Buemi blasts to New York City pole position

by Nathan Hine
Sebastien Buemi takes pole for the 2019 New York city ePrix

Sebastien Buemi has taken pole position for the first race of two in the 2019 New York City ePrix, beating Mahindra Racing driver Pascal Wehrlein by some 0.4 s around the Brooklyn Street Circuit. The Swiss driver was the master of the field to take his third pole position of the 2018-19 ABB FIA Formula E Championship and he will be hoping to secure his first win of the season. Further behind, championship leader Jean-Eric Vergne was able to do enough to beat his title rivals with the Frenchman going tenth quickest, some four places ahead of Lucas Di Grassi. It is the Brazilian who heads into this afternoon’s race as Vergne’s closest challenger, albeit some 32 points behind the Frenchman with two races to go in this season.

The first qualifying session got underway in New York City with all five drivers still mathematically in with a chance of winning the title this weekend. Despite the fact that DS Techeetah have everything to lose this weekend, the Chinese team were the boldest in the first qualifying group as they opted not to go for an out-lap and went straight out to do their 250 KW lap. Ultimately, Andre Lotterer failed to do a particularly good lap and will start sixteenth while his team-mate and championship leader Vergne was only 88-thousandths off Antonio Felix Da Costa to go second in the group. The Frenchman crucially managed to go a couple of tenths quicker than Di Grassi, with Panasonic Jaguar Racing driver Mitch Evans splitting the duo.

The second qualifying session sprung into action, and like is usually the case in Formula E qualifying, the drivers left more time to complete their flying laps. Envision Virgin Racing were the only team to opt for their drivers to go straight onto full-power laps which had mixed results. Sam Bird managed a lap good enough for Super Pole, while Robin Frijns’s effort was only good enough for ninth on the grid. But there was no doubt who ruled the roost in session number two as Sebastien Buemi set a blistering 1 min 10.556 to go quickest overall not only in group two, but aggregate qualifying as a whole. Just behind, Daniel Abt slotted into third place for the time-being which was enough to get himself into Super Pole. But there was disaster for Jerome D’ Ambrosio as the Mahindra Racing driver was too close to Abt as he began his lap. The dirty air effect for D’ Ambrosio saw him run wide at turn one, and his issues were compounded when he locked up and ran wide at the turn ten hairpin. Hence, he will start the race from last on the grid after a miserable session for the Belgian.

Qualifying session group three was a story of mixed fortunes as Oliver Rowland, Stoffel Vandoorne, Felipe Massa and Edoardo Mortara all made mistakes on their flying laps which will leave them nineteenth, twentieth, twenty-first and seventeenth for this afternoon’s ePrix. But there was good news for both Alexander Sims and Pascal Wehrlein, both of whom managed to extract enough out of their packages to make it to Super Pole after a few frustrating races for the German and British racers.

The final group qualifying session started with a surprise from Jose Maria Lopez as the Argentine immediately pushed out BMW I-Andretti Motorsport driver Felix Da Costa from Super Pole. But shortly after, the favour was repaid by the Argentine as Alex Lynn managed to go fifth and make his first Super Pole appearance of the season. Impressive performances from both Maxmillian Gunther and Tom Dillmann, who will line up eleventh and twelfth to crucially split Vergne and Di Grassi ahead of the start of the first race of the weekend this afternoon. However, there was British disappointment in the final qualifying group as Gary Paffett could manage fifteenth, with Oliver Turvey eighteenth on the grid in a mightily-competitive qualifying session.

The all-important Super Pole session got underway with Daniel Abt the first man on circuit and after a few minutes since the last cars took to the circuit, the dust and dirt neutralised the track surface which made things difficult for the German racer. Abt made one error as he slid his way out of the turn ten hairpin, but put in a respectable 1.10.894 to set the initial pace. But he was soon displaced at the top of the timesheets by Alex Lynn as the Jaguar Racing driver flew around the Brooklyn Street Circuit a few tenths quicker than the German. Next to run was Alexander Sims. But the British racer made a mistake at turn one and was wide of apex which cost him time through the entire first sector. And while he was one three-thousandths behind Abt at the end of the lap, he lost too much time with the error. Pascal Wehrlein was up next, and the fast German put together a smooth lap to beat Lynn by less than a tenth of a second with better times through both sectors two and three. The German had done enough to be at least second as Sam Bird was far wide at apex at turn one, and he couldn’t sort it out until turn six. If that wasn’t enough, the Brit locked up into turn ten and the time continued to ebb away, so will start the race from sixth on the grid. Sebastien Buemi was last out and while Wehrlein may have put together a reasonable lap, it was no match for the Swiss racer who managed a mighty 1 min 10.188 to go 0.412 s quicker than Wehrlein to secure pole position for this afternoon’s all-important New York City ePrix.

So can Buemi hold on to claim his first win of the season and will Vergne be the first multiple Formula E champion at the end of the day..?

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