Formula E in Portland: Jake Dennis takes pole position & world championship lead in thrilling qualifying
Jake Dennis has secured pole position for the first Formula E race in Portland - and with it the lead in the world championship. In a close-fought final, the Andretti driver held his own against Sacha Fenestraz (Nissan) at the home race of his Andretti racing team. All other title contenders dropped out early and will start far behind. Jean-Eric Vergne, who had qualified in P6, as well as his DS teammate Stoffel Vandoorne will take a pitlane start penalty following an infringement in qualifying.
Group A: Nissan still unbeatable as title contenders stumble
In Group A, the two Nissan drivers, who had made a very strong impression in Portland up to that point, were among those competing. Sacha Fenestraz was already the fastest on his first timed run. He was also to remain in first place for the first half of the twelve-minute session. Behind him were Jean-Eric Vergne, Norman Nato and Max Günther. Then it was time to change tires.
Now things got serious, especially for title contender Nick Cassidy, who had been last until then. World championship leader Pascal Wehrlein was also in "no-mans land" following his first attempt. Some drivers visibly went to the limit of their tire's traction, yet there was hardly any improvement on the second runs: Fenestraz advanced to first and took Vergne, Nato and Günther into the quarter-finals with him, although the latter still experienced a ride into the grass. Cassidy only finished 6th, Wehrlein 10th - the world championship leader will start from the back row!
There was also trouble for DS Penske. The team received a fine of 25,000 euros (!), and in addition, Jean-Eric Vergne and Stoffel Vandoorne must take up the race from the pit lane. DS had installed equipment in the pit lane that could scan the RFID chips of the tires of all passing cars and thus collect data (full explanation). Vergne nevertheless continued to take part in qualifying.
Group B: Disaster for Evans, Rast rocks
The first attempts in Group B showed a familiar picture: brake problems for Mahindra at the end of the long straight, this time for Roberto Merhi. Edo Mortara initially set a fast lap, but then experienced a bit of a scare in the final combination of corners, losing control exiting turn 11 and returning to the track over the grass. Mitch Evans failed to set a lap time within the first six minutes due to a technical problem, making him the next title contender out of the race for pole position early. Another, however, delivered: Jake Dennis set the fastest time in the first half of the session, followed by Rene Rast, Robin Frijns and Andre Lotterer.
After the tire changes, Mortara revved right back up and moved up to position 2. Lotterer also improved his own best time and passed Rast and Frijns - with the German now third. Then came the decisive laps: Rast set the fastest lap, as he had done in Free Practice 1, and thus took the group win! Dennis was second ahead of Jake Hughes in the McLaren. In fourth place Antonio Felix da Costa also made it into the quarter-finals. Lotterer and Frijns narrowly failed to finish fifth and sixth despite good performances. Behind them lined up Mortara, Lucas di Grassi, Sam Bird, Merhi and Evans. Disaster for Jaguar!
Overview: Formula E qualifying in Portland
QF1: Norman Nato vs. Jean-Eric Vergne
Nato lived up to his rare role as favorite in the first quarter-final, the Nissan driver being the quicker in the first two sectors to take an overall lead of just over a tenth of a second over Vergne across the lap. Nato was thus through to the semifinals. Vergne later complained that his team had informed him of the penalty just before his fast lap, impacting his concentration.
QF2: Max Günther vs. Sacha Fenestraz
Fenestraz delivered a strong first sector, taking around two tenths of a second off Günther. In the second sector, both were almost identically fast - except for one thousandth of a second. Although Günther was still able to catch up, in the end the second Nissan driver also prevailed by a tenth and moved on.
QF3: Jake Hughes vs. Jake Dennis
In the third quarter-final, Hughes got the better start. Dennis, however, was able to counter in the second sector and caught up again. Sector 3 brought the decision - and a clear lead of almost three tenths of a second for Dennis! The world championship runner-up was thus through to the semi-finals and already in an excellent position regarding the championship.
QF4: Antonio Felix da Costa vs. Rene Rast
Rast opened the final quarterfinal with a serious mistake that left him more than three-tenths of a second behind. Nevertheless, the German somehow managed to find enough time in Sectors 2 and 3 to qualify for the semifinals! He beat Felix da Costa in the Porsche by 1.43 tenths of a second. "What an incredible second half of the lap that was, please!" his engineer radioed.
SF1: Norman Nato vs. Sacha Fenestraz
The two Nissan teammates went head-to-head in the first semi-final in Portland. This had been the case once before - then with the better end for Fenestraz. This time, too, the youngster took an advantage of almost three tenths of a second in the first sector. In the second part of the lap, the two were on a par, as they were in the third. In the end, Fenestraz moved into the qualifying final with a lead of 3.44 tenths of a second.
SF2: Rene Rast vs. Jake Dennis
Rast again dropped a lot of time in the first sector, while Dennis really turned up the heat just there! Sectors 2 and 3 also went to the Briton, so that in the end Dennis easily advanced to the final with a lead of almost half a second. Hardly anyone would have expected Rast to have so few chances. Nevertheless, the McLaren driver can be happy about a place on the second row of the grid.
Final: Sacha Fenestraz vs. Jake Dennis
Fenestraz led the way, starting the qualifying final with a solid first sector. Dennis was about the same speed. In the second sector, both were also almost equal - again with a slight advantage for Fenestraz. In the final corner, however, the Nissan driver came out a little too far and appeared to brush the wall. In doing so, he lost decisive momentum: With just under eight hundredths of a second behind, he still fell behind Dennis!
The pole position thus went to Jake Dennis - his first of 2023. The Andretti driver also took the lead in the drivers' world championship from Pascal Wehrlein thanks to the three points for first place on the grid, and put himself in the best possible position to extend his lead in the title race. The race in the USA starts at 2:00 a.m. on Saturday night (CEST).