Maximilian Günther has claimed his first Formula E victory, succeeding in a last lap pass for the lead on António Félix da Costa to win the Santiago ePrix.

Günther started from second on the grid alongside the Jaguar of Mitch Evans, but unlike the Kiwi – who held position to lead the field through the opening laps – Günther lost a position to Pascal Wehrlein (Mahindra) on the run to Turn 2.

Evans took the first of his two Attack Mode activations on Lap 8 in a bid to build a lead, however a full-course yellow after twelve laps – brought about by Günther’s BMW teammate (and championship leader) Alexander Sims stopping on track with damage sustained from hitting the walls – nullified the Jaguar’s advantage. The race resumed with 37 minutes left to run, and Evans soon took his second Attack Mode to again defend his lead.

Shortly after, Günther activated Attack Mode to challenge Wehrlein for second place, finding his way through and starting to hunt down Evans. On Lap 19, with 25 minutes remaining on the race clock and still with Attack Mode activated, Günther pressured the New Zealander – initially with an unsuccessful move early in the lap, before making a pass stick for the lead on the sweeping approach to Turn 9.

2020 Santiago ePrix start

Stymied by software issues and bad luck with the timing of his Attack Mode deployments, pole-sitter Mitch Evans eventually fell victim to Günther on Lap 19.

Further back in the chasing pack, the DS Techeetah pair of da Costa and Jean-Éric Vergne had been progressing forward together from tenth and eleventh respectively on the grid. Vergne had jumped ahead of his teammate early in the running, but was also involved in an early skirmish and was carrying notable damage at the front of his car. The duo’s rise up the leaderboard was assisted by another pair of team matesfeuding: when Edoardo Mortara pushed fellow Venturi driver Felipe Massa wide and into the fence at Turn 10 on Lap 15, both DS Techeetahs found their way through into fifth and sixth.

Vergne soon led the pair up to third and fourth – a remarkable charge from the start – but the early damage came back to haunt the reigning champion, as bodywork began to rub on the front tyre, smoking and allowing da Costa and Wehrlein through. Eventually the rubbing became too much, the bodywork deflating the tyre and forcing Vergne into the pits and out of the race. Now carrying the hopes for DS Techeetah on his own, da Costa continued to push forward and passed Evans for second place through the fast Turn 8.

With three minutes to go, da Costa had reached the back of Günther‘s BMW, and a decisive move into the Turn 10 hairpin forced Günther wide and handed da Costa the lead.

The race wasn’t yet over though, as the da Costa soon received a message from the pit wall directing the Portuguese driver to urgently manage his battery temperatures – as predicted before the event, the Chilean summer heat impacting car and driver performance during the race. The critical need to preserve his car prevented da Costa from trying to build a lead, instead having to continue to defend Günther’s advances.

With less than a minute left, and drivers on the final lap, Günther made a final challenge through Turn 8 and under braking into Turn 9. He made the pass stick, and held position through the two hairpins to end the lap – scoring his first victory in Formula E, with da Costa taking second place 2.067 seconds behind.

Mercedes’ Nyck de Vries had quietly moved forward himself in the latter stages of the race after initially dropping a handful of positions from his eighth place start, finding his way past Wehrlein and Evans late to cross the line in third position. It was soon announced that due to a technical breach the Dutchman was handed a five-second time penalty, demoting de Vries to fifth and bringing Evans back on to the podium.

Speaking after the race, Günther praised his team’s strategy as he celebrated his maiden win: “Today is a dream come true. For all of us it was about managing the race in hot conditions and it was a straight fight for the win. Having not made a great start on the dirty side of the track, which cost me a position, we used the Attack Modes very cleverly. That allowed me to take the lead. In that heat, it was also important to keep an eye on the temperature of the batteries. We did that really well.

“On the final lap, António had to coast a little earlier than me on the straight. I thought to myself ‘now or never’ and went for the overtake. Fortunately, it came off!”

Evans later revealed he battled with software problems in his car throughout the race – which resulted in a need so save significant energy late in proceedings – describing third place as a nice consolation, but also frustrating that he couldn’t convert pole position into victory: “The race sort of slipped from our hands, it was a bit of a strange one. From the start, we had software problems that we had to deal with – I’d never experienced them before. I over-consumed energy because I wasn’t getting any information…it left me blind and getting no guidance…it was extremely difficult to manage the race today. It could have been a lot worse but we need to look into it. I’m happy with the result but it was bittersweet.”

Behind the top five finishers, de Vries’ Mercedes teammate Stoffel Vandoorne continued his consistent results to start the season with sixth place, ahead of Lucas di Grassi – the Audi driver claiming his drive from 23rd on the grid to seventh “felt like a win”.

