Nelson Piquet Jr and Oliver Turvey have claimed a surprise front-row lockout for the NextEV team at the season-opening Formula E Hong Kong ePrix.

The series’ inaugural champion endured a wretched title defence in the championship’s second season, finishing a lowly fourteenth overall as the Chinese team struggled to keep pace with its rivals.

Qualifying around the tight and twisty 1.8-kilometre harbourfront layout proved to be a real test, with the session twice being red-flagged before officials opted to cancel the one-lap Super Pole session reserved for the fastest five provisional qualifiers.

With the race’s grid order determined by the fastest overall times posted across the four qualifying groups, Piquet and Turvey secured a front-row lockout ahead of DS Virgin Racing duo of series debutant José María López and teammate Sam Bird.

Given this was López’s first open-wheel race in almost yen years, his performance was all the more impressive. He missed out on a front-row start by just two hundredths of a second.

After a number of drivers had expressed misgivings about the circuit’s Turn 3/4 chicane, officials sought to install additional sausage kerbing before electing to remove it in time for qualifying.

That left the original kerbing more exposed, and it didn’t take long for a number of drivers to come to grief. Ma Qing Hua, Sébastien Buemi and rookie driver Felix Rosenqvist each had a wild moment and survived, but the same could not be said for last year’s championship runner-up Lucas di Grassi who, along with Andretti’s Robin Frijns, both caused separate red flags when they hit the barriers after being launched off the kerbs.

Frijns’ accident was particularly heavy, with the damage too great to repair. His Andretti mechanics will hastily have to build a new tub in time for this afternoon’s race.

The qualifying session proved to be a closely fought affair with the top thirteen drivers covered by less than a second on the timesheets. Ten of the eleven teams present managed to qualify at least one of their cars within a second of pole, with the sole exception being series newcomers Jaguar: their drivers Adam Carroll and Mitch Evans qualified fourteenth and sixteenth respectively.

The Hong Kong ePrix will run over 45 laps and will start at 16:00 local time (GMT +8).

2016 Formula E Hong Kong ePrix – Qualifying Results
Pos Driver Team / Entry Time Gap
1. Nelson Piquet Jr NextEV NIO 1:03.099
2. Oliver Turvey NextEV NIO 1:03.321 + 0.132
3. José María López DS Virgin Racing Formula E Team 1:03.251 + 0.152
4. Sam Bird DS Virgin Racing Formula E Team 1:03.258 + 0.159
5. Sébastien Buemi Renault e.DAMS 1:03.317 + 0.218
6. Felix Rosenqvist Mahindra Racing Formula E Team 1:03.332 + 0.233
7. Daniel Abt ABT Schaeffler Audi Sport 1:03.615 + 0.516
8. Loïc Duval Faraday Future Dragon Racing 1:03.637 + 0.538
9. Jean-Éric Vergne Techeetah 1:03.750 + 0.651
10. Nicolas Prost Renault e.DAMS 1:03.759 + 0.660
11. Nick Heidfeld Mahindra Racing Formula E Team 1:03.848 + 0.749
12. Maro Engel Venturi Formula E Team 1:03.915 + 0.816
13. Antonio Felix da Costa MS Amlin Andretti 1:04.057 + 0.958
14. Adam Carroll Panasonic Jaguar Racing 1:04.428 + 1.329
15. Stéphane Sarrazin Venturi Formula E Team 1:04.520 + 1.421
16. Mitch Evans Panasonic Jaguar Racing 1:04.588 + 1.489
17. Ma Qing Hua Techeetah 1:04.740 + 1.641
18. Jérôme d’Ambrosio Faraday Future Dragon Racing 1:05.166 + 2.067
18. Lucas di Grassi ABT Schaeffler Audi Sport 1:08.094 + 4.995
18. Robin Frijns MS Amlin Andretti 1:10.047 + 7.308

Image via FIA Formula E Championship

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Richard Bailey

Founder & Chief Editor at MotorsportM8
Hasn't missed a Grand Prix since 1989. Has a soft spot for Minardi. Tattooed with 35+ Grand Prix circuits.