Qualifying and Super Pole gave us a shock to the system when the newcomers stormed into the top spots and championship leaders were bottom of the heap.
After both Free Practice sessions, we move onto Qualifying, to see which six drivers will fiercely battle it out in the Super Pole Shootout. Qualifying is split into four groups of either five or six drivers to see where each of them can finish. Group 1 normally hosts people who are at the top of the championship, with Group 4, giving us drivers without points or who are completely new to the sport. This can sometimes give us an idea of who we will see in Super Pole but every so often, a surprise comes along and things get shaken upside down.
Group 1 saw Robin Frijns, Jean-Eric Vergne, Antonio Felix Da Costa, Andre Lotterer and Jerome D’Ambrosio start the fight to see who could put in the pace setting times. Frijns was out on track first and, despite this being a 6 minute session, he came out with 2 minutes and 50 seconds remaining. Following Frijns was D’Ambrosio who decided to give it full power rather than doing an out lap, which may have not been the best idea as he had a slide near the chicane and a slight hiccup at turn 13. So for D’Ambrosio who, despite doing his best qualifying lap of the season, only managed a 1.10:083 which was quite a way away from the top time from FP2 of 1.08:630. Lotterer, who was already -0.7 up in sector 1 was sure to put in a good lap, and it was looking that way until he messed up on the exit of turn 14 but it still put him at the top with a 1.09:485. Vergne then put in the best time of Group 1 with a 1.09:307 to push his DS Techeetah teammate into second.
Group 2 then saw Sam Bird, Lucas DiGrassi, Mitch Evans, Sebastian Buemi and Alexander Sims come out to see how the standings would change. With 3 minutes remaining, the cars made their way to the track and began to do their out laps before giving it full force. DiGrassi decided to copy D’Ambrosio and go full power immediately and was able to go round the track on an almost flawless lap and went quickest with a 1.08:842. The rest of the drivers in Group 2 then seemed to find a lot of pace with Buemi redeeming himself after his FP1 disaster and setting the fastest time of 1.08:664. Group 2 had an amazing run with Vergne being the only remaing Group 1 runner as the Group 2 drivers had pushed Lotterer, Frijns, Da Costa and D’Ambrosio out of reach from Super Pole.
In Group 3, we had Nelson Piquet Jr., Maximillian Gunther, Jose Maria Lopez, Oliver Turvey, Oliver Rowland and Daniel Abt, to see what they could do to mix up the order. Piquet and Turvey did not have the best qualifying session as they could not find the pace to get themselves anywhere near the top 6. Rowland had heartache where he was 7th quickest, missing out on Super Pole by +0.7 and elation was quickly diminished for Lopez, who had slotted himself into 5th but, then got pushed down to 7th by Abt who pushed himself into 4th position, earning a huge smile and clap from team leader, Allan McNish.
Last but not least, Group 4 got underway with Stoffel Vandoorne, Tom Dillman, Gary Paffett, Felipe Massa, Eduoardo Mortara and Pascal Wehrlein. We saw Wehrlein out first and you could see the car juddering over those bumps but that did not seem to phase him as he was -0.2 fastest of anyone in qualifying so far. Wehrlein then crossed the line putting in a phenomenal 1.08:463. Another surprise was Vandoorne who had had a rollercoaster of bad luck in the last two rounds of this Formula E season but he was not going to let that weigh him down as he put his car in 5th, ready to fight for Super Pole. This finished of our top 6 for Super Pole, which meant we had Wehrlein, Buemi, DiGrassi, Bird, Vandoorne and Abt ready to fight it out whereas championship front runners D’Ambrosio and Da Costa were 21st and 18th.
Super Pole was another exciting story as we were able to witness newcomers like Wehrlein and Vandoorne show what they are capable of and previous champion, DiGrassi, show his continued fighting spirit. Going out in reverse order, we saw Abt out first but it was not an exciting lap and he set the bar at 1.08:958. Vandoorne was out next and it was a much better lap than we had seen from the Belgian but not enough, putting him in second place. We then saw Bird out on track and it was bit of a messy lap, which is strange from the Envision Racing driver, and he could only slot into third place. Up next, ex-champion DiGrassi came out on showed everyone how it is done and put his car in provisional pole with a 1.08:290. Buemi also had a lovely lap, gliding round the track beautifully but could not quite match the Brazilian and put himself in second. Wehrlein was last out to see if he could put himself on pole and he gave it a really good try but it was not as serene as his qualifying lap and he put himself into third place.
A huge acheivement for the Audi Sport ABT Shaeffler team with having their drivers on the first and second row of the grid. Both DiGrassi and Abt spoke to Nicki Sheilds after Super Pole to express their emotions. “Great, great lap, one of my best laps in my Formula E career, I just nail it. Audi car is first, we are first, I didn’t expect that. That is Formula E, you have to nail it when you need it” DiGrassi told the pit lane reporter, showing his elation. “Really happy that we are back at the top. Now it’s going to be a hot, tough race. Fans can expect a crazy race today,” Abt explained his feelings on how he thinks the E-Prix will go down.
UPDATE: Lucas DiGrassi has been excluded from today’s qualifying due to an infraction against certain regulations. HWA AG Official Twitter page posted that “Unfortunately Vandoorne was moved back one starting position to P6” as he did not make the lights in time when leaving the pit lane but quickly updated their tweet by explaining Vandoorne was now back up to P5 due to DiGrassi’s exclusion. DiGrassi will now start at the back of the grid.
Make sure you check back later for a race rundown.
Feature Image Credit: ABB FIA Formula E Website