Venturi’s Stéphane Sarrazin has claimed his first Formula E pole position in a session where rain wreaked havoc for championship contenders Nelson Piquet Jr, Sébastien Buemi and Lucas di Grassi.
In what is the first weather-affected competitive session in the series’ history, rain started to fall just as the opening group rolled out, and it was in this group that Sarrazin set his time. Despite the rain, his 1:23.901s lap was just under 0.3 seconds slower than the best times set in this morning’s dry practice sessions.
Directly behind Sarrazin are the two Dragon Racing cars of Jérôme d’Ambrosio and Loïc Duval, both of whom were also in the first group of qualifying, also benefitting from what were ultimately the most favourable conditions of the session in which to qualify.
As the second group moved on to circuit the rain increased, and it was in this group that Buemi would be the first of the three title contenders to qualify. With conditions deteriorating every lap, the Swiss driver could only manage the second best lap time in his group, and ultimately sixth on the grid overall. Sam Bird topped the group, jumping Bruno Senna’s time from group one to move into fourth position.
Group 3 contained championship leader Piquet Jr, and with the rainfall continuing to intensify, Sakon Yamamoto slid into the barriers hard and brought out the red flag before he could set a lap time. Following a short break to clear the damaged Aguri car, the group re-joined the track with the rain falling at its absolute hardest.
This was terrible news for Piquet who, along with the rest of the group, could only attempt to minimise the damage caused by having to qualify in such bad conditions. It was described by Piquet’s NEXTEV TCR team as “up there with the worst case scenario possible” and ultimately the best the Brazilian could achieve was provisional twelfthth place at the end of his time on track, a massive 11.383 seconds slower than Sarrazin’s pole lap.
But more bad news was to come for Piquet and the rest of his qualifying group. The rain started to ease ahead of the final qualifying group, which also included Lucas di Grassi, the final driver in contention for the championship. With the Battersea Park circuit drying slightly, most of Group 4 were able to jump ahead of Group 3, with di Grassi ending in eleventh position. Not only was Piquet ultimately shuffled down to 16th on the grid, but Buemi’s eDAMS.Renault team mate Nicolas Prost slotted into 15th place, and will no doubt be looking to assist by making life as hard as possible for the Brazilian to move through the field.
With Buemi the only driver starting in a points-paying position of the three capable of taking the Drivers’ Championship title, the advantage is now firmly with the Swiss driver to close the five point gap to Piquet Jr ahead of him and become the inaugural FIA Formula E champion.
Di Grassi and Piquet now very much have their work cut out for them this afternoon to drive forward and seal the title, especially given the narrow nature of the London circuit on which Saturday’s race showed is not always easy to pass. With the rain burying several fast drivers deep in the pack however, there is massive potential for an exciting and possibly incident-filled final race of the season.
Earlier, overnight work from event organisers to resurface turn 1 and remove the severe bump that caused issues in first practice on Saturday was successful. With the additional TecPro barriers that had been added to the apex now removed, the corner has returned to its original width and profile, allowing today’s race to revert to a traditional standing start and not behind the Safety Car.
Duval topped practice one with a 1:23.6s lap, ahead of Buemi (+0.4s) and Bird (+0.6s). di Grassi ended the session sixth, 3.2 seconds back, with Piquet Jr a further 0.5 seconds behind in ninth. The session saw two red flag periods, initially to recover Oliver Turvey’s car which had stopped on the approach to Turn 8.
The second break in proceedings was for Simona de Silvestro, a suspension issue causing the Swiss driver crash into the barriers at the final chicane. De Silvestro’s Andretti teammate – and podium finisher on Saturday – Jean-Éric Vergne, did not complete a lap during the session, with the team reasoning that the Frenchman had experienced a medical problem overnight and was assessed by doctors before being cleared to drive in Practice 2.
Buemi stepped up to the top of the time sheets in the second session, a 1:23.642s lap placing him ahead of Duval and Turvey. Di Grassi was fourth, 0.384 seconds behind Buemi, followed by Stéphane Sarrazin and Piquet who endured a mid-session spin.
Practice ended early when Sakon Yamamoto brought out a red flag for nosing into the barriers, damaging his front right suspension in the process. Several drivers, including Bird, were on fast qualifying simulation laps at the time which had to be aborted.
Bruno Senna also had a lucky escape brushing the wall mid-session, but managed to continue back to the pits where repair work was required to the left-rear suspension of his car. Senna’s Mahindra teammate Karun Chandhok also briefly caused a yellow flag by stopping on circuit, while a suspension failure struck de Silvestro – described by Andretti team as a consequence of her incident in the first session of the day.
The final race of the 2014-15 season will start at 16:00 local time (UTC+01:00), with the three drivers to receive FanBoost to be announced ten minutes before race start.
|2015 Formula E London ePrix – Race 2 Qualifying Results|
|Pos||Driver||Team / Entry||Time||Gap|
|1.||Stéphane Sarrazin||VENTURI Formula E Team||1:23.901|
|2.||Jérôme d’Ambrosio||Dragon Racing Formula E Team||1:23.965||+ 0.064|
|3.||Loïc Duval||Dragon Racing Formula E Team||1:24.107||+ 0.206|
|4.||Sam Bird||Virgin Racing Formula E Team||1:24.201||+ 0.340|
|5.||Bruno Senna||Mahindra Racing Formula E Team||1:24.318||+ 0.417|
|6.||Sébastien Buemi||Team e.dams Renault||1:24.385||+ 0.484|
|7.||Nick Heidfeld||VENTURI Formula E Team||1:25.494||+ 1.593|
|8.||Salvador Durán||Amlin Aguri||1:25.649||+ 1.748|
|9.||Alex Fontana||Trulli Formula E Team||1:25.689||+ 1.788|
|10.||Jarno Trulli||Trulli Formula E Team||1:27.093||+ 3.192|
|11.||Lucas di Grassi||Audi Sport ABT Formula E Team||1:32.570||+ 8.669|
|12.||Oliver Turvey||NEXTEV TCR Formula E Team||1:33.626||+ 9.725|
|13.||Simona de Silvestro||Andretti Autosport Formula E Team||1:34.167||+ 10.266|
|14.||Jean-Éric Vergne||Andretti Autosport Formula E Team||1:35.032||+ 11.131|
|15.||Nicolas Prost||Team e.dams Renault||1:35.111||+ 11.210|
|16.||Nelson Piquet Jr||NEXTEV TCR Formula E Team||1:35.284||+ 11.383|
|17.||Fabio Leimer||Virgin Racing Formula E Team||1:35.543||+ 11.642|
|18.||Daniel Abt||Audi Sport ABT Formula E Team||1:38.473||+ 14.572|
|19.||Karun Chandhok||Mahindra Racing Formula E Team||1:41.232||+ 17.331|
|20.||Sakon Yamamoto||Amlin Aguri||no time|
Image via Formula E Championship