DS Virgin Racing’s Sam Bird topped the first free practice session in Santiago, with most drivers struggling with the bumps around the Chilean circuit.

The Briton set his time very late in the session, which was stopped with more than three minutes left on the clock after Venturi’s Maro Engel crashed into the barriers at the tricky Turn 3.

“I think we feel quite confident around this circuit. Really difficult though, really bumpy,” said Bird.

Championship leader Felix Rosenqvist was another to set a late time, and he slotted ahead of previous pace-setter and championship rival Jean-Eric Vergne into second place.

Mitch Evans put his Jaguar in fourth, with Vergne’s Techeetah team-mate Andre Lotterer and Virgin’s Alex Lynn completing the top six as the only other two drivers to get within half a second of Bird’s session topping time.

Dragon’s Jose Maria Lopez was seventh fastest, ahead of Venturi driver Edoardo Mortara, who got especially close to the walls on some occasions, NIO’s Oliver Turvey and Jaguar’s Nelson Piquet Jr.

Audi Sport ABT Schaeffler pair Lucas di Grassi and Daniel Abt could only manage 11th and 12th fastest, suggesting di Grassi’s 10-place grid penalty may put him on the last few rows of the grid. Renault e.dams also struggled, with Sebastien Buemi missing a lot of track time after crashing at the final corner and going 13th fastest, although the Swiss driver did top the time sheets several times.

The surface changes, aggressive bumps and low sun made the session particularly difficult, and most errors occurred at Turn 3, which is preceded by a long straight with a kink just before the braking zone.

Teams also used the session to practice car swaps, with Formula E’s new seatbelts and pit stop rulings being implemented for the first time this weekend.

Free Practice 1 results
1 Sam Bird, DS Virgin Racing, 1m19.439s
2 Felix Rosenqvist, Mahindra, +0.207s
3 Jean-Eric Vergne, Techeetah-Renault, +0.262s
4 Mitch Evans, Jaguar, +0.380s
5 Andre Lotterer, Techeetah-Renault, +0.385s
6 Alex Lynn, DS Virgin Racing, +0.468s
7 Jose Maria Lopez, Dragon-Penske, +0.737s
8 Edoardo Mortara, Venturi, +0.826s
9 Oliver Turvey, NIO, +0.870s
10 Nelson Piquet Jr, Jaguar, +0.957s
11 Lucas di Grassi, Audi Sport ABT Schaeffler, +0.966s
12 Daniel Abt, Audi Sport ABT Schaeffler, +10.038s
13 Sebastien Buemi, Renault e.dams, +1.146s
14 Nicolas Prost, Renault e.dams, +1.375s
15 Nick Heidfeld, Mahindra, +1.513s
16 Jerome d’Ambrosio, Dragon-Penske, +1.594s
17 Luca Filippi, NIO, +1.785s
18 Maro Engel, Venturi, +2.431s
19 Tom Blomqvist, Andretti, +3.941s
20 Antonio Felix da Costa, Andretti, +4.177s