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Third round in the exotic half of this year’s championship was held in South America’s Santiago – Chile’s capital, and the place that will make the Gen2’s cooling systems to work harder than ever! This year, the track’s location is in another city park – a lot of dust and leaves on the tarmac, especially in FP1. No need to search for a track map – just imagine a whale drawing by a four year old, and you have it!
Pole position was won by Lucas di Grassi, who was sent to the back of the grid because he (and I’m citing) “used more breaks in the inlap than on the fast one” – “the most stupid rule that motorsport has ever created” – said the punished driver on the grid before the race, and I tend to agree, though the fight for the dumb-crown is close! The top three in the championship will try to do their best to go up during the race, as leader Jerome d’Ambrosio will start 20th; Antonio Felix da Costa will need more than ever his BMW’s race pace – three places in front of the Belgian, and Jean-Eric Vergne – 12th! Seb Buemi will be sitting pretty in top spot, with the faster and faster Pascal Wehrlein next. Behind them – the survived other Audi of Daniel Abt and the always ready to punch above his weight – Sam Bird.
I’m opening a beer as the race broadcast starts, thinking about the 40 plus degrees temperature difference between Santiago and my conquered by snow location… wish I was there! Can those new McLaren batteries handle ambient temp of 37-38 degrees? We’ll find out today!
The machines accelerate on the bouncy surface towards Turn 1, with top five positions remaining the same for now. Two, even three-wide for a few corners, but everyone’s behaving and there are only mild contacts. Sam Bird seems as the only one knowing that the beginning of a race is a great time to pass, and catches by surprise the sleeping Daniel Abt in the next to last hairpin! There are some other moves in the same corner – seems the best passing spot on the “whale” track. Buemi doesn’t enjoy Wehrlein’s company too much – he passes through the Attack Mode activation lane quite early in the race, with somehow not losing the lead – close, but far enough! Soon after, the park trees start their protest against the humans obstructing their view, and toss a good-sized branch on the track! If the officials throw in the Safety Car for this, Seb’s AM will go down the drain as something forgotten in the fridge for so long, that is now unidentifiable! He starts to pull away from the young German, who is now closer to Bird’s Virgin (pun intended).
Ten minutes into the race and the purple car on the bottom podium spot activates AM, as it seems will be needed to pass the rookie in front. Championship top-three are nowhere, with only da Costa making some progress – up to 14th, while Jerome is still 20thand JEV has dropped down behind him (turned around by da Costa, who was pushed by the other Tacheetah in the T13 hairpin)… there will be some moves in the points standings!
Sam Bird breaks his camera in the Mahindra’s diffuser and passes Wehrlein in T1 for second place – less than two seconds to Buemi! Can the Britton catch the leader? Damn, this concrete straight is bumpy – the Gen2’s suspension is holding up well. Half of the drivers are in Attack Mode – it won’t work if everyone’s using it at the same time, guys…
Maxi Günther is probably not much surprised when his Dragon stops for the 234897thtime this weekend, halting on the main straight. Full course yellow appears, and takes a dump on few drivers’ AMs. Shortly beforehand, di Grassi rams Pechito from behind, spinning him and penalty is inevitable.
The crowd rightfully cheers the brave marshals running in the scorching heat towards the dead Dragon – if it wasn’t for their unpaid efforts, motorsport would be dead!
Half way into the race, Fan Boost poll is once again won by currently well placed in sixth position Stoffel Vandoorne, with 4th-placed Abt and leader Buemi getting some extra juice too.
The yellow comes to an end, with Sam Bird glued to race leader Buemi’s back like a purple bee to Swiss cheese! On the outside of some corners there’s too much debris – not only tire marbles, but pieces from the surface, crumbling like an old bread! The car microphones send a clattering noise, like in a macadam rally! A HWA seems to catch some of them half a meter outside the racing line, and continues sledding straight in the barrier! Oh, no – Stoffel’s luck just found new depths together with thedisintegrating surface!
Quick Full Course Yellow, allowing the leader to be caught by the two guys behind, and on the restart we have a three-way battle for the win – awesome! Be careful going outside the racing line, guys – the marble traps are all over the place! The Virgin is desperately trying to pass for the lead in turn 13, locking wheels each time, but without success.
The leader binned it! Pressure or a small mistake – went too fast in a chicane, locked wheels and with the help of before mentioned debris – destroyed the front wing in the barrier! Twenty second lap brings us a new leader – Sam Bird, who might be given a taste of his own medicine by doctor Wehrlein. Or not, as the man from Roehampton quickly puts some distance to the Mahindra.
Top four look stable, so the guys behind them decide to go crazy over fifth spot – Edo Mortara and Robin Frijns take their last Attack Mode and start dueling, with the former almost putting the latter in the wall before the whale’s blowhole chicane! Careful, Edo – enough penalties were given already!
With six minutes left, Pascal uses his last AM in an effort to catch and pass the leading Bird, who has none of these left. Catching is one thing, passing – another, as they say and is proven right, as just as the attacks start, Mahindra team boss politely implies on the radio, that he should keep it safe to the finish… Why, Dilbagh, why? Not that the driver listens too much – a bit more careful, but keeps the pressure on Bird.
Turn seven’s surface condition is now much more suitable for a back alley, where you certainly will be mugged or offered some love for sale (or both), than a track – fortunately race is almost finished.
Sam Bird takes the win, in front of rookies Pascal Wehrlein, and Alex Sims! Race is over… not! Sims is penalized for his antics earlier with Mortara, and 3rdplace goes to Daniel Abt! Stewards are outdoing themselves this week – so much justice served, Judge Dredd is blushing and winking at them! Just for the fun of it, while the Virgin team is celebrating on the podium a message appears that their winning driver is being investigated for being underweight (not mentioned the car or the driver, wink!), but fortunately they refrain from changing the winner post-race.
The winner of the race takes the lead with a single point advantage, which could be twice the size, if it wasn’t the heroic race from Jerome d’Ambrosio – finished 8thfrom 20thplace on the grid! Of course, he got slapped with 5 secs and went to 10th! Total number of penalties in weekend is 17 – that’s more punishment than in a well-sized BDSM orgy! Behind the top two in the title run is even closer, as 3rdto 5thhave equal 28 points (DAC-FRI-JEV)! Young musketeer (both as a rookie and as facial hair arrangement) Wehrlein is both happy and disappointed. He deserved the win no less than his flying (both as speed and surname) opponent. You’ll live to fight another day, Pascal, I’m sure!
Hopefully the championship will be back in Chile next year, but please guys – put some proper surface!
The curtain falls.