Mitch Evans stormed to pole position for the 2020 Santiago ePrix after beating BMW i Andretti Motorsport driver Maxmillian Gunther to pole position around Parque o’Higgins in what turned out to be a topsy-turvey qualifying session ahead of the race this afternoon.
TAG Heuer Porsche Racing’s Andre Lotterer was the first driver out on the circuit followed by Alexander Sims, Oliver Rowland, Stoffel Vandoorne, Sam Bird, while Audi’s Lucas Di Grassi was last out of the pit lane. Lotterer put a solid lap together and as the first driver over the line set a 1 min 05.801 to be half a tenth quicker than current championship leader Sims. But lighting up the timing screens was Mercedes-Benz EQ Formula E racer Vandoorne, who after blitzing the final sector set a 1 min 05.566 to be almost two and a half tenths quicker than his Porsche rival. Bird slotted into fourth, and after a sloppy final sector from the Englishman will start the race from sixteenth.
But there was drama behind, as both Rowland and Di Grassi made mistakes on their laps – with Rowland stuck his Nissan in the wall at turn 4 after a huge snap of oversteer at the same point where Ma Qinghua crashed in second practice. Meanwhile, Di Grassi made an error into turn 9 but he had already backed off after yellow flags for Rowland’s crash. Theywill start from twenty-second and twenty-third respectively.
The second qualifying group got underway and James Calado headed out first with Daniel Abt close behind as the only drivers planning to do a warm-up lap. But Nyck De Vries was first to start a lap and set a time six-thousandths faster than his Mercedes team-mate of Vandoorne from group one to go fastest. Next over the line was double Formula E champion Jean-Eric Vergne, who slotted himself into third place, less than a tenth of a second back from the Mercedes duo. But the biggest surprise came in the form of Edoardo Mortara as despite the fact that the Swiss-Italian racer had to pass Robin Frijns in the first few corners, he was still able to go fastest after the second qualifying group. There was less luck for Abt and Calado who went fifth and ninth respectively despite their warm-up laps. Frijns slotted into to tenth place after he lost the rear into turn one which cost him over three seconds.
Just like in the second session, the drivers in the third qualifying session mainly decided against needing a warm-up lap ahead of their one available flying lap for the Santiago ePrix. While Max Gunther headed out first, it was Jaguar’s Mitch Evans who headed out first with the Kiwi setting a monstorous lap of a 1 min 04.941, with Gunther a couple of tenths further behind to be second as Pascal Wehrlein in the first of the Mahindras was three tenths further behind to be third. Meanwhile, a poor effort from DS Techeetah driver Antonio Felix Da Costa saw the Portugese driver fail to make it into Super Pole despite being in group three qualifying. GEOX Dragon Racing driver, Brendon Hartley, was over a second slower to be provisonally thirteenth as he continues to adapt to life in Formula E. But there was disapointment at Mahindra Racing as Jerome D’ Ambrosio pulled off to the right-hand side of the track on the start-finish straight with a suspected driveshaft failure which will see the Belgian start towards the back in this afternoon’s ePrix.
As final session in group qualifying got underway, it was obvious that Ma’s NIO 333 Formula E car was not ready qualifying after crashing into the wall at turn 4 and 5 in free practice as the NIO team continued to work away to ensure that Chinese driver will start the ePrix later this afternoon. Meanwhile, Nico Muller was first over the line and will only start nineteenth as the Dragon Racing squad continue to struggle in these early races. Next was the second Porsche Racing driver of Neel Jani who could only manage twelfth, albeit two places ahead of his more experiened team-mate Lotterer. Next over the line was Felipe Massa, who slotted into third place, fractionally bettered by former Formula E champion Sebastien Buemi. But the surprise of qualifying so far was that despite all their struggles, Oliver Turvey managed to do enough to get his NIO 333 Formula E car into Super Pole, knocking out Mortara in the process.
Wehrlein in the Mahindra Racing car was the first man out in Super Pole with a solid 1 min 05.645 despite the track being a lot slower as he set the benchmark laptime. Turvey was next out onto the racetrack and managed to put together a solid performance with a 1 min 05.788, only a tenth and a half slower than the German. Next up was Felipe Massa and after a slow first sector, the Brazilian matched Wehrlein’s time to the thousandth of a second to be provisionally second.
Sebastien Buemi was up next and went into the session as favourite for pole position, but a poor middle sector put pay to that and was even slower than Turvey in the NIO. With Sims down in fifteenth, it was up to Gunther to show what BMW are capable of and he managed a 1 min 05.102 was a superb lap from the German. Although, there are still question-marks about his time after he was shown going through a red light with a decision expected before the ePrix. But the question was whether Evans could deliver the kind of time he did in group qualifying to take pole position. After being nip and tuck through the first two sectors, the Kiwi pulled out over a quarter of a second in the final sector to take pole position here in Santiago for his first pole since the 2018 Zurich ePrix.
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