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