Di Grassi takes Punta Del Este pole, but under investigation


Lucas Di Grassi, ABT Schaeffler, Friday- Punta Del Este
Credit: Formula E Media

Defending ABB FIA Formula E champion Lucas Di Grassi has provisionally taken pole position ahead of the Punta Del Este ePrix this afternoon, although remains under investigation for cutting the turns 14/15 chicane and hitting the bollard.

Di Grassi was one of three drivers to cut the chicane and hit the bollard during the super-pole session along with the DS Virgin driver of Alex Lynn and Oliver Turvey in the Nio FE machine. If penalized, this could elevate Mitch Evans to pole position for Jaguar who currently lies third, ahead of Jean-Eric Vergne, with the Frenchman currently fifth after he hit the inside wall exiting the first chicane on his super-pole lap, although whatever happens he will start considerably ahead of his title rivals.

Di Grassi may have been annoyed to be in group one for qualifying for the fifth time in six races, but that didn’t seem to slow the Audi driver down. His 1.14.032s was plenty to get him into super-pole, almost 0.5 seconds quicker than his closest challenger in his group, Maro Engel in the Venturi who would finish qualifying in ninth place. Engel himself was a tenth and a half faster than Jerome d’Ambrosio in the Dragon Racing car, with Luca Fillipi and Tom Blomqvist having their own moments out on circuit, which put them fifteenth and seventeenth by the end of the session.

Andre Lotterer was highest-placed of the next group in the Techeetah, with his 1.14.442s putting him in eighth place overall with another strong lap for the German as he gets ever-more acclimatized to Formula E machinery. Jose-Maria Lopez will be similarly satisfied with eleventh after not completing a full-power run before qualifying itself, and was just ahead of his Dragon team-mate D’Ambrosio.

Antonio Felix da Costa had a tougher qualifying than Mexico, with the MS&AD Andretti FE driver managing thirteenth place in that tight group behind the front runners. Lynn was more than happy with his lap that catapulted the DS Virgin driver into super-pole, while Nico Prost‘s season has gone from bad to worse, with the Renault e.dams driver crashing into the wall on the exit of the turns 14/15 chicane, meaning he will start from the back of the grid.

The third group was also full of drama and chaos, as following the lap-times from Daniel Abt, Oliver Turvey and Evans which would put them sixth, fifth and third respectively after group qualifying, Nick Heidfeld missed the apex out of turns 16 into 17, which bought him a one-way ticket to the barrier as a result. The German will start the race from eighteenth place. Edoardo Mortara was behind Heidfeld when the German crashed into the wall,  and meant Mortara had to do his lap on cold tyres and brakes after the accident was cleared, meaning that Mortara was slowest of the representative runners in sixteenth place.

The final group was composed of the championship contenders, but despite the expectation of at least three making it into super-pole, only championship-leader Vergne made the pole position shootout for Techeetah. Sam Bird made a mess of the first sector, and ended the best part of a second off Vergne’s benchmark time. Felix Rosenqvist made contact with the wall in the first sector, which unsettled the car so much that he under-steered into the wall on the exit of turn seven- putting him fourteenth on the grid.

As for Sebastien Buemi, despite his exceptional track record at Punta Del Este, the Swiss racer will start from seventh after a scrappy lap from the Renault driver, while Nelson Piquet Jr in the Jaguar will start from nineteenth after repeating the crash Prost had earlier in the session, on what could of easily been a lap good enough for pole position for the Brazilian.

So after all was said and done, Di Grassi has overcome the misery of group one qualifying in Punta Del Este to  provisionally take a valiant pole position for Audi, beating Lynn in the DS Virgin machine by 0.241 s. But, with pending investigations for Di Grassi, Lynn and Turvey for their super-pole laps, the grid could have a different look for the race this afternoon.