When Sébastien Buemi’s name was drawn in the first qualifying group, there were audible groans from the Renault garage. Not only because track conditions are always at their worst at the start, but also because they would be up against a very strong set of drivers. Both Abt Schaeffler team cars, Sam Bird and Felix Rosenqvist would also be taking to the streets of Paris in group one.
They were not alone in feeling cautious: all five drivers sat in their garages watching the clock tick down for almost 2 minutes, waiting for someone to blink. In the end, it was Bird out on track first, but he had a poor second-half to his lap and was unable to set a good enough time. Despite all the drama, Buemi ended up going fastest; Lucas di Grassi was 0.6 seconds off the championship leader’s pace, a disappointing result for the Brazilian.
Mitch Evans put in a really impressive lap in the second group, enough to take provisional fourth. Mike Conway, making his return to Formula E this weekend, showed no sign of having lost his touch and set a time that will see him start ahead of Nelson Piquet Jr and di Grassi on the grid. José Maria Lopez fared significantly better than his team-mate, taking the second slot with ten drivers still to go out.
By group three, the effect of the improving track gave Jean-Éric Vergne, Oliver Turvey and Esteban Gutierrez the opportunity to set impressive times. All three drivers found themselves in super pole positions with one group remaining. Stephane Sarrazin had a problem that saw him stopped out on the track. He couldn’t set a 200kW lap, but did manage to get moving again without hindering team-mate Vergne from taking provisional second place.
Nick Heidfeld provided some entertainment with his qualifying lap, but missed out on the top five by mere hundredths of a second. None of the other drivers in the final group fared any better, so Gutierrez’s first super pole finish was confirmed. Special mention should be made of Tom Dillmann, who set a reasonable time on his debut for Venturi; with very little experience of driving the Formula E car, he has a tough afternoon ahead.
Gutierrez was first out on track, and looked to be setting up an impressive time, but a massive lock-up threw him off line, scuppering his efforts. Lopez, next out on track, was slipping and sliding but held on for a decent time. Oliver Turvey will be given a ten-place grid penalty for having to change his engine, so his P-3 equates to a fittingly-unlucky 13th place on the grid.
Vergne and Buemi were the final two to race. Vergne was aiming to become the sixth-different pole sitter this season. Buemi, out last, must secure as many points as he can because he will be missing two races at the end of the season. Set a challenging time by JEV, he came out on top by just six-thousandths of a second.
- Sébastien Buemi (Renault)
- Jean-Éric Vergne (Techeetah)
- José Maria Lopez (DS Virgin)
- Esteban Gutierrez (Techeetah)
- Nick Hiedfeld (Mahindra)