Stoffel Vandoorne made a mockery of being in group one for Qualifying for the opening race of the Valencia E-Prix weekend by taking pole position on Saturday morning.
Being in Group one usually sees drivers being compromised by running on a green track and with no times on the board to target, but Vandoorne was able to get into the pole shootout and then set the best time of the weekend so far when it mattered.
The ABB FIA Formula E World Championship is racing this weekend on a permanent circuit for the first time as opposed to their usual street circuit style venues, and it was the Belgian who took top spot, with the Mercedes-EQ Formula E Team racer continuing to prove himself a genuine championship contender this season.
Here’s how Qualifying in Valencia unfolded.
The six championship leaders traditionally have the worst of the conditions in Qualifying, but both Mercedes-EQ Formula E Team drivers put in excellent laps to make it through to the pole position shootout.
Vandoorne, the winner of the second race of the Rome E-Prix two weeks ago, was quickest in the group with a time of 1:26.839, which for a long while looked as though it would be the best time overall. He was closely followed by team-mate Nyck de Vries, although the Dutchman will know he will drop five places on the grid due to his penalty carried over from Rome.
Pascal Wehrlein set the third best time in Group one, but this means he will start tenth on the grid for the TAG Heuer Porsche Formula E Team, with Robin Frijns sixteenth for Envision Virgin Racing, Mitch Evans eighteenth for Jaguar Racing and championship leader Sam Bird, also of Jaguar Racing, way down in twenty-first!
António Félix da Costa was quickest in group two, and his time of 1:26.870 was enough to place him fourth overall and secure in the pole shootout. The DS Techeetah driver was 0.132 seconds clear of Oliver Rowland of Nissan e.dams, but the British driver was unable to get into the pole shootout and will start ninth.
Alexander Sims, a podium finisher in Rome, will start twelfth for Mahindra Racing, although his best time was just over three-tenths of a second down from the best time set during the session, such was how close the field were in Qualifying.
Two-time series Champion Jean-Éric Vergne was unable to match team-mate Félix da Costa and will start thirteenth, with René Rast (Audi Sport ABT Schaeffler) fifteenth and Edoardo Mortara (ROKiT Venturi Racing) seventeenth.
Maximilian Günther was able to prove that his pace during free practice was genuine as he ended group 3 with the fastest time. The BMW i Andretti Motorsport driver set a time of 1:26.868 to get into the pole shootout, but he was not the only driver from his group to do so.
Sébastien Buemi was able to get into fifth overall for Nissan e.dams, with the Swiss racer getting in thanks to a great lap of 1:26.876.
The other four drivers all struggled, with Sérgio Sette Câmara of Dragon/Penske Autosport set to start down in nineteenth, Lucas di Grassi (Audi Sport ABT Schaeffler) twenty second, Nico Müller (Dragon/Penske Autosport) twenty-third and Oliver Turvey (NIO 333 FE Team) twenty-fourth and last.
Alex Lynn had been quick in morning practice and the Mahindra Racing driver was able to stun many by setting the best time overall across the four groups, his 1:26.799 ending 0.040 seconds clear of Vandoorne’s best from group 1.
Lynn was the only driver from group four to make it into the pole shootout, with André Lotterer the closest to doing so for TAG Heuer Porsche FE Team, with his best of 1:26.933 seeing him miss out by 0.019 seconds to de Vries.
Norman Nato will start eighth for ROKiT Venturi Racing, while Nick Cassidy (Envision Virgin Racing) will start eleventh, Jake Dennis (BMW i Andretti Motorsport) fourteenth and Tom Blomqvist (NIO 333 FE Team) twentieth.
|1||94||Alex Lynn||GBR||Mahindra Racing||1:26.799|
|2||5||Stoffel Vandoorne||BEL||Mercedes-EQ Formula E Team||+0.040|
|3||28||Maximilian Gunther||GER||BMW i Andretti Motorsport||+0.089|
|4||13||Antonio Felix da Costa||POR||DS Techeetah||+0.071|
|5||23||Sebastien Buemi||CHE||Nissan e.DAMS||+0.077|
|6||17||Nyck de Vries||NED||Mercedes-EQ Formula E Team||+0.115|
|7||36||Andre Lotterer||GER||TAG Heuer Porsche Formula E Team||+0.134|
|8||71||Norman Nato||FRA||ROKIT Venturi Racing||+0.180|
|9||22||Oliver Rowland||GBR||Nissan e.DAMS||+0.203|
|10||99||Pascal Wehrlein||GER||TAG Heuer Porsche Formula E Team||+0.209|
|11||37||Nick Cassidy||NZL||Envision Virgin Racing||+0.273|
|12||29||Alexander Sims||GBR||Mahindra Racing||+0.310|
|13||25||Jean-Eric Vergne||FRA||DS Techeetah||+0.358|
|14||27||Jake Dennis||GBR||BMW i Andretti Motorsport||+0.378|
|15||33||Rene Rast||GER||Audi Sport Abt Schaeffler||+0.491|
|16||4||Robin Frijns||NED||Envision Virgin Racing||+0.518|
|17||48||Edoardo Mortara||CHE||ROKIT Venturi Racing||+0.539|
|18||20||Mitch Evans||NZL||Jaguar Racing||+0.643|
|19||7||Sergio Sette Camara||BRZ||Dragon/Penske Autosport||+0.657|
|20||88||Tom Blomqvist||GBR||NIO 333 FE Team||+0.682|
|21||10||Sam Bird||GBR||Jaguar Racing||+0.820|
|22||11||Lucas di Grassi||BRZ||Audi Sport Abt Schaeffler||+0.835|
|23||6||Nico Muller||CHE||Dragon/Penske Autosport||+0.845|
|24||8||Oliver Turvey||GBR||NIO 333 FE Team||+1.725|
Having placed sixth overall in the first segment of Qualifying, de Vries was the first driver out in the pole position shootout, and the Dutchman performed well to end up within a quarter of a second of the pole time. Buemi was second on track but was unable to match the Dutchman, and ultimately, he slipped to sixth by the end.
Third on track was Félix da Costa, and his best took him to stop spot from de Vries, while Günther’s best put him between de Vries and Buemi. The best time came from Vandoorne, who was fifth on the road, with his time of 1:26.494 just 0.028 seconds clear of Félix da Costa.
Lynn was unable to replicate his performance in the first stage, but the Mahindra Racing driver will be happy to be up at the sharp end of the grid in fifth.
The top six on the grid therefore are Vandoorne on pole ahead of Félix da Costa, with de Vries dropping from third to eighth as a result of his penalty from Rome. This promotes Günther to third ahead of Lynn, with Buemi and Lotterer sharing row three.
Pole Shootout Times
|1||5||Stoffel Vandoorne||BEL||Mercedes-EQ Formula E Team||1:26.494|
|2||13||Antonio Felix da Costa||POR||DS Techeetah||+0.028|
|3||17||Nyck de Vries||NED||Mercedes-EQ Formula E Team||+0.236|
|4||28||Maximilian Gunther||GER||BMW i Andretti Motorsport||+0.449|
|5||94||Alex Lynn||GBR||Mahindra Racing||+0.528|
|6||23||Sebastien Buemi||CHE||Nissan e.DAMS||+0.559|