James Calado finished eighth in the second Jaguar, while Massa and Sam Bird – who spun early in the race following contact with Nissan’s Oliver Rowland – completed the top ten.

Having led the Drivers’ Championship coming to Santiago, Sims’ failure to finish has benefited Vandoorne, with the Mercedes driver now holding a three-point lead in the Drivers’ standings over his BMW rival. Bird’s recovery to tenth, along with the bonus point for setting the fastest lap of the race, has kept the Envision Virgin racer third in the standings.

Despite not scoring any points across the two opening races of the season, Günther‘s victory (and the 25 points that come with it) moved the German straight up to fourth in the standings, ahead of di Grassi who holds fifth place. Rowland, da Costa, Evans, Porsche’s Andre Lotterer and Mortara fill positions six to ten.

In the Teams’ Championship points, victory has moved BMW i Andretti (60 points) top the top of the tree, four points ahead of Mercedes. Envision Virgin Racing have slipped to third, 18 points further back, ahead of Audi Sport ABT Schaeffler (32 points) and Jaguar (31 points).

The FIA Formula E Championship remains in the Americas for the fourth race of the season, with the Mexico City ePrix set for Saturday 15 February.

2020 Formula E Santiago ePrix – Final Classification (40 laps)
Driver Team / Entry Result Pts
1. Maximilian Günther BMW i Andretti Motorsport 46:11.511 25
2. António Félix da Costa DS Techeetah + 2.067 18
3. Mitch Evans Panasonic Jaguar Racing + 5.119 19
4. Pascal Wehrlein Mahindra Racing + 7.050 12
5. Nyck de Vries Mercedes-Benz EQ Formula E Team + 9.883 10
6. Stoffel Vandoorne Mercedes-Benz EQ Formula E Team + 11.237 8
7. Lucas di Grassi Audi Sport ABT Schaeffler + 14.437 6
8. James Calado Panasonic Jaguar Racing + 18.255 4
9. Felipe Massa ROKiT Venturi Racing + 20.430 2
10. Sam Bird Envision Virgin Racing + 21.780 2
11. Oliver Turvey NIO 333 FE Team + 27.778
12. Nico Müller GEOX Dragon + 33.786
13. Sébastien Buemi Nissan e.dams + 43.257
14. Daniel Abt Audi Sport ABT Schaeffler + 47.198
15. Robin Frijns Envision Virgin Racing + 1 lap
16. Ma Qing Hua NIO 333 FE Team + 1 lap
17. Oliver Rowland Nissan e.dams + 4 laps
Not Classified Team / Entry Reason Pts
NC. Jérôme d’Ambrosio Mahindra Racing + 1:57.624
DNF. Brendon Hartley GEOX Dragon Retired
DNF. Jean-Éric Vergne DS Techeetah Damage
DNF. Edoardo Mortara ROKiT Venturi Racing Collision
DNF. Alexander Sims BMW i Andretti Motorsport Collision
DNF. Neel Jani TAG Heuer Porsche Formula E Team Collision
DSQ. André Lotterer TAG Heuer Porsche Formula E Team Energy Use

Championship Points:

  • Championship points are awarded on the results of the Final Classification of each ePrix to the race’s top-ten finishers on a 25-18-15-12-10-8-6-4-2-1 sliding scale.
  • A bonus point is awarded to the driver (Sam Bird) and their corresponding team (Envision Virgin Racing) for posting the fastest lap of the race.
  • Three bonus points are awarded to the driver (Mitch Evans) and their corresponding team (Panasonic Jaguar Racing) for claiming pole position.
  • A bonus point is awarded to the driver (Mitch Evans) and their corresponding team (Panasonic Jaguar Racing) for being the fastest driver in the group stages of qualifying.

Post-Race Penalties:

  • Nyck de Vries was issued a 5-second post-race time penalty for not respecting the minimum coolant temperatures.
  • Nico Müller was issued a 10-second post-race time penalty for causing an avoidable collision.
  • Sébastien Buemi was issued a drive-through penalty (converted to a 30-second time penalty) for not respecting the homologated throttle pedal map.
  • Jérôme d’Ambrosio was issued a drive-through penalty (converted to a 30-second time penalty) for not respecting the homologated throttle pedal map.
  • Daniel Abt was issued a drive-through penalty (converted to a 30-second time penalty) for causing an avoidable collision.
  • Ma Qing Hua was issued a 5-second post-race time penalty for not respecting the power availability and a 10-second stop-and-go penalty (converted to a 45-second time penalty) for not using the ‘Attack Mode’.
  • André  Lotterer was disqualified for exceeding the maximum 200kW power limit (230.51kW).

Images via ABB FIA Formula E Championship

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Mitch Timms

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