Formula E in Saudi Arabia: Jean-Eric Vergne defeats Mitch Evans & sets pole position record on Friday
Jean-Eric Vergne came out on top against favourite Mitch Evans in a thrilling Formula E qualifying session on Friday. The Frenchman in the DS Penske turned up the heat once again in the final and secured grid position 1 at the Diriyah E-Prix as well as the Formula E record for the most pole positions: Like Sebastien Buemi, he now stands at 16 poles. Sergio Sette Camara sensationally finished fourth behind Jake Dennis. World championship leader Pascal Wehrlein starts the race in sixth place.
Group A: Favourites come out on top
A veritable "group of death" with heavyweights such as Pascal Wehrlein, Jake Dennis, Nick Cassidy, Mitch Evans and Robin Frijns took to the track at the start of qualifying on Friday. As usual, the first six minutes were all about setting a competitive lap time and getting close to the limits. Wehrlein did this best. The German was a good two tenths of a second faster than Dennis. The two Jaguar works drivers followed in third and fourth place before it was time to change tyres.
As in the training session, the track got even faster in the following attempts. First Jake Hughes - pole-sitter from 2023 - set the fastest time. However, Wehrlein countered a little later. Dennis then took the lead, followed by Nick Cassidy. The New Zealander was to remain in first place ahead of Dennis and Wehrlein. Mitch Evans was able to improve to fourth place and thus also entered the duel phase. They were followed by: Hughes, Frijns (after contact with the wall in turn 14), Oliver Rowland, Nico Müller, Lucas di Grassi, Edo Mortara and Nyck de Vries.
Group B: Sette Camara sensational, but Vergne even faster
In the first half of Group B, Sergio Sette Camara once again showed his talent this race weekend. The ERT driver was even the fastest in the first attempts - with a lap time that would have been enough for the quarter-finals in Group A. Max Günther set the second-best time ahead of Sam Bird and Stoffel Vandoorne. In the meantime, Bird complained on the radio about heat on his back. However, there did not appear to be a problem with his McLaren.
After the tyre change, it was all to play for the eleven drivers. Some of them managed to cross the line just in time. Jean-Eric Vergne set the absolute best time with his last attempt. Sette Camara remained second ahead of Günther. Norman Nato moved up to fourth place and thus into the duel phase. The remaining positions were taken by Bird, Vandoorne, Sebastien Buemi, Sacha Fenestraz (with minor contact with the wall), Antonio Felix da Costa, Dan Ticktum and Jehan Daruvala. The Indian was more than a second down on his Maserati team-mate.
Overview: Formula E qualifying in Diriyah (Friday)
VF1: Pascal Wehrlein vs Jake Dennis
The first quarter-final saw a duel between the Porsche giants. Jake Dennis had already gained a good two tenths of a second on Pascal Wehrlein in sector 1. The two were neck and neck in the second section before sector 3 went to Wehrlein. In the end, however, Dennis prevailed with a lead of 83 thousandths of a second over the championship leader, who had to say goodbye to a front-row grid position! Instead, the German will start the race from 6th position.
VF2: Mitch Evans vs Nick Cassidy
In the duel between the two Jaguar works drivers, Mitch Evans got off to an outstanding start and was a full four tenths of a second faster than Nick Cassidy. The "Kiwi" even doubled the gap in sector 2, and although the final section of the track clearly went to Cassidy, Evans still had a half-second lead over his team-mate and progressed to the semi-finals with aplomb.
VF3: Max Günther vs Sergio Sette Camara
Then came the high-flyer of the race weekend so far - Sergio Sette Camara - and was immediately faster than Max Günther in sector 1. The second section also went to the Brazilian with a slight advantage. In sector 3, he gained another three tenths of a second and clearly beat Günther (grid position 8) by four tenths of a second. ERT in the semi-finals of qualifying!
VF4: Norman Nato vs Jean-Eric Vergne
Norman Nato and Jean-Eric Vergne opened the last quarter-final with almost identical times. Vergne was able to carve out a small buffer in the second sector. The DS Penske driver was able to extend his lead to three tenths of a second towards the end of his lap. This meant that "JEV" qualified for the final four - with four different drivetrains.
HF1: Jake Dennis vs Mitch Evans
The first semi-final was already a preliminary decision in the battle for pole position - at least that's what many thought. Evans had a better first sector and was also faster than champion Dennis in the second section. Although the Brit was able to catch up again, in the end he was 87 thousandths of a second behind the Jaguar driver. Evans in the final!
HF2: Sergio Sette Camara vs Jean-Eric Vergne
Vergne got off to the better start in the second semi-final. However, Sette Camara countered in the second part of the race, making it exciting once again. In the end, however, Vergne came out on top by a clear margin of almost half a second because Sette Camara lost a lot of time towards the end of his lap. Vergne thus met Evans in the qualifying final. But Sette Camara was also delighted with an impressive fourth place on the grid behind Dennis.
Final: Jean-Eric Vergne vs Mitch Evans
In the Diriyah final, Vergne went out first on his fast lap, with Evans following a few seconds behind. In sector 1, both were equally fast to within five thousandths of a second! In sector 2, however, Evans was able to build up a minimal lead. However, Vergne put everything into the final sector and actually beat the favourite Evans by 72 thousandths - Vergne on pole position after a strong qualifying performance!
It was Vergne's 16th pole position overall in the electric racing series (all Formula E statistics). In doing so, he equalled Sebastien Buemi's existing record. The last time Vergne had been first on the grid was at the 2022 Jakarta E-Prix - ending a long drought for the double champion. His team DS Penske was delighted with the first pole since Stoffel Vandoorne's qualifying success at the 2023 Sao Paulo E-Prix.
The second round of the 2024 Formula E season will take place on Friday evening at 6pm (CET).