Formula E

Formula E qualifying: Sebastien Buemi reclaims pole position record on Friday in Saudi Arabia

Timo Pape

Timo Pape

Sebastien Buemi has taken pole position for Friday's Formula E race in Saudi Arabia. In a gripping and high-class qualifying for the Diriyya E-Prix, he prevailed in the final against McLaren rookie Jake Hughes and drew level with Jean-Eric Vergne again in the eternal statistics - both now stand at 15 pole positions. After several accidents, the qualifying had to be interrupted in the meantime.

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Group A: Hughes flies, accidents for both Maserati drivers

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The first group started with cautious laps, first to drive again the sand from the track, which had settled since the 2nd free practice. The first serious times came in after just under five minutes. Sacha Fenestraz in the Nissan was the fastest until then.

Then it crashed violently: Maximilian Günther came off the racing line in turn 11 and hit the TecPro barrier at quite a high speed at a 45-degree angle. The German was uninjured, but his Maserati took heavy damage to the front end. Race control had red flags waved and stopped the clock at 7:03 remaining. A crane truck first pulled the e-race car out of the gangway and then towed it off the track on a hook through an emergency exit. However, there was then repair work to be done on the TecPro barrier, so the stoppage dragged on.

After a good 13-minute break, the race continued. As expected, the lap times were now better. Oliver Rowland was initially the fastest ahead of Dan Ticktum, Antonio Felix da Costa and Lucas di Grassi. Then another accident - again for Maserati: Edo Mortara lost the rear of his car in turn 16 and crashed backwards into the wall. The second Maserati also took heavy damage, but made it back to the pits under its own power. Lots of work for the team ahead of Friday's race!

Now it counted for the remaining nine drivers: Jake Hughes turned the fastest lap of his group with best times in Sectors 1 and 2 and also moved into the duel phase in his second Formula E qualifying session! Oliver Rowland qualified second, and FP2 winner Dan Ticktum (Nio 333) also advanced a lap in third. Lucas di Grassi made it to 4th place - both Mahindra thus surprisingly in the quarter-finals! Nick Cassidy narrowly missed out in fifth place ahead of Mexico winner Jake Dennis and Antonio Felix da Costa (Porsche). Behind them lined up: Norman Nato, Sacha Fenestraz, Mortara and Guenther.

Group B: Jaguar flexes its muscles, next DS disaster

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In Group B, ABT Cupra initially announced that Nico Müller would not be able to take part in qualifying after his accident in the 2nd free practice session. In the first minutes, Sebastien Buemi in the Envision customer Jaguar set the pace. Behind him, Sam Bird, Mitch Evans and Rene Rast lined up after the first attempts - Jaguar with strong pace throughout. Debutant Kelvin van der Linde (ABT) briefly lost control of his car but managed to save himself. Pascal Wehrlein improved to second place, Jean-Eric Vergne to third ahead of Andre Lotterer. There was almost a collision between Pascal Wehrlein and Sergio Sette Camara, who failed to see the onrushing German.

Then things got serious. Bird turned a strong lap with two sector bests and took the lead. Buemi made it to second place, with Evans third. In addition, McLaren driver Rast moved into the quarter-finals. Wehrlein failed to finish fifth, and a number of other duel candidates also retired early in the following order: Sergio Sette Camara, Jean-Eric Vergne and Andre Lotterer. Formula E champion Stoffel Vandoorne was only ninth - the next qualifying disaster for DS Penske. Van der Linde finished tenth, around half a second behind the Belgian, and ABT teammate Müller will start from the very back without a qualifying time.

Quarterfinals

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VF1: Dan Ticktum vs. Oliver Rowland

The first quarterfinal pitted two Brits against each other. Ticktum led the way with a strong Sector 1 and also went a tenth of a second faster than Rowland in the second section. In the end, the Nio 333 driver was more than half a second better than Rowland, advancing to the semifinals with a lap time of 1:09.953.

VF2: Lucas di Grassi vs. Jake Hughes

Sector 1 in the second duel clearly went to Hughes, who was on a similar level as Ticktum. In the second section of the track, both drivers were on a par, but di Grassi also lost time in the final section. The bottom line was that the Mexico pole sitter was more than three tenths of a second behind the McLaren driver. Rookie Hughes on!

VF3: Mitch Evans vs. Sebastien Buemi

In the duel between the two Jaguar cars, Evans got the slightly better start. However, Buemi countered in Sector 2 and took two tenths of a second off his rival there. Thanks to a strong final sector, Buemi in the customer Jaguar from Envision ultimately prevailed over the factory driver by two and a half tenths of a second - a strong performance by the 2016 Formula E champion!

VF4: Rene Rast vs. Sam Bird

Rast caught a good first sector, but rival Bird was still a tenth of a second faster. The German in the McLaren was able to counter in the second sector and make up the gap. In sector 3, however, Diriyya expert Bird worked his magic and took almost two tenths of a second off Rast again. This was also the gap at the end of the lap. Rast out, Bird with previous Gen3 record (1:09.558 minutes) in the semis.

Semifinal

HF1: Jake Hughes vs. Dan Ticktum

In the first semifinal, Hughes took to the track first. However, his first sector was manageable. Ticktum, on the other hand, was on the same level as in his quarterfinal. The Nio 333 rider was also slightly faster than Hughes in the second sector. But then Ticktum made a crucial mistake: In the last corner, his car was transverse, causing him to lose around eight tenths of a second. Hughes with good luck for the first time in the final, frustration at Nio 333!

HF2: Sebastien Buemi vs. Sam Bird

In the second semi-final, Bird was initially quicker, taking a good tenth of a second off his brand colleague. However, the second section of the challenging Diriyya circuit went - again, just - to Buemi. In sector 3, the Envision driver went one better, ultimately advancing to the final with a lead of just under a tenth of a second. Buemi thus back on the front row of the grid for the first time in 33 races (Berlin E-Prix 2020)

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Final: Jake Hughes vs. Sebastien Buemi

In the qualifying final of Diriyya Friday, Hughes led the way. Hughes was minimally faster than Buemi in the first sector. The two were also almost identically fast in the second sector, but again with a slight advantage for Hughes. In the end, however, Buemi was once again able to tickle that extra spark out of his Envision! The Swiss driver prevailed by six hundredths of a second to claim his 15th pole position in Formula E - the first since the 2019 New York E-Prix! In doing so, he again drew level in this statistic with Jean-Eric Vergne, who now hold the record jointly.

After crossing the finish line, Buemi already broke out in jubilation on the team radio. After qualifying, he told Formula E World Signal, "It feels great. I'm a bit emotional, even though it's just qualifying. It's all because of the last two seasons. The time was hard, and of course then you also start to doubt yourself. I'm really happy: I think I've still got it! This is probably the most emotional pole position of my career," Buemi said.

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The second race of the 2023 Formula E season starts on Friday evening at 6 p.m. (CET). ProSieben will broadcast the Diriyya E-Prix live on free TV, ran.de on livestream. We accompany the race as usual in our popular Hankook Formula E Liveticker.

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Results, times & grid

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Overall ranking (drivers & teams)

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