Formula E in Rome: Mitch Evans takes pole position on Saturday, serious accident for Jake Hughes
Mitch Evans secured pole position in the qualifying final in Rome on Saturday. He prevailed against his Jaguar teammate Sam Bird in commanding fashion and put himself in an ideal starting position for the Formula E race. All the other title contenders start further back. After a curious penalty back-and-forth in the group stage, McLaren driver Jake Hughes suffered a violent crash and an intermittent interruption.
Group A: Fenestraz flies, yellow flags cause discussion
Group A featured a number of top qualifiers, including two of the four title contenders: Pascal Wehrlein and Jake Dennis. Also strongly rated: Stoffel Vandoorne. However, the reigning world champion didn't get turn 7 right and slid slightly against the TecPro barrier. He damaged his front wing in the process but continued on his way. After the first attempts, Jake Dennis was at the top of the timesheet, followed by Sam Bird, Sacha Fenestraz and Andre Lotterer. Then it was off to change tires.
Porsche tried a slightly different strategy with Wehrlein, so that the German had a "free lap" but also had to go first in return. At first, this plan seemed to work - Wehrlein improved his best time. In the end, however, almost everyone else improved as well. Fenestraz set the fastest lap, followed by Sam Bird. Dennis moved up to third place at the last second, pushing his rival Wehrlein out of the quarter-finals. Max Günther qualified for the Duels in fourth.
Behind Wehrlein, Vandoorne, Nico Müller, Jean-Eric Vergne, Dan Ticktum and Lotterer lined up. Last up was Sergio Sette Camara, who outbraked himself in turn 4 and had to dive into the run-off zone. The resulting yellow flags should theoretically have affected other drivers behind him, but in fact, Vandoorne, Bird and Dennis improved. This prompted an investigation by the FIA stewards. Porsche team boss Florian Modlinger also called for the lap times of those involved to be cancelled in a TV interview.
In the end, Bird and Vandoorne were penalised by deleting their lap times - Wehrlein was thus supposedly through to the quarter-finals after all. Later before the duel stage, however, there were delays. Completely out of the blue, the stewards accepted a protest from Jaguar and withdrew the deletion of Bird's and Vandoorne's times. Wehrlein was now ultimately out, with Bird advancing through to the quarter-finals!
Group B: Heavy crash for Hughes, Cassidy fails to advance
In Group B, among others, Nick Cassidy and Mitch Evans had their go. The latter lived up to his role as favorite early on and took the lead. Behind him, Sebastien Buemi and the two McLaren drivers Jake Hughes and Rene Rast sorted themselves out before the tire change. Lucas di Grassi locked up and had to use the run-off zone. Cassidy was outside the top 4 at this point, but only then things got serious.
Rast set the fastest time in Sector 1 on his second attempt, but a little later his teammate caused a serious accident: Jake Hughes lost control of his McLaren in the fast turn 6 and initially hit the wall on the right. With the front end destroyed, he slid across the track and also hit the left side, possibly even harder. Race control immediately threw red flags to secure the accident scene. Hughes got out of the car, apparently uninjured.
A nasty smash for @McLarenFE's @JakeHughesRace with the Group B session ending under a red flag. @mitchevans_, @Sebastien_buemi, @ReneRastRacing and @edomortara progress to the Duels ⚔️@Hankook_Sport #RomeEPrix pic.twitter.com/px6CO2aPPb- ABB FIA Formula E World Championship (@FIAFormulaE) July 15, 2023
With only 18 seconds left on the clock, the session was not resumed. As a result, no driver was able to improve. Evans, Buemi, Rast and Edo Mortara thus qualified for the duel phase. Hughes, who had actually set the third-fastest time, was demoted to the back of the field for causing the red flag. Positions 5 to 10 were taken by Cassidy (!), Norman Nato, Antonio Felix da Costa, Lucas di Grassi, Robin Frijns and Roberto Merhi.
Overview: Formula E qualifying in Rome (Saturday)
QF1: Jake Dennis vs Sam Bird
Bird got the better start to the first quarter-final, who had only shortly before learned to be allowed to participate in the duel phase after all. He took almost three-tenths of a second off Dennis in Sector 1 and even extended his lead to 4.5 tenths. The world championship leader thus eliminated early, Bird unexpectedly in the semi-finals!
QF2: Max Günther vs. Sacha Fenestraz
Group winner Fenestraz again showed a strong first sector and drove step by step two tenths of a second ahead. Then Günther left a full four-tenths of a second in Sector 2. The German was unable to close this gap. In the end, he had to settle for grid row 4, almost half a second behind. Fenestraz, on the other hand, once again proved his strong qualifying pace.
QF3: Rene Rast vs. Sebastien Buemi
In the first section of the track, Rast and Buemi were almost identically fast. Sector 2, however, clearly went to Rast, who was thus virtually two tenths of a second faster. Buemi, however, was able to counter and worked out a narrow lead of 39 thousandths of a second in the final sector. At least a ray of hope for Envision! As the fastest quarter-final loser, Rast can nevertheless be proud of his lap and 5th place on the grid.
QF4: Edo Mortara vs. Mitch Evans
Mortara and Evans dueled on equal terms - at least in the first two sectors. In the last part of the track, however, Mortara made a mistake that cost him four tenths of a second and thus threw him out of the race for pole position. Evans, on the other hand, also took the second Jaguar confidently into the semi-finals, where he was to meet his marque colleague Buemi. In 1:38.460 minutes, Evans incidentally set a new track record for the Circuito Cittadino dell'EUR.
SF1: Sacha Fenestraz vs. Sam Bird
Fenestraz opened the first semi-final with a good first sector, although Bird was a thousandth of a second (!) faster. However, Fenestraz then made a bigger blunder that saw him lose around seven tenths of a second. Three more tenths were added in Sector 2, meaning Bird ultimately qualified for the final with a lead of more than a second.
SF2: Sebastien Buemi vs. Mitch Evans
Evans led the way with a strong first sector. In Sector 2, Buemi lost another full second to the Jaguar factory driver. Ultimately, his gap grew to more than two seconds, thanks in part to a fabulous time from Evans: the "Kiwi" was just one thousandth of a second slower than his record lap from the quarter-final. Both Jaguar drivers thus went through to the final and on to front row of the grid - for the second time since the 2021 New York E-Prix.
Final: Sam Bird vs. Mitch Evans
In the final, Jaguar didn't take any big risks. In sector 1, both drivers were almost equally fast. But then Bird made a mistake and lost more than a second to his teammate. As expected, Evans brought his lead to the finish and thus secured pole position as well as three important points for the championship. Also important, Bird can be the "wingman" for Evans in the race to keep rivals at bay.
The first race in the Italian capital starts at 15:00 (CEST). We will accompany the 13th round of the season as usual with our extensive reporting.