018||Free Practice Session 1||Sat 08:00-08:45|
|Free Practice Session 2||Sat 10:30-11:00||Qualifying||Sat 12:00-12:36|
|‘Super Pole’||Sat 12:45-13:00||Race (37 laps)||Sat 16:00-17:00|
Session times quoted in Uruguay Time (GMT -3:00)
Images via FIA Formula E Championship