Formula E

Sébastian Buemi Claims First Pole Position Since 2019 After Sensational Diriyah Performance

6 Mins read
Credit: Carl Bingham courtesy of FIA Formula E

Sébastian Buemi claimed an unbelievable pole position at round two of the 2022/23 ABB FIA Formula E World Championship, with the former Formula E Champion having beaten rookie Jake Hughes in the Final of the duels at the Diriyah E-Prix, to match the record for most pole positions in the all-electric championship. It was also Buemi’s first pole position since Season Five staggeringly, with the Swiss driver now being hopeful of claiming his first victory for Envision Racing.

Group A

So as qualifying got underway at the Riyadh Street Circuit, Sacha Fenestraz, Hughes, Edoardo Mortara, António Félix da Costa, Oliver Rowland, Dan Ticktum, Norman Nato, Nick Cassidy, Jake Dennis, Maximilian Günther and Lucas di Grassi ventured out onto the circuit, as the sun slowly began to set.

As the drivers completed their initial laps, the session was suddenly red flagged following a heavy crash for Günther at Turn Seven, with the German driver having weirdly appeared to have simply gone into the corner too quickly. The front-right of his Maserati Tipo Folgore was completely destroyed, with the question now being if Maserati MSG Racing can repair his car before the race. When the session finally restarted, just over ten minutes later, Fenestraz, Hughes, Mortara and da Costa occupied the all-important top four spots; however, real respectable times were yet to be seen.

Just over six minutes remained when the session restarted, with the vast majority of the drivers having quickly gotten back out onto the circuit. With four minutes remaining, Hughes became the first driver to break into the more respectable 1:10s; however, much faster times were to come. Dennis and Di Grassi also broke just into the high 1:10s, with a tenth having separated the top three. With two minutes remaining, life suddenly became even worse for Maserati, as Mortara heavily hit the wall at Turn Sixteen, bringing his qualifying to an end after destroying the rear of his car.

At the front and it was all change as the drivers completed their final laps, with it being delight for Mahindra Racing, as Rowland and Di Grassi both made the duels. Topping the session with a strong 1:10.269 was Hughes, with Free Practice Two pacesetter Ticktum having also made the duels. It meant that Championship leader Dennis was out after only managing sixth, resulting in eleventh on the grid.

Into the duels: Hughes, Rowland, Ticktum, Di Grassi.

Group B

Following an incident-packed Group A, Group B saw both DS Penske drivers and both Jaguar TCS Racing drivers, with the majority of the fastest drivers of the weekend having featured in the second group session. The full list for Group B was: Sam Bird, Mitch Evans, Stoffel Vandoorne, Jean-Éric Vergne, Sérgio Sette Câmara, Buemi, André Lotterer, Kelvin van der Linde, Pascal Wehrlein and René Rast. Nico Mueller was due to be in the session but was unable to take part in qualifying, after being another driver to heavily collide with the barrier at Turn Sixteen during Free Practice Two.

It quickly became apparent how competitive the second group session would be, as Buemi and Bird immediately set lap-times that would’ve seen them into the duels had they been in Group A, suggesting that the track was beginning to really rubber in. Buemi topped the session on a 1:10.349 at the halfway point, two-tenths ahead of Wehrlein and three-tenths ahead of Bird and Evans.

As the session approached the final three minutes there was nearly a big moment between Wehrlein and Sette Câmara, with the Brazilian having blocked the German at the final corner, with the stewards having immediately announced that they’d investigate the incident. After blocking Wehrlein, the NIO 333 Racing driver jumped into the top four, as did Vergne for DS Penske. It was suddenly all change at the top, though, as Bird flew to the top after setting the first 1:09 of the weekend so far.

No one was able to come close to Bird’s time at the end of the session, with Buemi having claimed second but almost three-tenths behind Bird, with Evans having claimed third with Rast in fourth. It meant that Wehrlein and both DS Penske drivers were knocked out, marking a bad qualifying session once again for the team that were dubbed as the favourites ahead of the season.

Into the duels: Bird, Buemi, Evans, Rast

Quarter-Finals

Into the exciting duel stage of qualifying and the first Quarter-Final saw Ticktum against Rowland, with the NIO driver having been the first to complete his lap. Halfway round the lap and Ticktum was three-tenths ahead, with the British driver having gone on to become the second driver to break into the 1:09s. Ticktum’s 1:09.593 was the fastest time of the weekend, putting him comfortably into the Semi-Finals.

