Berlin ePrix Qualifying: Di Grassi Bounces Back

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In the first of this weekend’s double-header Formula E races in Berlin, Lucas Di Grassi struck first blood in qualifying, to put his ABT Schaeffler Audi Sport on the top spot, with Jose Maria Lopez (DS Virgin) joining him on the front row. Championship rival Sebastien Buemi struggled to P14, leaving him everything to do in the race. The Mahindra pair of Rosenqvist and Heidfeld capitalised on good form to lock out the second row, with former team-mates Bird (DS Virgin) and Vergne (Techeetah) on row three in P5 and P6, respectively. However, with Vergne awaiting a potential engine change, the Techeetah driver may yet incur a penalty to see him drop down the grid.

With earlier practice sessions seeing drivers struggle for grip on the abrasive asphalt of the Tempelhof track, qualifying promised a challenge and measure of the field’s ability, and delivered Formula E’s trademark unpredictability. In the group sessions, the Andretti of Robin Frijns was first to track, followed by Carroll (Jaguar), Da Costa (Andretti), Bird (DS Virgin), and Abt (ABT Schaeffler Audi Sport). Frijns suffered oversteer through the tight T9 on his 200kW lap, and set the first time of 1:09.630. With drivers having played the waiting game in the garage at session-start, the timer struck zero, so all current laps were set to count. Despite oversteer, Sam Bird set the fastest time with a strong 1:08.321. Abt pipped Frijns for second, with Carroll in P4, and Da Costa setting an off-pace 1:11 time to round out the group.

Photo: Sam Bloxham/LAT/Formula E

Venturi’s Maro Engel headed group two, followed by Prost (Renault e.Dams), both Dragon Racing cars, and Vergne (Techeetah). Engel’s run was smooth and controlled, a solid 200kW lap putting him into initial P3. Despite losing time in a scruffy first sector, Prost managed to regain his composure and leapfrogged Engel’s time for third. Vergne’s clean lap saw him steal P2, pushing Prost down into P4, and closer to elimination from Super Pole. It was mixed fortunes for Dragon Racing, with D’Ambrosio in P5, and Duval crossing the line in P9.

Felix Rosenqvist (Mahindra) headed immediately to track in group three, followed by Di Grassi (ABT), Lopez (DS Virgin), with Piquet (NextEV NIO) and Evans (Jaguar) waiting it out for clear track. Lopez mirrored the pace of his DS Virgin team-mate, looking racey on his 200kW lap, and jumping to P2. Di Grassi crossed the line in P3, knocking the Renault e.Dams of Nico Prost out of Super Pole. Rosenqvist delivered on Mahindra’s earlier speedy practice sessions, rocketing to the top spot, two hundredths over nearest rival, Sam Bird. Piquet and Evans couldn’t find the pace, with Evans tapping the wall on his 200kW lap; the pair ended in P10 and P11 respectively.

Photo: Zak Mauger/LAT/Formula E

The final group session saw Dillmann (Venturi), Heidfeld (Mahindra), Sarrazin (Techeetah), Turvey (NextEV NIO), and Buemi (Renault e.Dams) challenge for Super Pole. Buemi headed to track immediately, keen to lay down a marker for what has been a remarkable season for the current champion. However, the Swiss driver could only muster a lowly initial P11. Turvey’s clean lap saw him just miss out on Super Pole, in P6. Sarrazin could only manage P11, unable to replicate the pace of Vergne. With Dillmann taking P15, the Mahindra of Heidfeld showed the marque’s pace at this track, taking P3, and pushing Vergne out of Super Pole.

Super Pole saw Rosenqvist and Heidfeld (Mahindra), the DS Virgin pair of Bird and Lopez, and Lucas Di Grassi (ABT Schaeffler Audi Sport). With Di Grassi to track first, the experienced Brazilian set a strong 1:08.312 lap time. Illustrating that small margins are everything in motorsport, the DS Virgin of Lopez matched Di Grassi’s pace, but missed out on pole by 0.007s. Nick Heidfeld managed P3 for his home race, crossing the line two hundredths shy of the DS Virgin. Sam Bird struggled for pace, a second down in the middle sector, seeing him into initial P4, almost 1.5 seconds shy of Di Grassi’s pole lap. The final pole contender, Rosenqvist (Mahindra), couldn’t quite topple Di Grassi, and qualified in third, on the second row, alongside his teammate.

Keep it EV Performance for a full race report this afternoon! The Berlin ePrix gets underway at 3pm GMT!

Berlin Formula E 2017
Berlin Formula E 2017 Qualifying Results