The decision by race directors to change the kerbs on the Harbourfront circuit’s chicane – but without informing any of the drivers – was the story that dominated a bizarre qualifying session in Hong Kong.
The reason for an unannounced five-minute delay to the start of the session suddenly became clear to drivers in the first qualifying group when they realised a secondary kerb – which most drivers were using as a marker for their racing line – had been removed. The result was that anyone who missed the line would be catapulted into the barriers.
Initially, the change resulted in far slower times than would have been expected after the free practice sessions. However, in the second qualifying group, di Grassi and Ma took damage when their cars went airborne and into the barriers, only to be followed by Frinjs in group three. Ma escaped with only minor damage, but the other two shunts caused their sessions to be red-flagged. Frinj’s Andretti car came off worse, with significant damage to the tub.
Ultimately, all of the drivers were left frustrated by the absence of any warning from race control that the track had been changed. It was dangerous, too: had Vergne not reacted as quickly as he did, there could have been a serious collision with Frinjs while he was embedded in the crash barriers.
As a result of the delays caused by clearing the track and repairing the barriers, the super pole session was cancelled before the last five drivers took to the track, meaning drivers’ times would determine grid positions for the race. Turvey and Bird were the men to beat, and they were both bettered by their respective team-mates. Buemi was then the only man in contention to take pole, but he couldn’t match the pace of NextEV (who lock out the front row) or DS Virgin (who take both slots on row two).
|1.||Nelson Piquet Jr||NextEV|
|3.||José María López||DS Virgin|
|4.||Sam Bird||DS Virgin|
Image: NextEV in the Hong Kong pitlane © Formula E