Uruguay’s Punta del Este ePrix takes place this weekend in the third round of the FIA Formula E Championship, with new entries and a continuing title race in store at the Uruguayan street circuit.
“The Monte Carlo of South America” will throw up plenty of challenges for the Formula E field as the twenty turn 2.8km circuit looks the most intricate yet. While a new circuit, Audi Sport ABT’s Daniel Abt hit a time of 1min 15secs in the simulator prior to the event, suggesting a track that could see plenty of power extracted from the batteries.
Experience could be key on the streets, and while Formula E is still in the early stages of its first season, two new additions to the field come with great single-seater CVs.
Jean-Éric Vergne begins life without Toro Rosso, jumping into the Andretti Autosport Renault-Spark vacated by Charles Pic.
“It’s not often that you get to race at this time of the year,” Vergne said. “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. The weekend will be a little like a journey into the unknown, but it is a journey that I am thoroughly looking forward to!”
Fellow debutants include Antonio Garcia for China Racing and Salvador Duran for Amlin Aguri, with the pair replacing Ho-Pin Tung and Katherine Legge respectively. Garcia is looking to get off the mark quickly following his positive Donington tests.
“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,” said Garcia.
Back to the continuing drivers and Virgin Racing’s Sam Bird will be looking to repeat his dominant race victory in the Putrajaya ePrix and finds himself batting in the early stages of the title race.
With Audi Sport ABT’s Lucas Di Grassi leading the standings ahead of the Brit by three points, all eyes will be on whether di Grassi continues his form with the Brazilian looking the driver of the season so far in his ‘home race’ of sorts.
“Punta del Este for me is one of the highlights on the Formula E calendar,” said di Grassi. “The track runs directly alongside the beach and is very demanding. It’ll be a tough race because the battle at the front is becoming closer and closer. For me Punta is a home race in a way as São Paulo and the Brazilian border aren’t so far away. Friends, family and fans are going to be on location and support our squad.”
Third placed Franck Montagny has been a tale of two races so far, with an impressive debut race in Beijing seeing the Frenchman take second before following it with up a clumsy retirement in Putrajaya.
While not taking the highest of returns points wise, e.dams-Renault’s Nicolas Prost has been the man to beat on the timesheets in qualifying, and the fourth placed Frenchman could well be the benchmark in Uruguay.
Dragon Racing look the team closest to breaking e.dam’s grip, with Oriol Servia taking pole in Putrajaya after Prost’s penalty and team-mate Jerome D’Ambrosio improving to take fifth.
While some look up to the top, some are looking to get off the mark, hoping that it’ll be third time lucky as Trulli GP and their drivers Michela Cerutti and Jarno Trulli look to overcome their bad luck and score their first points of the season.
Other strugglers include Mahindra Racing’s Bruno Senna and Venturi GP’s Nick Heidfeld, with the pair finding the barriers more than the checkered flag so far this season, despite both looking quick on the track.
Action begins on Saturday, with the two practice sessions beginning at 8am local time before the four qualifying sessions begin at 12. The race will take place at 4pm local time.