Envision Virgin Racing driver Sam Bird has claimed pole position for the Marrakesh ePrix, despite completing his Super Pole lap carrying damage sustained in a bizarre incident at the conclusion of his qualifying group stage.

Having run in the third qualifying group, Bird set a 1:17.851 lap to not only top the group, but ultimately all of regular qualifying. The Brit then returned to pit lane, followed by teammate Robin Frijns and the NIO of Tom Dillmann.

It was at this point that Dillmann’s car – believed to be suffering a brake issue – hit the rear of Frijns, pushing the Dutchman into the back of Bird. The result was damage to the rear diffuser area of Bird’s car, and with the parc fermé regulations in place preventing the Virgin team from making any repairs the car was forced to remain damaged for its Super Pole run.

Ultimately, the damage would provide little hindrance to Bird, who as the final driver on circuit went faster again to snare pole with a 1:17.489 lap. Second on the grid will be reigning champion Jean-Éric Vergne ahead of António Félix da Costa in third, with both drivers – along with Jaguar’s Mitch Evans – progressing to Super Pole from the first qualifying group. Evans was the first car on track during the Super Pole session, but a large brake lock at Turn 7 during his lap left the Kiwi sixth on the grid.

Third-fastest in regular qualifying, da Costa’s BMW i Andretti teammate Alexander Sims could only manage fifth in Super Pole. Similarly, Nissan e.Dams driver Sébastien Buemi also fell from second after the group stages to fourth on the grid in Super Pole.

Pascal Wehrlein impressed on his Formula E debut for Mahindra, just missing Super Pole; the former DTM champion and F1 driver will start seventh on the grid. The balance of the top ten is comprised of teammates of the top seven drivers: Bird’s teammate Robin Frijns will start from eighth, Nelson Piquet Jr qualified eighth in the second Jaguar, while Jérôme d’Ambrosio’s Mahindra rounds out the top ten.

It was a difficult qualifying session for the Audi Sport ABT Schaeffler team, continuing a tough start to the season. Lucas di Grassi was the team’s best-placed driver in eleventh, while Daniel Abt could only manage 16th.

It was also an unfortunate session for the new HWA RaceLab team, both cars losing power while trying to complete their qualifying laps. As a result, Gary Paffett will start from 19th position, while Stoffel Vandoorne fills the final position on the grid in 22nd.

Vergne’s front-row pace did not carry over to his teammate, André Lotterer who lost a lot of time during the second sector of his full-power lap and was only able to manage 20th position. Dragon Racing’s Maximilian Günther also experienced problems during qualifying, stopping on the circuit after collecting the wall on the exit of Turn 6.

2019 ABB Formula E Marrakesh ePrix – ‘Super Pole’ Qualifying Results
Driver Team / Entry Time Gap
1. Sam Bird Envision Virgin Racing 1:17.489
2. Jean-Éric Vergne DS Techeetah 1:17.535 + 0.046
3. António Félix da Costa BMW i Andretti Motorsport 1:17.626 + 0.137
4. Sébastien Buemi Nissan e.dams 1:17.738 + 0.249
5. Alexander Sims BMW i Andretti Motorsport 1:18.400 + 0.911
6. Mitch Evans Panasonic Jaguar Racing 1:29.379 + 11.890
2019 ABB Formula E Marrakesh ePrix – Preliminary Qualifying Results
Driver Team / Entry Time Gap*
7. Pascal Wehrlein Mahindra Racing 1:18.126 + 0.275
8. Robin Frijns Envision Virgin Racing 1:18.200 + 0.349
9. Nelson Piquet Jr. Panasonic Jaguar Racing 1:18.347 + 0.496
10. Jérôme d’Ambrosio Mahindra Racing 1:18.440 + 0.589
11. Lucas di Grassi Audi Sport Abt Schaeffler 1:18.595 + 0.744
12. Oliver Rowland Nissan e.dams 1:18.604 + 0.753
13. José María López Geox Dragon Racing 1:18.612 + 0.761
14. Oliver Turvey NIO Formula E Team 1:18.624 + 0.773
15. Felipe Massa Venturi Formula E Team 1:18.780 + 0.929
16. Daniel Abt Audi Sport Abt Schaeffler 1:18.921 + 1.070
17. Edoardo Mortara Venturi Formula E Team 1:19.133 + 1.282
18. Tom Dillmann NIO Formula E Team 1:19.338 + 1.487
19. Gary Paffett HWA Racelab 1:19.516 + 1.665
20. André Lotterer DS Techeetah 1:19.633 + 1.782
21. Maximilian Günther Geox Dragon Racing 1:23.332 + 5.481
Non-Qualifiers Team / Entry Time Gap*
DNQ. Stoffel Vandoorne HWA Racelab 1:33.404 + 15.553

*Denotes gap to fastest preliminary qualifying time of 1:17.851 posted by Sam Bird

Post-Qualifying Penalties:

  • António Félix da Costa – who provisionally qualified 3rd-fastest – was issued a 3-place grid penalty for exceeding the maximum permitted 200kW power use on his out- and in-laps during preliminary qualifying.

Earlier in the day, Frijns was fastest the opening practice session, setting a 1:17.808 lap time. As expected, the first session with the second generation car easily beat the existing outright lap record, which stood at 1:19.651 by Nico Mueller for Audi Sport ABT Schaeffler during last year’s Marrakesh test. Behind the Dutchman was da Costa (1:17.902) ended the session in second place, with Bird a further 0.016 seconds back in third.

Evans further lowered the lap record in Practice 2, clocking a 1:17.272 lap top to the timesheets. With no drivers beating this mark in qualifying, the time stands as the lap record heading into the race. Lotterer was second fastest, 0.249 seconds behind the Jaguar, while Buemi claimed third in the session.

The 2019 Marrakesh ePrix race is scheduled for a start at 16:00 local time (UTC +01:00).

Images via ABB FIA Formula E Championship

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Mitch Timms

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