Formula E

Formula E in Sao Paulo: Pascal Wehrlein beats Stoffel Vandoorne for pole position, balloon lands on track

Timo Pape

Timo Pape

Pascal Wehrlein took pole position at the 2024 Sao Paulo E-Prix of Formula E. In a thrilling final duel, the Porsche driver beat Stoffel Vandoorne (DS Penske) by two thousandths of a second! Jean-Eric Vergne, Mitch Evans and Sam Bird completed the top 5 after a penalty was imposed on the fast Max Günther, but the qualifying session will be remembered for another curious incident...

Group A: Balloon flies onto the track, Cassidy out

Qualifying began with a red flag. However, the reason was not an accident, but an obstacle on the track. Curious: a balloon with a piece of paper at the bottom landed on the track at the end of the long back straight before turn 7, of all places! Probably a first in motorsport. The clock was stopped with 11:15 minutes remaining. Track marshals retrieved the balloon from the track, then the race continued.

As expected, it was the two Jaguar works drivers who set the pace in the first six minutes. Nick Cassidy led the timesheets ahead of team-mate Mitch Evans. However, the two DS Penske cars of Stoffel Vandoorne and Jean-Eric Vergne then moved between the 'big cats'. So it was time to change tyres in order to set up optimally for the decisive attempts.

ABT driver Nico Müller started his fast lap a little earlier than the competition and took the lead despite contact with the wall - a move that paid off. Vergne set the fastest lap time of the group overall, followed by his DS team-mate Stoffel Vandoorne. Evans finished third and Müller sensationally took fourth place in the duel phase. World championship leader Cassidy was thus eliminated prematurely in fifth place!

The remaining positions were taken by Oliver Rowland, Nyck de Vries, Lucas di Grassi, Robin Frijns, Sergio Sette Camara and a disappointing Norman Nato. It is quite remarkable that all three Mahindra cars in the group were able to leave at least one Jaguar, ERT and Porsche behind them.

Group B: Günther defies all odds, Mortara & Bird surprise

A total of three Porsche cars lined up in Group B, including Max Günther, who was hit with two hefty penalties! Not much worth mentioning happened in the first half of the session. Pascal Wehrlein set the fastest lap, followed by team-mate Antonio Felix da Costa. Jake Dennis in the customer Porsche lined up third ahead of Sacha Fenestraz. Then it was time for all the drivers to pit.

Now things got serious. Günther did the same as Müller, took to the track a little earlier and took the lead with two fastest sector times. Wehrlein was unable to match his compatriot's time and remained second. Edo Mortara sensationally put his Mahindra in third place, knocking out both Felix da Costa (5th) and champion Dennis (6th)! Sam Bird finished fourth with a strong lap and also qualified for the quarter-finals.

Jake Hughes, Sacha Fenestraz, Jehan Daruvala, Sebastien Buemi and Dan Ticktum occupied the rear positions from 7th place onwards. Disastrous qualifying for the reigning world champion team Envision Racing!

Quarter-finals

VF1: Mitch Evans vs Stoffel Vandoorne

The first duel was almost like a preliminary decision for pole position. Vandoorne made the better start to the lap. He took a good two tenths of a second from Evans. Sector 2 also went narrowly to the DS Penske driver. Although Evans countered again in the final section, he ultimately crossed the line just over one and a half tenths of a second behind Vandoorne. Evans out, Vandoorne on!

VF2: Nico Müller vs Jean-Eric Vergne

The second quarter-final went to Vergne without a fight. The reason: Müller was unable to line up for the duel after his contact with the wall in the group phase and had to watch from the ABT garage. Vergne did his duty on the track and also took the second DS into the semi-finals.

VF3: Edo Mortara vs Pascal Wehrlein

In the third duel, Wehrlein showed Mortara where the hammer hangs. The German Porsche driver was clearly faster than Mortara in all three sectors and took more than half a second off the Mahindra driver. As a result, Wehrlein was confidently through to the final four. An important step for the German, especially in view of the Jaguar drivers starting further back!

VF4: Sam Bird vs Max Günther

Günther was significantly better than Bird in the first sector and extended his lead in the second section. Sector 3 also went narrowly to the Maserati driver. As a result, the German clearly beat Bird in the McLaren by 3.2 tenths of a second.

Semi-final

HF1: Stoffel Vandoorne vs Jean-Eric Vergne

The first semi-final was a duel between the two DS team-mates. Vandoorne - pole-sitter in 2023 - opened the time chase with a strong first sector, in which he took a good three tenths of a second off Vergne! The second sector was also clearly in Vandoorne's favour. In sector 3, he even extended his lead to more than seven tenths of a second. Clear thing at DS - Vandoorne with a remarkable lap time in the final!

HF2: Max Günther vs Pascal Wehrlein

Wehrlein got off to the slightly better start in the second semi-final. The two German drivers were almost identically fast in sector 2. So it came down to sector 3. Here, Wehrlein flexed his muscles and was more than two tenths of a second faster than Günther! As a result, the Porsche driver came out on top by 2.77 tenths and qualified for the final against Vandoorne.

Final: Pascal Wehrlein vs Stoffel Vandoorne

Wehrlein took to the track first in the Sao Paulo qualifying final and was a good tenth of a second faster than Vandoorne in Sector 1. Vandoorne made up minimal ground in the second part of the circuit - it now came down to sector 3. There, too, both were almost equally fast. Ultimately, Wehrlein was two thousandths of a second faster than Vandoorne and secured his fifth pole position in Formula E - his first outside of Mexico! He also added three points to his championship result.

The fourth race of the 2024 Formula E season will take place early on Saturday evening at 6pm (CET).

Results, times & starting grid

Overall standings (drivers & teams)

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