Lucas di Grassi has taken the first pole position of the Berlin ePrix, edging José María López by just 0.001 seconds. Making matters even better for di Grassi, championship leader and rival Sébastien Buemi struggled to just fourteenth on the grid.

Having set the fifth fastest time in regular qualifying, di Grassi was first on track for the SuperPole shoot out but his 1:08.312 lap time could not be beaten for pole – although as the next driver on circuit, López came oh so close to be one one-thousandth of a second slower.

Third to complete a lap was Nick Heidfeld who could only muster a 1:08.650 in his Mahindra, while Sam Bird’s lap was messy and saw the Briton slip from second in preliminary qualifying to fifth on the grid following SuperPole.

Felix Rosenqvist in the other Mahindra was the final car to attempt a lap, and despite being faster than di Grassi through the first two sectors he dropped to third on the grid through the final sector.

Pole for di Grassi – and the three championship points that come with it – was a welcome result at the home event for his ABT Schaeffler Audi Sport team at its home event.

“Pole in front of my home crowd. To be on pole by one thousandth – I think it’s about 5 centimetres!” di Grassi exclaimed afterwards.

With both Mahindras in the top five, including topping regular qualifying and ending the second practice session with a 1-2 result, the Indian-owned team clearly has pace in Berlin. Heidfeld and Rosenqvist will both be drivers to watch during the race.

Similarly both DS Virgin Racing cars made it to SuperPole, and will likely be competitive. This performance from some of the ‘foundation teams’ suggests that even though the Berlin Tempelhof Track layout is new, knowledge from the 2014-15 season of the set-up requirements to make the Formula E tyre work on the concrete surface is of huge benefit to scoring a strong result.

The back half of the top ten in qualifying was completed by five different teams, with Jean-Éric Vergne taking sixth for Techeetah, ahead of Oliver Turvey’s NextEV NIO, Daniel Abt in the second ABT Schaeffler Audi Sport car, Nicolas Prost for Renault e.Dams and Faraday Future Dragon Racing’s Jérôme d’Ambrosio.

The biggest talking point of regular qualifying was the lack of pace for Sébastien Buemi. Despite being in the final qualifying group – generally seen as the giving the best track conditions available – the reigning champion struggled with the handling for his Renault e.Dams and could only place himself on the seventh row of the grid.

Speaking after the session, Buemi’s thoughts for the race were clearly focused on minimising the damage to his championship lead.

“It’s really bad. I had a lot of oversteer and couldn’t put the lap together,” he said. “Hopefully we can score some points, but it’s going to be a tough one. The speed is not there, but hopefully we can find some speed in the race.”

2016-17 Formula E Berlin ePrix – Race 1 ‘Super Pole’ Results
Pos Driver Team / Entry Time Gap*
1. Lucas di Grassi ABT Schaeffler Audi Sport 1:08.312
2. José María López DS Virgin Racing 1:08.313 + 0.001
3. Felix Rosenqvist Mahindra Racing 1:08.395 + 0.083
4. Nick Heidfeld Mahindra Racing 1:08.650 + 0.338
5. Sam Bird DS Virgin Racing 1:09.724 + 1.412
2016-17 Formula E Berlin ePrix – Race 1 Preliminary Qualifying Results
Pos Driver Team / Entry Time Gap*
6. Jean-Éric Vergne Techeetah 1:08.457 + 0.286
7. Oliver Turvey NextEV NIO Formula E Team 1:08.607 + 0.436
8. Daniel Abt ABT Schaeffler Audi Sport 1:08.620 + 0.449
9. Nicolas Prost Renault e.Dams 1:08.692 + 0.521
10. Jérôme d’Ambrosio Faraday Future Dragon Racing 1:08.825 + 0.654
11. Maro Engel Venturi Formula E Team 1:08.846 + 0.675
12. Stéphane Sarrazin Techeetah 1:08.890 + 0.719
13. Nelson Piquet Jr NextEV NIO Formula E Team 1:08.961 + 0.790
14. Sébastien Buemi Renault e.Dams 1:09.010 + 0.839
15. Tom Dillmann Venturi Formula E Team 1:03.024 + 1.043
16. Mitch Evans Panasonic Jaguar Racing 1:09.219 + 1.048
17. Robin Frijns MS Amlin Andretti Formula E Team 1:09.630 + 1.459
18. Adam Carroll Panasonic Jaguar Racing 1:09.898 + 1.727
19. Loic Duval Faraday Future Dragon Racing 1:09.923 + 1.752
20. António Félix da Costa MS Amlin Andretti Formula E Team 1:11.147 + 2.976

* Denotes gap to fastest Q1 qualifying lap time of 1:08.171 posted by Felix Rosenqvist.

^ Post-Qualifying Penalties:

  • None

Buemi’s disastrous qualifying run was all the more surprising given he had in fact topped the first practice session earlier in the day. The Swiss driver clocked a 1:08.151 lap using the full 200kW power mode. The time was fast enough that had he repeated it in qualifying, he would have taken pole position.

Buemi’s teammate Prost set the second fastest time, ahead of Rosenqvist, López and Bird. There was a brief red flag period early in the session to recover Mitch Evans’ Jaguar which had stopped on circuit, while Nelson Piquet Jr clipped the wall and sustained minor damage to his NextEV NIO. Venturi’s Tom Dillmann experienced a gearbox issue in one of his cars, limiting his running during the session to just the other vehicle.

Practice 2 saw the Mahindras rise to the top, with Heidfeld lowering the track record for the circuit to 1:08.070, with Rosenqvist 0.022 seconds behind. Maro Engel ended the session third in his Venturi, with di Grassi fourth and Stéphane Sarrazin – in his first weekend with the Techeetah team – setting the fifth fastest time.

Image via FIA Formula E Championship

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Mitch Timms

Journalist at MotorsportM8
Professional motorsport engineer and all-round tech head.