BMW i Andretti’s António Félix da Costa has scored the first pole position of Formula E’s second-generation era, setting the fastest time in a hastily-rescheduled qualifying session for the Ad Diriyah ePrix.

Heavy rain unexpectedly lashed the circuit on Saturday morning, forcing the cancellation of Practice 1, a delay to Practice 2, and ultimately the need for the Qualifying format to be changed to suit the remaining time available. As a result, two groups of eleven drivers took to the circuit to qualify (instead of the usual four smaller groups), and Super Pole was removed from the program entirely.

Each driver was permitted the same number of qualifying laps as per the standard format, being an out lap from the pit lane, a sighting lap with 200kW power available, a single fast lap using the full 250kW qualifying power mode and an in lap back to the pits. This process could be completed at any time during the 15-minute block allocated to each group.

NIO driver Tom Dillmann was first on track in group one banking a 1:17.893 lap, but did not follow the permitted qualifying lap format – instead continuing to lap the circuit for the best part of ten minutes. Immediately the Frenchman was investigated, ultimately excluded from qualifying and will start the race from the rear of the grid.

The rest of first group – which included the top five drivers from the 2017-18 season’s championship standings – entered the circuit with around five minutes left to run in the session, and proceeded to set their laps. Da Costa set the pole position lap time of 1:17.728, 0.385 seconds ahead of Dragon’s José María López and Nissan e.dams driver Sébastien Buemi in third.

Running for the second group was interrupted by a red flag caused when Dragon’s Maximillian Günther stopped at Turn 7 with a damaged left-front corner, but not before a handful of drivers had already completed their runs. Stoffel Vandoorne was one of these early runners, setting what would be the group’s fastest lap – the Belgian will start from fourth position for his (and the HWA Racelab team’s) Formula E debut.

Drivers who were on track at the time of Günther’s incident were permitted to re-run their 250kW laps. André Lotterer was one such driver who ran again and set the second fastest time of the group, good enough for seventh on the grid.

Mahindra stand-in Felix Rosenqvist made a mistake late in the session as he tried to complete his qualifying lap, with his car crashing into the barriers at the final corner. With only seconds left to run the red flag wasn’t shown, although several drivers’ laps were impacted by having to pass the Swede’s wrecked car on their run to the flag.

This included Felipe Massa’s Venturi and the Jaguars of Mitch Evans and Nelson Piquet Jr. Evans still managed to set a time good enough for eighth on the grid, although Massa and Piquet ended qualifying in 13th and 15th respectively.

Reigning champion Jean-Éric Vergne had a quiet session, running in the first group but not troubling the top of the order. With Dillmann’s exclusion and the interruptions to the second group though, the Frenchman will still start from fifth on the grid. D’Ambrosio will line up in sixth for Mahindra ahead of Lotterer, Evans, Gary Paffett (also on debut for HWA) in ninth, while Venturi’s Edoardo Mortara rounds out the top ten.

2018 ABB Formula E Ad Driyiah ePrix – Qualifying Results
Driver Team / Entry Time Gap
1. António Félix da Costa BMW i Andretti Motorsport 1:17.728
2. José María López Geox Dragon Racing 1:18.113 + 0.385
3. Sébastien Buemi Nissan e.dams 1:18.269 + 0.541
4. Stoffel Vandoorne HWA Racelab 1:18.490 + 0.762
5. Jean-Éric Vergne DS Techeetah 1:18.571 + 0.843
6. Jérôme d’Ambrosio Mahindra Racing 1:19.077 + 1.349
7. André Lotterer DS Techeetah 1:19.317 + 1.589
8. Mitch Evans Panasonic Jaguar Racing 1:19.712 + 1.984
9. Gary Paffett HWA Racelab 1:19.929 + 2.201
10. Edoardo Mortara Venturi Formula E Team 1:20.330 + 2.602
11. Alexander Sims BMW i Andretti Motorsport 1:20.367 + 2.639
12. Daniel Abt Audi Sport Abt Schaeffler 1:20.385 + 2.657
13. Felipe Massa Venturi Formula E Team 1:20.407 + 2.679
14. Oliver Rowland Nissan e.dams 1:20.849 + 3.121
15. Nelson Piquet Jr. Panasonic Jaguar Racing 1:21.489 + 3.761
16. Maximilian Günther Geox Dragon Racing 1:21.883 + 4.155
17. Felix Rosenqvist Mahindra Racing 1:23.037 + 5.309
18. Lucas di Grassi Audi Sport Abt Schaeffler 1:25.104 + 7.376
19. Sam Bird Envision Virgin Racing 1:29.625 + 11.897
20. Robin Frijns Envision Virgin Racing 1:31.566 + 13.838
EXC. Oliver Turvey NIO Formula E Team no time
EXC. Tom Dillmann NIO Formula E Team excluded

Post-Qualifying Penalties:

  • Tom Dillmann – who provisionally qualified 2nd-fastest – was excluded from qualifying for not respecting the maximum number of allowable laps.
  • Sam Bird – who provisionally qualified 6th-fastest – had his 250kW lap time deleted for exceeding the maximum permitted power allowance on that lap.
  • Robin Frijns – who provisionally qualified 8th-fastest – had his 250kW lap time deleted for exceeding the maximum permitted power allowance on that lap.
  • Lucas di Grassi – who provisionally qualified 11th-fastest – had his 250kW lap time deleted for exceeding the maximum permitted power allowance on that lap.
  • Oliver Rowland – who provisionally qualified 13th-fastest – had his 250kW lap time deleted for exceeding track limits.
  • Oliver Turvey – who provisionally qualified 14th-fastest – was excluded from qualifying when his car failed scrutineering (missing sensor on the FIA data logger).

Earlier, Vandoorne set the fastest time in the only practice session run ahead of qualifying. The 30 minute session – effectively a delayed start to Practice 2 – saw the Belgian set a 1:18.868 lap to sit at the top of the order. Sam Bird was second fastest, clocking 1:19.045 for Envision Virgin Racing, with Buemi in third place, a further 0.05 seconds behind.

The damp conditions during the session caught out a number of drivers, with Mortara hitting the wall at Turn 1 around ten minutes into the running, while Rosenqvist also found the barriers late in the session.

Images via ABB FIA Formula E Championship

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Mitch Timms

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