Robin Frijns secures his maiden pole position in a qualifying marred by chaos with both Mercedes and Venturi banned from the session.
Following Nyck De Vries round one domination in Diriyah, drivers and teams returned for round two qualifying on Saturday in Saudi Arabia.
However, qualifying would be missing round one podium sitter Eduardo Mortara. The Swiss driver was taken to hospital as a precautionary measure following a dramatic crash at the conclusion of FP3. In a subsequent tweet, the Venturi team confirmed that Mortara was conscious but did not disclose the cause of the incident.
Another noticeable absence from the session was Andre Lotterer who sustained damage following a collision with the wall in FP3. Despite their best efforts, the Porsche team were unable to repair the car in time.
Moments before the start of qualifying, an unprecedented announcement from the stewards turned the session upside down. Stewards determined that both Mercedes and Venturi were forbidden to compete in qualifying amid investigations into the Mercedes powertrain following Mortara’s accident. As a result, group one only saw four drivers compete, of which only two managed to set a fast lap. Both Jaguar and Audi suffered strategic errors which led to Evans and Rast being unable to set a time.
Of the two remaining drivers in the group, Oliver Rowland unqualified Pascal Wehrlein by eight tenths of a second but neither driver could challenge for superpole.
Group two, missing the Mercedes of Stoffel Vandoorne, was somewhat less dramatic with all drivers leaving enough time to complete a competitive lap. Both Turvey and Da Costa put themselves into superpole contention with Turvey ahead of the reigning champion by two tenths, following an admirable lap for the NIO team.
The arrival of group three promoted a series of competitive laps with all four drivers; Frijns, Blomqvist, Vergne and Buemi all entering the superpole positions. The most impressive time came from Frijns who put himself and Virgin half a second ahead of the field.
In the final group of the session, three of the six remaining drivers (Sette Camara, Bird and Muller) made it into superpole, although none were able to beat Frijins earlier effort.
R. Frijns Envision Virgin Racing
S.S. Camara Dragon Penske Autosport
T. Blomqvist NIO 333
S. Bird Jaguar Racing
O. Turvey NIO 333
N. Muller Dragon Penske Autosport
Making his first appearance in superpole, Nico Muller was the first driver out. Despite a good opening sector, the German driver lost time in the latter stages of the lap going overly wide in turn 16. Muller’s time was easily beaten by Turvey who went over half a second quicker in a promising performance for the NIO team.
Formula E vetran Sam Bird was the third driver out in superpole. Bird, despite being unhappy with his lap, still secured provisional pole by three hundreds of a second. British-Swedish driver Tom Blomqvist was the next out but found himself three tenths behind his NIO teammate after struggling with his brakes.
The final two drivers to take to the track were Sergio Sette Camara and Robin Frijins. Sette Camara went two tenths clear of Bird but could do nothing to stop Frijns who secured his maiden pole position by nearly three tenths.
But with several championship contenders starting out of place in this evening’s race, can Frijns secure victory?
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