*** Daniel Abt loses pole due to tyre pressure. Oliver Turvey starts on pole ***
Formula E lived up to its unpredictable reputation, with a dramatic qualifying session in Mexico City. Championship leader Sebastien Buemi heads into the ePrix in P10, with rival Lucas Di Grassi in P18. Both drivers were lumbered with the first group in the qualifying lottery, caught out by a track that Techeetah’s Jean Eric Vergne dubbed “like driving on ice”, and slipped down the order as the group sessions progressed. Daniel Abt and Oliver Turvey impressed, putting together confident laps to lock out the front row. A strong P3 for Venturi’s Engel will serve as P13, thanks to a ten place grid penalty for a gearbox change. Super Pole was rounded out by the DS Virgin of Lopez, and the Techeetah of Vergne, who – thanks to Engel’s penalty – will make up the second row.
In the group stages, championship rivals Buemi and Di Grassi drew the group one short straw. Buemi immediately headed out to claim clear track, followed by Di Grassi. Despite a small excursion at turn one, Buemi crossed the line with a 1:03.402 lap time. After a mistake in the final corner, the Abt Schaeffler of Di Grassi slotted into P2. Against all predictions, Bird, Evans, and Heidfeld began to look like they might upset the order, with sector times up on the Buemi and Di Grassi. A clean lap for the DS Virgin of Bird saw him top the time-sheets, but the Brit was immediately pipped by the flying Mahindra of Heidfeld. Mitch Evans’ Jaguar crossed the line in P4, pushing Di Grassi down into fifth and last, in danger of losing his place in the Super Pole shoot-out.
As the cars cleaned the track, times began to drop. In the second group of Abt, Da Costa, Lopez, Sarrazin, and Turvey, Abt and Da Costa were the first the lay down full power laps. A neat and tidy lap saw Abt quickest of all, ironically knocking his team-mate Di Grassi out of Super Pole. With Da Costa crossing the line in P4, and Lopez into P2, Buemi was also deposed from the Super Pole top five. As the NextEV NIO of Oliver Turvey lay down pacey sector times, the Brit crossed the line at the top of the time-sheets, leaving rivals Buemi and Di Grassi P7 and P10, and falling.
The penultimate group of Piquet, Duval, Prost, Vergne, and Frijns, saw the Dragon of Loic Duval head to track first. On his 200kW lap, Duval became the first casualty of turn one, hitting the wall and red-flagging the session. After the Dragon was cleared, the remaining foursome were left to make their mark. The session continued to surprise, with a poor lap from the Renault of Prost seeing him cross the line in P10, with Robin Frijns behind in P11. With the Techeetah of Vergne looking pacey, the Frenchman kept his Super Pole hopes alive in P4, pushing ex-teammate Sam Bird out into P6. After a mistake in the middle sector, costing him 1.3 seconds, the NextEV NIO of Piquet could only manage P14.
The final group session saw the Mahindra of Rosenqvist on track first, taking initial P9, the Swede just edged by the not-in-the-wall Dragon of D’Ambrosio. In a surprise turn of events, after his Venturi stopping repeatedly on track in practice, Maro Engel attempted to offset his ten place grid penalty, taking P4 and putting himself into Super Pole for the first time. Home hero Gutierrez was cheered on by the crowd into P13, with the Jaguar of Adam Carroll just behind in P14.
With Turvey, Abt, Lopez, Engel, and Vergne through to Super Pole, Vergne couldn’t quite hook up his lap, and despite taking provisional pole, the Venturi of Maro Engel found two hundredths of a second to depose the Frenchman. All eyes were on the DS Virgin of Lopez, who took P2, pushing a frustrated Vergne down into P3. With Daniel Abt two tenths up in the first sector, the young German kept his cool, and took provisional pole, only his second in Formula E. Despite a strong lap, Oliver Turvey’s NextEV NIO was denied a maiden pole (and on his birthday, too!) by only a tenth.
Can Sebastien Buemi carve his way through the pack and make it four wins in a row? Tune in to the Mexico City ePrix at 11pm GMT to find out, and keep it EV Performance for a full race report!