7th February 2018
Tom Blomqvist bounced back from a disappointing qualifying performance to deliver an impressive drive in the Santiago E-Prix to finish just outside of the points in 11th place.
The fourth race of the 2017/18 ABB FIA Formula E campaign saw the championship travel to Santiago for the series’ first appearance in the Chilean capital. Tom and the MS&AD Andretti Formula E team headed to South America with a level of uncertainty as the circuit hosted its first-ever race weekend.
The action once again fell on a busy Saturday with two free practice sessions commencing proceedings in Santiago. As Tom finished the sessions in 19th and 18th place respectively, he was then drawn into the fourth group for qualifying as he searched to secure a positive starting position for the race.
Unfortunately for Tom, his second-ever ABB FIA Formula E qualifying session didn’t go as planned as he made contact with the wall in the final sector of his flying lap, resulting in damage to the right rear of his car and a loss of time. Tom managed to cross the line and set a time of 1:20.422 to qualify in 18th place for the Santiago E-Prix.
With the start and finish line in separate places of the track in Santiago, the grid had to make the long trip around to the start line as Tom lined up on the grid from 18th place. Getting away slowly, the pack headed down the bumpy straight into turn three and Tom remained tight to his competitors. However, the tight turn four saw drama as several cars made contact with one another which opened the door for Tom to pass through unscathed as other drivers found themselves caught up in all the drama.
Already up four positions into fourteenth, the safety car was deployed as Jose Maria Lopez pulled up on the side of the track and Maro Engel found himself in the wall. That meant the new BMW i8 Coupé Qualcomm Safety Car made its first appearance on track during a race and remained out for a number of laps while the cars were recovered and the debris was cleared from the track - meaning that less energy was being used and that strategies could be changed.
The safety car eventually pulled in on lap five and Tom got a good restart tucking up behind Jerome d’Ambrosio. As Daniel Abt retired from the race, Tom moved up the order to 13th place and remained in a close battle with d’Ambrosio and Edo Mortara.
An intra-team battle then ensued when Antonio Felix Da Costa got past Mortara and onto the tail on Tom. Tom then lost 13th to his teammate but remained in the battle and passed his more experienced stablemate a few laps later to retake the position. However, Tom’s energy was beginning to run low and his stop was getting close.
Eventually, Tom dived into the pits for his car change on lap 19 with 1% left in his battery. With no minimum time required in the pits, Tom rejoined the race 55.1 seconds later and moved up a position as Oliver Turvey ran into technical problems.
As positions changed up and down the order through the pitstops, Tom remained in 13th place but lost out to teammate Da Costa who was able to run two laps longer. Passing Nick Heidfeld on lap 24 and Alex Lynn on lap 27, Tom was now running in 11th place and was knocking on the door of the points paying positions. However, with Tom one of the earliest to switch cars, he was beginning to have to manage his energy and couldn’t quite catch Nicolas Prost in 10th place.
Taking the chequered flag at the end of lap 37, Tom finished the Santiago E-Prix in 11th place, seven positions better off than his starting place but just missing out on points after an impressive drive through the field.
Tom was satisfied with his final result and although disappointed with his qualifying, the 24-year-old knows there’s still a lot to learn.
“I touched the wall in the final sector of my qualifying lap. Starting from so far back obviously does not make the race any easier. I kept out of all the turmoil. Eleventh place is ok given that we still have a lot to learn. However, to be honest, I had the feeling that we could still have got more out of that race.”
Currently occupying 17th in the Drivers’ Standings from his two races, next up Tom is a trip to Mexico for the fifth round of the ABB FIA Formula E Championship on 3rd March.