Portuguese driver Antonio Felix da Costa clinched Pole Position on the streets of Ad Diriyah, as he topped an eventful qualifying session ahead of the very first E-Prix of the Gen2 era
Due to continuous rain falling in Ad Diriyah, there was just one Free Practice Session. Rookie Stoffel Vandoorne topped the standings in an eventful session that was stopped halfway through due to Edoardo Mortara’s crash against a wall.
Formula E also announced that drivers would be divided into two groups for qualifying, rather than the typical four. There was also no Superpole in the session, so the combined group standings set the grid.
The first group to go out to qualify, Group A, had Vergne, di Grassi, Buemi, Bird, Abt, Mortara, d’Ambrosio, da Costa, Lopez, Dillmann, and Frijns in it.
NIO’s Tom Dillmann was the first driver to hit the track. The track was rather damp by the time the Frenchman started lapping around it in his NIO car, resplendent in a gradient livery. He set an initial time of 1:19.688, which was later improved to 1:17.893.
However, he was under investigation for not respecting the qualifying format. The Frenchman did more 200kW laps than the ones allowed.
With three minutes until the qualifying session finished, the rest of the drivers joined the track, starting to set their own lap times. Lopez quickly positioned himself second, followed by reigning champion Jean Eric Vergne completing the Top 3.
By the end of the Group A stint, Antonio Felix da Costa jumped to P1, with a time of 1:17.728. Vergne dropped to P6, with Buemi taking over his P4 spot.
As the chequered flag was waved, Group A finished with drivers in the following order: da Costa first, with Dillmann and Lopez in P2 and P3, respectively. The Top 3 drivers were followed by Buemi, Bird, Vergne, Frijns, d’Ambrosio, di Grassi, Mortara, and Abt.
Faces of disappointment were seen in the Audi garage, as both the team’s drivers did not obtain the best of results in their qualifying stints.
Group B came next, with Rosenqvist, Evans, Lotterer, Piquet Jr., Turvey, Vandoorne, Guenther, Paffett, Massa, Rowland and Sims in it.
As green flag was waved, many cars hit the track, ready to start their qualifying session.
HWA Racelab’s very own Gary Paffett was the first driver from Group B to score a lap time. Oliver Rowland followed suit, along with Oliver Turvey. Of the three drivers to hit the track first, Rowland quickly positioned himself ahead.
Once Belgian racer Stoffel Vandoorne hit the track, he moved to P10. Just some minutes later, he was up in P5, even ahead of champions Vergne and di Grassi.
With three minutes to go, the session was red flagged, as Dragon driver Maximilian Guenther stopped on track. At the moment the red flag was waved, only Felix Rosenqvist had not left the pits yet.
When the session was resumed, all Group B drivers except Guenther jumped into the track again to continue with their qualifying duties.
Andre Lotterer quickly jumped into P10. Mitch Evans positioned himself in P12.
By the end of the session, Rosenqist hit the wall in Sector 3, which caused him to drop to P22, behind Guenther, who was later under investigation for causing a red flag.
The provisional grid had Antonio Felix da Costa on Pole Position, followed by Dillmann, Lopez, Buemi, and Vandoorne completing the top five
The Top 10 is completed by Bird, Vergne, Frijns, d’Ambrosio, and Lotterer; while di Grassi, Evans, Rowland, Turvey, Paffett, Mortara, Sims, Abt, Massa, Piquet Jr., Guenther, and Rosenqvist round out the grid.
As there are penalties yet to be applied, we will likely see a different grid by the time the race comes around.
The excitement will now build even further ahead of the very first race of the season, which will begin at 15:05 local time.
Post-qualifying update: Tom Dillmann had his qualifying times cancelled for “not respecting the maximum of two flying laps during Qualifying”, while both he and NIO team-mate Oliver Turvey also had their qualifying times cancelled due to a missing sensor on their cars’ FIA Dataloggers.
In addition to this, Sam Bird, Robin Frijns (both Envision Virgin Racing), Lucas di Grassi (Audi Sport ABT Schaeffler) and Oliver Rowland (Nissan e.dams) all had their 250kW qualifying laps cancelled due to the power usage being over the regulatory limit.
Finally, Edoardo Mortara received a three-place grid penalty as the team “did not respect the Formula E Season 5 Battery Software Implementation Guide”.