An early start, a shortened practice session and warming weather conditions combined to give all drivers some challenging conditions for the Sunday qualifying session in Brooklyn. Starting at 9am local time, teams had little time to prepare after yesterday’s race. But the 7am practice session was also cut short by red flags when Robin Frijns hit the wall hard.
Frijns will suffer a ten-place grid penalty as a result of his car requiring a gear box change. He was one of the drivers out in the first qualifying group, and set provisional P-2. But his time was half a second slower than yesterday’s race winner, Sam Bird, denting his chances of remaining in the Super Pole slots. Nico Prost and Nelson Piquet Jr took the next two slots; a fault with Loïc Duval’s car meant he couldn’t get out of first gear for most of the lap, leaving him in last.
Antonio Felix da Costa had a day to forget on Saturday, and he couldn’t make the most of his qualifying attempt in group two. Jérôme D’Ambrosio also couldn’t break into the top five, but every other driver did: Felix Rosenqvist going faster than Bird, Oliver Turvey and Daniel Abt doing enough to get into the shoot-out places.
Lucas di Grassi needed to qualify strongly to give him the best chance of catching his championship rival, Sébastien Buemi. After Saturday’s race, the gap between them had been reduced to 20 points. But once again, his time wasn’t enough to make the top five after striking his wheel against the barriers. To compound his misery, Pierre Gasly (Buemi’s stand-in) then went on to set the fastest time overall. Jean-Éric Vergne took provisional P-3 with five drivers still to set a time.
Alex Lynn couldn’t repeat his stand-out performance from Saturday, either. A messy final sector meant he could only manage 14th, which quickly became 16th after Tom Dillman claimed P-9 and Maro Engel knocked Oliver Turvey out of the Super Pole slots with his P-5. But Nick Heidfeld, last man out on track, swiftly denied him a place in the shoot-out, despite making mistakes of his own.
Last man out, but first back on track, Heidfeld set a time of 1:03.210 to beat. DS Virgin cars are traditionally very strong in their qualifying setup, but Sam Bird rose to the challenge. He was able to take almost a second off the target time with his 1:03.285.
Techeetah had both drivers on the podium in round nine, and Vergne taking provisional P-2 will set them up well for a similar charge in today’s race. Mahindra’s second driver of the session was next out; Rosenqvist put in a characteristically rally-like lap, but it was enough to put him in second with only Gasly left to take to the track.
Unfortunately, a massive lock-up on the approach to the hairpin denied him the chance to take pole position, but it was still enough to see him start from the second row of the grid.
This afternoon’s race will be six laps longer than Saturday’s ePrix, so all teams will need to look carefully at their race strategies; Bird will hope he doesn’t repeat Lynn’s error and can hold on to first place in the opening exchanges.
- Sam Bird (DS Virgin)
- Felix Rosenqvist (Mahindra)
- Jean-Éric Vergne (Techeetah)
- Pierre Gasly (Renault)
- Nick Heidfeld (Mahindra)
9. Di Grassi (Abt Schaeffler Audi)
Image: Sam Bird © Formula E