The second duel saw Di Grassi against Hughes, with the British driver having immediately set a first-sector that was three-tenths faster than the Brazilian. The gap remained at three-tenths for the entirety of the lap, with Hughes having set a 1:09.713, three-tenths faster than Di Grassi’s 1:10.052, putting the British driver into his second consecutive Semi-Final.

The third duel saw Evans against Buemi, in what was an all-Jaguar powertrain affair, with Envision Racing being Jaguar’s customer team. Evans was on it straight away and went three-tenths faster than Buemi in the first sector; however, Buemi sensationally made up an incredible amount of time in the final two sectors to set a 1:09.790. With Evans having managed only a 1:10.039, Buemi won his first ever duel, with the Swiss driver making it comfortably in the end into the Semi-Finals.

The final Quarter-Final duel saw Rast against Bird, with the British driver having looked strong all weekend so far after topping Free Practice One and Group B in qualifying. Next to nothing separated the duo through the first two sectors, with Rast having set a mega 1:09.729; however, it wasn’t enough to beat Bird who set a 1:09.558, to win his first ever duel remarkably and reclaim the honours of fastest lap of the weekend.

Semi-Finals

After four tantalising Quarter-Finals it was time for what looked set to be two incredible Semi-Final duels, with the first of them being an all-British affair, as Ticktum went against Hughes. Interestingly, the duo went against each other in the Quarter-Final stage in Mexico City, with Hughes having won on that day. After being incredibly close through the first-sector, Ticktum moved two-tenths ahead after Hughes clipped the wall through the bobsleigh run; however, the rookie refused to give up.

After setting a 1:09.779, Hughes simply had to wait to see what Ticktum would do, with the NIO driver having been a tenth up through the second-sector. It looked certain that Ticktum would claim the victory but lost the rear at the final corner, losing him several tenths. With a 1:10.2, Ticktum failed to beat Hughes, with the rookie proceeding to his first Final.

The second Semi-Final was another all-Jaguar affair, as Buemi went against Bird. Both drivers were again incredibly close, with Buemi having been a tenth ahead through the second-sector. Both times were absolutely sensational and were considerably faster than Hughes’ Semi-Final time, with Buemi having set the fastest lap of the weekend with a hugely impressive 1:09.366, less than a tenth faster than Bird.

Final

So the Final saw one of the most experienced drivers on the grid, against one of the newest, with Buemi going against Hughes. It was Hughes who set his lap-time first, as the sun continued to set beautifully in Diriyah. As seen in most of the duels, next to nothing separated the duo through the first-sector; however, it was Hughes who had the edge.

The Brit maintained a tenth throughout the lap, but Buemi went on to set a brilliant final sector to match a record-breaking number of pole positions in Formula E. Buemi claimed pole with a sensational 1:09.435, just six-hundredths of a second faster than Hughes. Buemi’s pole position is his first since Season Five, with the Swiss driver having the best starting position to claim his first win for Envision Racing.

Diriyah E-Prix Round 2: Full Qualifying Results

POS.NO.DRIVER.NAT.TEAM.TIME.
116Sébastian BuemiCHEEnvision Racing1:09.435
25Jake HughesGBRNEOM McLaren Formula E Team1:09.495
310Sam BirdGBRJaguar TCS Racing1:09.462
433Dan TicktumGBRNIO 333 Racing1:10.246
558René RastGERNEOM McLaren Formula E Team1:09.729
69Mitch EvansNZLJaguar TCS Racing1:10.039
711Lucas di GrassiBRZMahindra Racing1:10.052
88Oliver RowlandGBRMahindra Racing1:10.114
994Pascal WehrleinGERTAG Heuer Porsche Formula E Team1:10.407
1037Nick CassidyNZLEnvision Racing1:10.829
113Sérgio Sette CâmaraBRZNIO 333 Racing1:10.598
1227Jake DennisGBRAvalanche Andretti Formula E1:10.903
1325Jean-Éric VergneFRADS Penske1:10.602
1413António Félix da CostaPORTAG Heuer Porsche Formula E Team1:10.940
1536André LottererGERAvalanche Andretti Formula E1:10.607
1617Norman NatoFRANissan Formula E Team1:10.985
171Stoffel VandoorneBELDS Penske1:10.636
1823Sacha FenestrazFRANissan Formula E Team1:11.073
194Kelvin van der LindeZAFABT CUPRA Formula E Team1:11.048
2048Edoardo MortaraCHEMaserati MSG Racing1:11.708
2151Nico MuellerCHEABT CUPRA Formula E TeamNo Time Set
227Maximilian GüntherGERMaserati MSG Racing1:32.982
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