Formula E in London: Mitch Evans grabs pole position on Saturday, but penalty promotes Nick Cassidy to P1
Mitch Evans won Saturday's Formula E qualifying in London. The Jaguar driver beat world championship rival Nick Cassidy (Envision) in a thrilling finale, but has to start the race from sixth place due to a penalty. Cassidy, on the other hand, put himself in a good starting position. World championship leader Jake Dennis, however, still starts second and can win his first title later this evening. Sebastien Buemi, Dan Ticktum and Rene Rast completed the top 5.
Group A: Dennis on top despite wall contact
As the qualifying format of Formula E would have it, two of the four title contenders per group went on a hunt for the best time in Group A. In the first part of qualifying, that applied to Jake Dennis and Mitch Evans. The track had dried completely since the second free practice session in the morning. As a result, the drivers were able to take more risks.
"I have something loose on the right hand side of my seat. And I also had a massive power cut for two seconds in turn 9," Dennis complained over the radio, but that didn't stop him from setting the fastest time in the first half of the session. He was followed in the time table by Edo Mortara, Sergio Sette Camara and Mitch Evans. Then it was time for all the drivers to change tires.
Now things got serious, and finally the two DS drivers also sent a sign of life: Stoffel Vandoorne and Jean-Eric Vergne clawed their way up to the top 4. But then almost everyone else improved as well. Evans took the top spot as Rene Rast climbed to 2nd, but the focus was now primarily on Dennis. And the world championship leader lived up to the expectations: Dennis entered the duel phase with the fastest time - despite making contact with a wall on his fast lap!
Evans remained second, Vandoorne made it to third, and Rene Rast also made it to the quarter-finals. Lining up behind the top four were: Mortara, Vergne, Andre Lotterer, Antonio Felix da Costa, Sette Camara and Robin Frijns.
Group B: Cassidy withstands maximum pressure
In Group B, Nick Cassidy and Pascal Wehrlein were among those who took their turn. However, Sebastien Buemi set the fastest lap time in the first half of the twelve-minute session. Behind him were Norman Nato, Nico Müller and Sacha Fenestraz. Nato outbraked himself in turn 10 and had to abandon a flying lap in the run-off of turn ten. Cassidy was only in 8th place after the first run, followed by tire changes - all drivers came into the pits.
With a fresh set of rubber, Cassidy immediately started with best times in the first two sectors in the possibly title-deciding phase. However, he then made a mistake in turn 16 and was unable to improve. But he still had one more try. Meanwhile, Dan Ticktum took the lead and Wehrlein moved up to third place. Time was running out - now it was all up to Cassidy. He made it through the lap without a mistake this time and took 1st place! "That was really maximum pressure - was it enough?" radioed Cassidy. The simple answer: yes. The title race was still open.
CASSIDY. MEANS. BUSINESS! ?- ABB FIA Formula E World Championship (@FIAFormulaE) July 29, 2023
Incredible lap from the Kiwi and he's through to the Duels. Joined by Buemi, Ticktum and Wehrlein.
All four Championship contenders will compete in the Quarter-Finals! ⚡️@Hankook_Sport #LondonEPrix pic.twitter.com/ySo9aTbFKi
In addition to Cassidy, Buemi, Ticktum and Wehrlein advanced to the knockout stages. Nato narrowly failed to finish fifth. Behind him: Müller, Max Günther, Sacha Fenestraz, Jake Hughes, Lucas di Grassi and Roberto Merhi. ABT, thanks to Müller, again bettered the Mahindra factory team clearly.
Overview: Formula E qualifying in London (Saturday)
QF1: Stoffel Vandoorne vs. Mitch Evans
Evans, as expected, did not give Vandoorne the slightest chance in the first quarter-final. The Jaguar driver was clearly faster in all three sectors and built a lead of more than half a second on the (still) reigning Formula E champion. Evans was thus safe through to the semi-finals, with Vandoorne on the fourth row of the grid.
QF2: Rene Rast vs. Jake Dennis
Now the title favorite came and delivered again. Dennis was also faster than his rival Rast in all three sectors, taking just under four tenths of a second off him on his lap. The second championship contender thus also moved into the final four in commanding fashion.
QF3: Dan Ticktum vs. Sebastien Buemi
In the third quarter-final, Buemi got going with a strong first sector. The second sector also went narrowly in favor of the Swiss. In sector 3, both drivers were on par, allowing Buemi to bring his lead of just over two-tenths of a second to the finish line. Ticktum had to admit defeat despite a good performance, while Buemi moved into the semifinals - an important step for top team Envision with an eye on the Teams' World Championship.
QF4: Pascal Wehrlein vs. Nick Cassidy
Cassidy started into the final quarter-final duel with a clearly faster first sector. Wehrlein lost another two tenths of a second in the second part of the lap. In sector 3, both drivers were almost equally fast, meaning that in the end, Cassidy easily edged out his German Porsche rival by 4.44 tenths of a second.
SF1: Jake Dennis vs. Mitch Evans
Dennis had won his previous two qualifying duels against Evans. This time, however, he was not allowed to take any risks and in order not to damage his car. Possibly this played a role, because in the first sector Dennis had already lost more than two tenths of a second to Evans. The New Zealander was also faster in the second sector. Although sector 3 went in Dennis' favor, he ultimately had to admit defeat with a gap of more than three tenths of a second. The world championship leader was thus out, with Evans advancing to the final!
SF2: Nick Cassidy vs. Sebastien Buemi
With both world championships in mind, the second semi-final was as good as decided even before it began; after all, Envision did not allow their drivers to take any risk of an accident, especially in the case of Cassidy, who could still become drivers' champion. Nevertheless, sector 1 went to Buemi. In the second section, Cassidy was minimally faster, but in sector 3 Buemi took the way through the run-off zone in turn 10 - possibly intentionally. So, as expected, Cassidy moved into the final against his compatriot from New Zealand.
Final: Nick Cassidy vs. Mitch Evans
Even before the finale, it was clear that Cassidy would start from first on the grid, as Evans was given a grid drop penalty of five positions following an incident in Rome. Nevertheless, three important world championship points were at stake! Cassidy was slightly faster than Evans in sector 1, as well as in the second part of the track. However, Evans countered! Thanks to a strong time in Sector 3, Evans officially took the London pole position by a mere 26 thousandths of a second over Cassidy!
Because of Evans' demotion to 6th on the grid, the two top candidates for the World Championship title - Dennis and Cassidy - will start the race together from the front row. Dennis has thus done his "homework" and has a good chance of becoming world champion later this evening. Evans will be hoping that his two rivals will get in each other's way to still have a chance of winning the title. The same goes for Wehrlein, who also still has a theoretical chance.
The first race in London starts early Saturday evening at 18:00 (CEST). Then the decision in the title fight could already be made. We will accompany the penultimate round of the season as usual with our extensive reporting.