Formula E

Saturday qualifying: Jake Hughes & McLaren celebrate 1st Formula E pole position in Saudi Arabia

Timo Pape

Timo Pape

Jake Hughes and McLaren will start from pole position for the first time in Formula E history. In the qualifying finale on Saturday of the Diriyya E-Prix, the young Briton prevailed over "heavyweight" Mitch Evans (Jaguar), who had to settle for second place on the grid. Rene Rast in the second McLaren made it to third on the grid ahead of Sebastien Buemi. The two world championship leaders, Pascal Wehrlein and Jake Dennis, start directly behind.

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Group A: Long wait pays off, cat brakes out Ticktum

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The very high-caliber group A went on time at 13:40 (CET) on the track in sunshine. In the first few minutes, no one got into the 1:09 range - presumably because the wind had blown sand onto the track again between practice and qualifying. McLaren driver Jake Hughes was the fastest at first. Sam Bird made a mistake under braking in turn 18, but managed to save himself. While most of the drivers came into the pits to change tires, Dan Ticktum drove onto the empty track again and started with a strong first sector. The Briton promptly took the lead with a three-tenths of a second advantage.

Then the next set of lap times came in from the other drivers. Antonio Felix da Costa improved to second, and rookie Kelvin van der Linde was also fast. Sam Bird set a new best time, and Sergio Sette Camara sorted himself into third behind his teammate. But then the track became much faster! Hughes set the absolute fastest lap, with Sebastien Buemi second and Stoffel Vandoorne third. Jake Dennis moved into the duel stage in fourth.

All the drivers who had waited as long as possible had a clear advantage. Bird and both Nio 333 drivers, however, surprisingly out! Curious: "I already had a cat on the track in free practice and almost caught it - and then on my second fast lap again! You can't make that up!" explained Ticktum on the TV world signal. "I think otherwise I would have made it into the duels."

Behind them lined up Nick Cassidy, Felix da Costa, Norman Nato and van der Linde. However, the ABT rookie was "only" a tenth of a second behind former Berlin winner Nato in the Nissan. Thanks to Vandoorne, a DS drive was in the quarter-finals for the first time this season. Hughes and Buemi can be proud of their "clean slates" - both made it to the duels in all three qualifying sessions deYear.

Group B: Evans prevails, Maserati breathes a sigh of relief

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In Group 1, McLaren driver Rene Rast initially set the pace. But Mitch Evans and Pascal Wehrlein were faster before the usual tire change. Jean-Eric Vergne and Max Günther completed the early top 5, and then things got serious. Sacha Fenestraz was the first driver to improve. But the fastest was Evans with two sector best times. Rast qualified second for the duels, with Pascal Wehrlein third. In addition, Edo Mortara advanced one lap. His Maserati teammate Günther narrowly failed to finish fifth.

After them sorted themselves in: Fenestraz, Oliver Rowland (despite setting the best time in Sector 1), Vergne, Andre Lotterer, Lucas di Grassi (after braking in turn 18) and Nico Müller. After the strong qualifying performance on Friday, Saturday was extremely disappointing for Mahindra and its customer team ABT Cupra. All four ZF-powered cars were eliminated in the group stage and start far back.

Quarterfinals

VF1: Stoffel Vandoorne vs. Sebastien Buemi

In the first quarterfinal, the two Formula E champions got going on equal terms. Ultimately, however, veteran Buemi prevailed over reigning champion Vandoorne by a good three-tenths of a second. Once again, the Swiss driver was very emotional on the radio and thanked his team effusively, as if he had already clinched pole position.

VF2: Jake Dennis vs. Jake Hughes

In the second duel, rookie Hughes really turned it up and "smashed" the world championship leader! Dennis was significantly slower in all three sectors and retired almost half a second behind. Still, not a bad starting position for Dennis considering the strong efficiency of his Andretti customer Porsche.

VF3: Pascal Wehrlein vs. Rene Rast

The Brits also had the upper hand in the next direct comparison between McLaren and Porsche, with Rast taking just under two tenths of a second off his compatriot Wehrlein to also advance to the semifinals. The two early World Championship rivals Wehrlein and Dennis thus start right next to each other in 5th and 6th place. Wehrlein explained on the TV world signal: "That was my first 350-kW lap today. Maybe I was a bit too cautious on the brakes, but it was a good comeback after a poor 3rd Free Practice. Our goal was the duels, and we did that."

VF4: Edo Mortara vs. Mitch Evans

Evans opened the final quarterfinal with a powerful first sector. Mortara was slightly quicker than his rival in the second sector, but Evans worked his magic again in the final section of the demanding circuit. The Jaguar driver clearly outpaced the Maserati driver by almost four-tenths of a second and a new Gen3 record (1:08.909 minutes)

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Semifinals

HF1: Sebastien Buemi vs. Jake Hughes

Buemi started the first semi-final with a good first sector, but Hughes was already three-tenths of a second faster than the Envision driver there! In the second and third sectors, both were on a par, which consequently led to a difference of around 2.5 tenths of a second. Hughes thus in the qualifying final, Buemi on row 2.

HF2: Rene Rast vs. Mitch Evans

At the start of the second semifinal, Evans set the pace, though not quite at Hughes' level. Rast was able to keep up in Sector 2, but the German lost another tenth in the final section of the track. In the end, Evans moved into the final against Hughes with a commanding lead of more than two tenths of a second. Rast will nevertheless start the race from third on the grid - a strong performance by the Formula E returnee.

Final: Jake Hughes vs. Mitch Evans

Time for the final! Evans took to the track first and started with a solid first sector. Hughes, however, was exactly a tenth of a second faster. In the second sector, the Briton was again slightly ahead and extended his lead. In the end it was enough for the McLaren driver! Hughes celebrated his first pole position in Formula E - also the first for the new McLaren team in the electric series - with a lead of 0.104 seconds.

The third race of the 2023 Formula E season begins on Saturday 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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