BMW i Andretti’s Alexander Sims will start from pole position for Friday’s season-opening FIA Formula E Championship race in Saudi Arabia. The British driver managed to beat the Mercedes-Benz duo of Stoffel Vandoorne and series debutante Nyck de Vries, who claimed second and third on the grid respectively.

Sims was allotted the third qualifying group and made it into the top-six ‘Super Pole’ shootout; he clocked a 1:14.563 in the one-lap session to secure the second pole position of his Formula E career and three championship points for his efforts.

The British driver had earlier escaped punishment for contact with reigning champion Jean-Éric Vergne in Free Practice 2; the DS Techeetah driver, meanwhile, could manage no better than eleventh on the grid.

A strong final sector propelled Vandoorne to a front row start as Mercedes-Benz’s first outing as a works entrant got off to a flying start. His teammate de Vries, recently crowned as this year’s Formula 2 Championship title-winner, secured third. The Dutch driver looked on course to beat Sims’ time, but a slow final sector cost him a shot at pole on debut.

Edoardo Mortara made it three Mercedes-powered entries in the top four in the customer Venturi Racing squad, outpacing Envision Virgin Racing’s Sam Bird who was fastest in the Group stages of qualifying and earned a bonus championship point as a result.

Bird could not carry that pace into the ‘Super Pole’ shootout, drifting wide at the long Turn 4 right-hander and coming perilously close to scraping the wall. That cost him 0.8 seconds to Sims in the first sector alone, although he recovered somewhat over the remainder of the lap to claim fifth ahead of Mahindra Racing’s Jérôme d’Ambrosio.

André Lotterer narrowly missed out on giving the Porsche factory team a ‘Super Pole’ run in its first Formula E outing. The German qualified seventh-fastest ahead of Nissan e.dams’ Oliver Rowland, who managed to avoid damage to his car after brushing the wall in the middle sector.

Sims’ teammate Maximilian Günther and Oliver Turvey rounded out the top ten, with the latter giving the Chinese NIO team a strong start to its 2019-20 campaign.

Eleventh-fastest Vergne was not the only frontrunner from the 2018-19 season who had difficulties in qualifying. Robin Frijns (Envision Virgin Racing) qualified twelfth-quickest, while championship runner-up Sébastien Buemi (Nissan e.dams) was just fourteenth.

The factory Audi squad also had a poor showing, with Daniel Abt (15th) beating teammate Lucas di Grassi (19th) in the final reckoning, while Vergne’s new teammate António Félix da Costa struggled with braking issues and was 21st.

Formula E debutante Brendon Hartley (GEOX Dragon) will start his first race from 18th on the grid, after the New Zealander lost vital practice track time with a crash in FP1 and braking issues in FP2.

Separate crashes for fellow rookies James Calado (Jaguar Racing) and Nico Müller (GEOX Dragon) in Group 4 disrupted Porsche driver Neel Jani’s qualifying run, leaving all three well down the order. Calado and Müller – who both suffered almost identical crashes within seconds of each other – will line up on the back row of the grid as a result of their teams needing to break parc fermé conditions to repair their cars.

2019 Formula E Ad Diriyah ePrix – Race 1 ‘Super Pole’ Qualifying Results
Driver Team / Entry Time Gap
1. Alexander Sims BMW i Andretti Motorsport 1:14.563
2. Stoffel Vandoorne Mercedes-Benz EQ Formula E Team 1:14.836 + 0.276
3. Nyck de Vries Mercedes-Benz EQ Formula E Team 1:14.929 + 0.366
4. Edoardo Mortara ROKiT Venturi Racing 1:15.131 + 0.568
5. Sam Bird Envision Virgin Racing 1:15.350 + 0.787
6. Jérôme d’Ambrosio Mahindra Racing 1:15.539 + 0.976
2019 Formula E Ad Diriyah ePrix – Race 1 Preliminary Qualifying Results
Driver Team / Entry Time Gap*
7. André Lotterer TAG Heuer Porsche Formula E Team 1:15.518 + 0.572
8. Oliver Rowland Nissan e.dams 1:15.653 + 0.707
9. Maximilian Günther BMW i Andretti Motorsport 1:15.680 + 0.734
10. Oliver Turvey NIO 333 FE Team 1:16.018 + 1.072
11. Jean-Éric Vergne DS Techeetah 1:16.129 + 1.183
12. Robin Frijns Envision Virgin Racing 1:16.200 + 1.254
13. Pascal Wehrlein Mahindra Racing 1:16.200 + 1.254
14. Sébastien Buemi Nissan e.dams 1:16.243 + 1.297
15. Daniel Abt Audi Sport ABT Schaeffler 1:16.264 + 1.318
16. Mitch Evans Panasonic Jaguar Racing 1:16.532 + 1.586
17. Felipe Massa ROKiT Venturi Racing 1:16.583 + 1.637
18. Brendon Hartley GEOX Dragon 1:17.074 + 2.128
19. Lucas di Grassi Audi Sport ABT Schaeffler 1:17.213 + 2.267
20. Neel Jani TAG Heuer Porsche Formula E Team 1:17.745 + 2.799
21. António Félix da Costa DS Techeetah 1:18.613 + 3.667
22. Ma Qing Hua NIO 333 FE Team 1:21.701 + 6.755
EXC. Nico Müller GEOX Dragon excluded
EXC. James Calado Panasonic Jaguar Racing excluded

*Denotes gap to fastest preliminary qualifying time of 1:14.946 posted by Sam Bird

Championship Points:

  • The fastest driver overall in preliminary group qualifying stages (Sam Bird) is awarded 1 bonus championship point.
  • The fastest driver in the ‘Super Pole’ qualifying session (Alexander Sims) is awarded 3 bonus championship points.

Post-Qualifying Penalties:

  • Nico Müller was disqualified from qualifying after disrespecting Parc fermé regulations in order to allow repairs to his damaged car. He will start Race 1 from the back of the grid.
  • James Calado was disqualified from qualifying after disrespecting Parc fermé regulations in order to allow repairs to his damaged car. He will start Race 1 from the back of the grid.

Images via ABB FIA Formula E Championship

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Mitch Timms

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