Da Costa takes first pole for BMW in Riyadh

by Nathan Hine
Antonio Felix Da Costa- BMW i-Andretti Motorsport

Antonio Felix da Costa took pole position for the 2018 Ad Diriyah ePrix, with the Portuguese racer taking his first ABB FIA Formula E pole position in a messy qualifying after rain delays caused a revised format for qualifying for the first race of the season.

Da Costa in the BMW i Andretti Motorsport was sixteen-thousandths of a second quicker than NIO driver Tom Dillmann, but the Frenchman is expected to be excluded from the session after putting down too many banker laps before his full-power 250 KW effort later which contravenes Formula E qualifying procedure.

This will promote Jose Maria Lopez in the GEOX Dragon Racing machine onto the front row of the grid with Sebastien Buemi and Stoffel Vandoorne set to make up the second row of the grid.

The first qualifying session saw track conditions still very wet and all of the drivers who stuck to the rules waited until the end to set their flying lap, with Lopez setting the first lap in a stonking effort for the Argentine.  Then, the two Audi Sport Abt Schaeffler entries of Lucas Di Grassi and Daniel Abt were next, but both fell way short of the mark and were displaced by both of the Audi customer Envision Virgin Racing machines of Sam Bird and Robin Frijns.

Defending ABB FIA Formula E Champion Jean-Eric Vergne had a difficult opening session and will line-up seventh, and after a difficult campaign last season, Buemi qualified an impressive fourth.

The second session was far more chaotic with HWA Racelab driver Gary Paffett getting very close to the wall on several occasions and his haphazard lap seeing the 2018 DTM Series champion qualify fifteenth for his debut race weekend. Oliver Turvey was sliding around a lot too, qualifying just ahead of his fellow British racer.

But it was Vandoorne who was the most impressive driver from the second session as the HWA Racelab driver qualified an impressive fifth and is expected to line-up fourth due to Dillmann’s penalty.

The first red flag was brought out due to GEOX Dragon Racing driver Max Gunther hitting the wall, meaning he stopped out on track in the final sector. This ruined Andre Lotterer’s lap which meant he had to have another shot when the session resumed, but struggled to tenth place on the grid.

Mitch Evans in the Panasonic Jaguar Racing machine will line-up twelfth with Oliver Rowland’s debut race for Nissan e.dams seeing him line-up thirteenth.

But greater difficulty was to come for those at the end of the session with Felix Rosenqvist crashing into the wall at turn eighteen which meant that Alexander Sims, Felipe Massa and Nelson Piquet Jr were all compromised and will line-up seventeenth, nineteenth and twentieth positions respectively.

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