Vergne storms to home pole position for Paris ePrix


Jean-Eric Vergne - Techettah
Malcom Griffiths /FIA Formula E / Sam Bloxham/FIA Formula E

Jean-Eric Vergne stormed to a superbly executed pole position for his home race at the Qatar Airways Paris ePrix, beating fellow championship rival Sam Bird by 0.277 seconds in super-pole at Paris.

The Parisian seemed to put his local knowledge to good use, and looked the class of the field throughout qualifying despite going out in the first qualifying group, where the track conditions were sub-optimal.

The first qualifying group got underway with the top five in the championship heading out onto circuit. First to head out onto the Circuit des Invalides was Daniel Abt in the ABT Schaeffler Audi Sport machine, and despite his recent good fortunes was unable to hook up a good lap, which will leave the German starting from fifteenth on the grid. He was followed by local superstar Vergne, who put together a phenomenal lap given the track conditions which would see him go quickest after group qualifying.

This round in Paris is seemingly Felix Rosenqvist‘s last shot at winning the 2017-18 ABB FIA Formula E Championship after poor results in recent races, and things did not improve for the Mahindra Racing driver in Paris, with poor grip the cause of his lowly eleventh place starting position. Bird was next up, and put together a solid lap to make it into super-pole. Despite the best efforts of Sebastien Buemi, the Renault e.dams driver was unable to make it into super-pole in Renault’s last Formula E race in Paris, instead starting the race from eighth place.

The second qualifying group was packed with big hitters, with Andre Lotterer first to rumble for the Techeetah Formula E team, who posted a lap half a tenth quicker than Lucas Di Grassi. In the end, Lotterer made it through to super-pole, but the Brazilian failed after a small mistake in the final sector. Mitch Evans had a ten-place grid penalty coming into qualifying, but his inability to get the tyres in their operating window meant it has been a miserable day so far for the Kiwi, qualifying fourteenth, but will start from last place.

Oilver Turvey in the Nio Formula E car has maintained his consistent qualifying performances, with the British driver starting the race from ninth will see him aim for more points in the race. Nelson Piquet Jr was unable to take part in qualifying after big crashes for the Brazilian in both practice sessions, meaning both Panasonic Jaguar Racing cars will be lining the back row of the grid.

The third qualifying session saw a turn in pace, with most drivers deciding to go out early in the session. First to set a lap was the Venturi of Edoardo Mortara, but was unable to make best use of the clear track, and had an error-filled lap which will see him line up seventeenth on the grid. Next to set a lap was the Andretti Formula E driver of Antonio Felix Da Costa who put in a phenomenal performance to put in a lap that saw him progress to super-pole.

Alex Lynn was next, but just like in Rome, he was unable to show his true pace, and qualified sixteenth on a track where overtaking opportunities are limited. Jose Maria Lopez for Dragon had a more positive session than in Rome, not only making it out of the pit-lane in one piece, but was able to put together a decent lap which will see the Argentine start the race inside the top ten. Nick Heidfeld decided to save his lap to the last possible moment, and despite only qualifying twelfth the driver from Monchengladbach has qualified only one position behind his team-mate Rosenqvist.

The final qualifying group saw the final five drivers in the championship take to the circuit when the track was in its best possible condition. First to set a lap was Nico Prost on home soil for himself and Renault e.dams in their last home race, so surely the Frenchman would put together a good lap. But no, Prost lost so much time in the final sector that thirteenth on the grid is all he could achieve. Tom Blomqvist was next, but he had another scrappy lap which means he will only start from sixteenth place.

Jerome d’ Ambrosio followed, putting his Dragon in a very respectable seventh on the grid, and will hope for more points after scoring last-time out in Rome. Then came the surprise of qualifying, as out of absolutely nowhere Maro Engel in the Venturi put together a lap that was good enough for super-pole, knocking Lucas Di Grassi out of the pole position shootout. In his returning Formula E race, Ma Qing Hua struggled to adapt to qualifying mode, and did well despite setting the slowest time.

Super-Pole

Lotterer was first out in super-pole, having a very dramatic lap, and was able to maintain the speed throughout, setting a strong benchmark of a 1.01.487s. Bird was next out, and the British driver had a very smooth lap to go six-hundredths quicker than the German. Engel did himself  proud, hooking together a good lap in only his second Formula E super-pole session to qualify a career-best fourth, with Felix Da Costa locking up at turn three which meant he scrubbed speed off for the entire middle-sector, so will line up fifth.

And after looking imperious all day long, Vergne delivered when it mattered most to take his fourth pole position of the season by almost three tenths of a second, meaning he will be very tough to beat in the race later this afternoon.