Changing weather conditions throughout the morning’s practice sessions meant none of the drivers had much experience of a dry track. Steady rain overnight and into the early morning gave way to clear blue skies and a warm afternoon.
Both Andretti cars were drawn in the first qualifying group. A short lap gives all teams the option of a “second chance” should something go wrong on their first (full-power) attempt, but everyone left it until the last possible opportunity to set a time. Jean-Éric Vergne set the fastest time with a 1:03.1, using the full width of the narrow corners only narrowly avoiding the walls. Robin Frijns’ wasn’t so lucky, and both he and Antonio Felix da Costa were considerably off the pace. Loic Duval of Dragon Racing and Pierre Gasly, standing in for championship leader Sébastien Buemi, made up the other places.
Stephane Sarrazin was straight out of the blocks when the green lights started group two. He was able to set the second-fastest time, slotting in behind his Techeetah team-mate. But neither couldn’t hold on to their slots for long, when Nico Prost beat Sarrazin into second, then Jérôme D’Ambrosio set the quickest time of all with 1:02.8. Last man out on the track, Nick Heidfeld, took third. Jaguar’s Mitch Evans put in a respectable time to take provisional P-7 with ten drivers still to go.
Group three saw the first of the DS Virgin cars on track. In the morning’s practice session, the team managed to set the two fastest times. Alex Lynn, driving in his first race this weekend, didn’t disappoint: his attempt rewarded him with the second-fastest time, although this was reduced to third when a storming lap from Daniel Abt put him in P-2. Felix Rosenqvist, hot property in Formula E at the moment, looked certain to take provisional pole, but a mistake on the breaks put paid to his attempt and he could only manage 12th.
The final group was lead by Sam Bird, who put himself on the top of the timings screen with his lap time of 1:02.8. NextEV’s Oliver Turvey crossed the line next, but wasn’t able to break into the Super Pole positions. But then Venturi’s Maro Engel had to stop on the straight, albeit off the racing line and in a relatively safe position. This hampered Lucas di Grassi, who had to abandon top speed due to the yellow flags. Unable to set another full-power lap, he could only qualify tenth, denting his podium chances.
Vergne was first out for the Super Pole shootout. Once again, he was untidy through the narrow chicanes, but the Techeetah car has raw pace in the straights and he set a time to beat of 1.03:5. A much smoother lap from Alex Lynn was a textbook demonstration of how to be aggressive but maintain control, and saw him take 2½ tenths out of JEV’s time.
Daniel Abt had a quicker first sector, but wasn’t happy with the car’s pace in the latter stages. Nevertheless, he took provisional P-2. D’Ambrosio, next out, trashed his lap with a big lock-up on the hairpin and also complained of being unable to select the correct race mode.
This guaranteed there would be a DS Virgin on pole, with Sam Bird the only man who could topple Lynn. But his lap was scrappy, and he could only take fourth, giving his 23-year old team-mate pole position for his debut race.
- Alex Lynn (DS Virgin)
- Daniel Abt (Abt Schaeffler Audi)
- Jean-Éric Vergne (Techeetah)
- Sam Bird (DS Virgin)
- Jérôme D’Ambrosio (Faraday Future Dragon)
Image: DS Virgin’s Alex Lynn © Formula E