Mitch Evans has claimed his – and the Jaguar team’s – first Formula E Pole Position at the inaugural Zürich ePrix.
The Kiwi topped both the group stages of qualifying and ‘Super Pole’ to stamp his authority over the session. Conversely it was a torrid qualifying for championship leader Jean-Éric Vergne, the Techeetah driver not only languishing in 17th on the grid but also under investigation by the FIA Stewards.
As the final car on track in ‘Super Pole’, Evans had to work to beat André Lotterer’s benchmark 1:12.948 lap time, having been behind the split times of the German and also Sam Bird through Sector 1 – in part due to taking a different line across the Turn 1 entry bumps. The deficit didn’t last long; Evans was ahead by the end of Sector 2, and he completed his lap to take pole position by 0.137 seconds over Lotterer.
Vergne’s championship rival Bird will start from third on the grid, the Brit losing time through the second and third sectors. In particular the DS Virgin Racing was lucky to survive clipping the barriers at the exit of the Turn 7/8/9 chicane on his fast lap.
The top five was rounded out by the Dragon Racing duo of Jérôme d’Ambrosio and José María López, both of whom progressed from the final qualifying group. López – who lost time during his ‘Super Pole’ lap due to a wild sideways moment at Turn 1 – will in fact drop three grid positions to an eighth place start due to a penalty for failing to slow under yellow flags during this morning’s first practice session.
López’s penalty promotes reigning champion Lucas di Grassi, local hope Sébastien Buemi and his Renault e.Dams teammate Nico Prost up to fifth, sixth and seventh on the grid respectively.
Of the first group to hit the track in regular qualifying, only Bird progressed to ‘Super Pole’. With the group comprising the leading five drivers in the championship standings, it has provided somewhat of a shakeup to the order for the Zürich grid. Beyond Bird in third and Buemi starting sixth, Daniel Abt qualified ninth, Felix Rosenqvist in tenth, and Vergne in 17th, 0.930 seconds behind Evans’ best time from the group stage.
Officials are also investigating whether Vergne switched to the high-power (200kW) mode in his car too earlier, prior to the final sector directly before his fast lap. What may be of some solace to the Frenchman, should he be found to have done so, was the precedent set when Daniel Abt did the same thing during qualifying in Berlin three weeks ago – the German was allowed to keep his pole position, only being handed a reprimand by the stewards and he subsequently went on to claim a lights-to-flag victory. Starting so far back, Vergne will need a miracle to repeat the feat.
Evans and Lotterer progressed to Super Pole from the second qualifying group, while di Grassi was the fastest of all drivers to miss the cut. Evans’ teammate Nelson Piquet Jr could only muster eleventh on the grid from his fast lap, while the other driver in the group – NIO’s Oliver Turvey – was the slowest of all drivers and will start from 20th position.
None of the drivers in the third group moved to the final stage of qualifying. Alex Lynn was the fastest of the group – but only twelfth-fastest over all – and is also currently under investigation for an unsafe release from the DS Virgin Racing garage. Three of the other drivers in the group qualified directly behind the Briton, with Nick Heidfeld, Edoardo Mortara and António Félix da Costa in thirteenth through fifteenth respectively. Mortara’s Venturi teammate Maro Engel rounded out the group in eighteenth place.
The final group saw the Dragon pair of d’Ambrosio and López move through, while Prost set the eighth fastest time. Series returnee Stéphane Sarrazin will line up in sixteenth alongside his Andretti team mate da Costa, while Luca Filippi’s 1:14.067 lap ensured both NIO cars fill the final row of the grid.
Speaking after the session Evans celebrated his pole position, not just for himself but also for the whole Jaguar team.
“It’s a long time coming for us. We’ve been quick out of the box today…it’s a great feeling and it’s our first Pole since Jaguar came back into racing… let’s hope we can convert that into a win,” he said.
While annoyed to not be on the front row after his brush with the wall, Bird did recognise his grid advantage over championship rival Vergne is a great chance for the Brit to close down some of his 40 point deficit in the championship standings.
“I feel a little bit frustrated with myself, but it’s an opportunity…let’s go hunting” he said.
Earlier, di Grassi topped the first Formula E practice session on the Zürich streets. The Brazilian set a 1:11.995 lap to edge out Evans by 1.143 seconds, with Abt third a further 0.254 seconds behind. Bird had the biggest moment of the session, spinning whilst trying to avoid López on the front straight, hitting the wall and damaging his rear left wheel in the process. António Félix da Costa also brushed the wall at turn three during the course of the session.
Rosenqvist was fastest in Practice 2, although was not as fast as di Grassi’s earlier effort – the Swede set a 1:12.207 lap time using the 200kW qualifying mode in his car. Evans was again second in the session, just 0.055 seconds slower that Rosenqvist, with d’Ambrosio third.
Braking miscalculations were common during the session as drivers continued to search for the limits of the circuit. López and Evans both ran off-track at Turn 1, while Lotterer nudged the back of Prost’s car, damaging its rear wing. Buemi spun at Turn 4, with the resulting impact with the barriers damaging the rear of his Renault e.Dams car.
The inaugural Zurich ePrix race start is scheduled for 18:03 local time (UTC +2:00).
Image via ABB FIA Formula E Championship