Formula E in Saudi Arabia: Rowland sensationally takes pole position on Saturday, Buemi crashes
Oliver Rowland won qualifying for the Diriyah E-Prix on Saturday. The Nissan driver beat Envision driver Robin Frijns in the qualifying final to start the third Formula E race of the year from first place. Nick Cassidy finished third ahead of Stoffel Vandoorne and Jehan Daruvala (!). While some of the favourites retired early, Sebastien Buemi had a major accident.
Group A: Favourites stumble
In contrast to Friday, the groups on the second race day of the Diriyah E-Prix were somewhat more evenly matched. Nevertheless, some fast drivers took to the grid with Mitch Evans, Pascal Wehrlein, Jean-Eric Vergne and Max Günther. In the first half of the session, Evans set the fastest lap ahead of Robin Frijns, Nyck de Vries and Sacha Fenestraz. Far behind: Antonio Felix da Costa in the Porsche. Then it was time for all the drivers to change tyres.
Ahead of the decisive laps, a certain backlog formed on the track again. Then the times tumbled - with some big surprises. Fenestraz set the fastest time, Frijns was second. In addition, the two DS drivers Vergne and Stoffel Vandoorne made it into the knockout phase. Wehrlein was only fifth and favourite Evans only seventh! Günther slotted in between the two. Dan Ticktum, de Vries, Norman Nato and Felix da Costa followed in the rear positions - bitter disappointment for Porsche and Andretti.
Group B: Buemi accident causes surprises
Friday's winner Jake Dennis, Nick Cassidy and surprise driver Sergio Sette Camara were among those competing in Group B. However, Oliver Rowland was the fastest in the first round. Jake Hughes followed in second ahead of Jehan Daruvala, who was always very fast, especially in sector 2, and Sebastien Buemi. Sam Bird braked in turn 18 and drove through the run-off zone.
Now came the fast laps. Cassidy improved to second place, then there was a crash! Sebastien Buemi lost his Envision in turn 3 and slammed into the TecPro barrier. His car sustained serious damage to the front, but the Swiss driver was unhurt. "I completely missed my braking point," complained Buemi on the radio - followed by some swearing. Race control ended the session prematurely with a red flag.
In addition to Rowland, Cassidy and Hughes, rookie Daruvala sensationally also made it into the duel phase for the first time. However, there was an even bigger surprise: the previous day's winner Dennis was eliminated in eighth place! The remaining placings: Sette Camara, Sam Bird, Nico Müller, Edo Mortara and Lucas di Grassi. Buemi's lap time was cancelled for causing the red flag. Remarkable: Nissan won both groups.
Overview: Formula E qualifying in Diriyah (Saturday)
VF1: Jean-Eric Vergne vs. Robin Frijns
After a lengthy interruption to repair the TecPro barrier, the session resumed at 14:16 (CET). The first duel produced the first minor surprise: Frijns took more than two tenths of a second off Friday's pole-sitter Vergne and moved into the semi-finals by a clear margin.
VF2: Stoffel Vandoorne vs Sacha Fenestraz
However, DS Penske still had an iron in the fire: Vandoorne was six tenths of a second faster than Nissan driver Fenestraz in the first sector. Ultimately, the Belgian pulled out a lead of more than half a second and advanced to the final four.
VF3: Jake Hughes vs Nick Cassidy
In the third quarter-final, Cassidy made the better start and the Jaguar driver was also faster than Hughes in the second section of the race. In the end, the McLaren driver was more than six tenths of a second off the pace - a clear win for Cassidy.
VF4: Jehan Daruvala vs Oliver Rowland
Duelling debutant Daruvala did not get off to a good start on his lap and was also to lose a lot of time in sector 3. Although he was faster than Rowland in "his" second sector, the bottom line was that he was also more than six tenths of a second down on the Briton in the Nissan. Nevertheless, a strong qualification for the Indian.
HF1: Robin Frijns vs Stoffel Vandoorne
Frijns also made short work of the semi-final: he pulled out a lead of a good two tenths of a second in the first two sectors and managed this buffer all the way to the finish line. Even though Vandoorne was marginally faster in the final sector, the DS driver retired. Frijns in the final!
HF2: Nick Cassidy vs Oliver Rowland
In the second semi-final, both drivers started on an equal footing. Ultimately, however, Rowland was slightly faster than Cassidy in all three sectors and took almost two tenths of a second off the New Zealander in the end! Rowland thus sensationally reached the final, Cassidy on the second row of the grid in 3rd place.
Final: Robin Frijns vs Oliver Rowland
Rowland opened the final with a slightly faster first sector than Frijns. In the second sector, the two were on an equal footing, but again with a slight advantage in favour of the Nissan driver. Rowland added almost two tenths of a second in the final sector and confidently secured his sixth pole position in Formula E! It was also the first three points for Nissan in 2024!