BMW’s gamble on youth pays off
The youngest driver on the Formula E grid outshone the many, more familiar names in Santiago on Saturday by claiming an impressive and dramatic last-lap victory for the BMW-Andretti team.
German Maximilian Günther, 22, is an ex-Formula 3 and Formula 2 racer who previously raced for Geox Dragon Racing in the all-electric single-seater series, but for this season has landed a plum drive at BMW. He has replaced Antonio Felix da Costa, who has switched to the championship-winning DS Techeetah team – and to add to his team’s satisfaction, it was the Portuguese Günther defeated in Chile, even after the race had seemingly slipped through his fingers.
Günther had looked set for victory after passing pole sitter and early leader Mitch Evans, after the Jaguar driver’s strategy of using his two bursts of ‘attack mode’ power boost early in the race to build a lead backfired and made him vulnerable to attack. Günther looked comfortable in the lead once he hit the front – until a charging da Costa homed in.
The DS driver rudely barged past the BMW entry into the Turn 10 hairpin, knocking Günther aside. But in the closing stages both drivers faced rising battery temperatures, which gave Günther his chance for revenge – and he swept around the outside of da Costa in impressive fashion into Turn 9 on the last lap to claim the biggest victory of his career so far.
Evans clung on to third place, even if Nyck de Vries beat him across the line. The Mercedes driver was given a five-second penalty for a technical infringement, dropping him to fifth behind Mahindra’s Pascal Wehrlein.
Former McLaren F1 driver Stoffel Vandoorne was sixth and now leads the standings for Mercedes in the car maker’s maiden season in Formula E. He is three points ahead of the other BMW driver, Britain’s Alexander Sims, who was out of luck in Chile after his own maiden victory in Saudi Arabia back in December. Sims clashed early on with André Lotterer and later retired with a broken driveshaft after hitting a wall.
The next round takes place in Mexico City on February 15th.