Changing conditions gave all teams a challenging qualifying session in Mexico City. It was a session notable not only for the surprising names that made up the top five slots, but also for those who found themselves at the back of the grid.
Times across the board were seconds off the pace of the morning’s practice sessions, mainly because of the dust which had built up on the track in the intervening hours. Nick Heidfeld set the fastest time of the first qualifying group, ahead of Sam Bird and Sébastien Buemi. Mitch Evans put in another excellent qualifying performance, beating an unhappy Lucas di Grassi into provisional fourth place.
He couldn’t hold the position for long, with three drivers from the second group taking the top-three spots. Oliver Turvey, Daniel Abt and José María López all took advantage of the cleaner racing surface, pushing current championship leader Buemi out of contention for super pole. Da Costa and Sarrazin also failed to make the grade.
The third session was red-flagged shortly almost as soon as the quick laps. Loïc Duval lost control of his car and found himself in the barriers at turn one. Although he was initially able to move the car out, the team advised him to leave it out on the track to be recovered. This gave the remaining drivers no opportunity for a warm-up lap, and only Jean-Éric Vergne was able to put in a good enough time to make the top five. Most notably, Prost’s lap was only good enough for tenth.
Felix Rosenqvist, who admitted he was struggling to adapt to the Mexico City circuit, went out first in the fourth group but there was no reward for his early attempt. Esteban Gutierrez, who was cheered and applauded by his home crowd at every turn set a very respectable time which saw him take the 14th slot on the grid. Mario Engel supplied another surprise when he secured his place in the super pole session.
So, from a topsy-turvy looking grid, the first driver out to fight for pole position. Techeetah’s Vergne, perhaps the least surprising challenger, complained it was like “driving on ice” and set a benchmark of 1:03.202. Engel, despite making a mistake on the final chicane was able to beat it; López followed him out, but an untidy lap prevented him from taking top spot. Daniel Abt’s blistering lap put him on top, and was just out of reach of birthday-boy Oliver Turvey, who took second spot.
A ten-place grid penalty for Engel means he will have to start from 13th. Buemi will start 9th, Bird ahead of him in 7th, and di Grassi down in lowly 18th.
- Daniel Abt (Abt Schaeffler Audi)*
- Oliver Turvey (NextEV NIO)
- José María López (DS Virgin)
- Jean-Éric Vergne (Techeetah)
- Nick Heidfeld (Mahindra)
*Disqualified after qualifying for having incorrect tyre pressures.
Image: Esteban Gutierrez © Formula E