Sam Bird was in unstoppable form in qualifying for the Paris ePrix as the Englishman rocketed into pole position ahead of Lucas di Grassi and Jean-Eric Vergne.
In group one, both the Venturi drivers of Stephane Sarrazin and FP2 pace setter Mike Conway were in action, along with Nick Heidfeld, Loic Duval and title contender Sebastien Buemi.
Buemi was the first to appear on track for the first ever qualifying session in Paris, electing to run his 200kW lap straight away, but a yellow flag was thrown immediately as Loic Duval went straight on at turn eight. The caution meant Buemi had a second crack of the whip and went fastest in the session. Duval continued to struggle as the Frenchman went off the track again, possibly due to low tyre temperatures.
[pullquote align=”right” cite=”” link=”” color=”” class=”” size=””]Bird: “Overtaking here looks quite tricky so… you know, I’ve got 12 world class drivers right behind me, so I’ve just got to do my job, be clean, execute clean lines all the time, make no mistakes and see how we can do really!”[/pullquote]
The red flag was thrown after Buemi went fastest as Nick Heidfeld span into the barrier at the final corner, only to pull away straight into the path of Conway as both were on their 200kW laps, leaving a pile of debris on the circuit. Conway was visibly disappointed as he believed he was on a good lap, but did not return to the track due to his second car not being fully charged.
Having already done both of his 200kW laps, Buemi was not allowed to rejoin the session, while Heidfeld was also barred from resuming due to having caused the red flag. With Conway also out of action, only Duval and Sarrazin continued in group one with the time extended to three minutes to allow for an outlap and a 200kW lap.
Straight away Sarrazin went half a second faster than Buemi, ending group one at the top. Duval was third quickest, with Conway fourth and Heidfeld fifth.
Group two saw reigning champion Nelson Piquet Jr joined by the Abt Schaeffler duo of Daniel Abt and championship leader di Grassi, as well as Robin Frijns and Vergne.
di Grassi immediately popped into second place, only a tenth away from Sarrazin, before Vergne smashed in a quick lap to dispose his countryman of provisional pole. Frijns also placed himself into a potential Super Pole slot with the fourth fastest time ahead of Piquet in fifth, while Abt could only manage the seventh fastest time.
Group three was made up of Jerome D’Ambrosio, Nico Prost, Bruno Senna, Simona de Silvestro and Oliver Turvey, with D’Ambrosio looking for his second pole position of the season.
Prost put himself into a provisional Super Pole place with the fourth fastest time, knocking team mate Buemi out of the top five in the process, while none of the other group three drivers were able to trouble the Super Pole positions. With only three drivers to run in group four, local favourites Vergne and Sarrazin both booked their places in the Super Pole.
The final group has a select trio of Bird, Antonio Felix da Costa and debutant Ma Qing Hua, with the latter having replaced Salvador Duran at Team Aguri.
Having taken two pole positions already this season, Bird was on a mission to make it a third, and immediately went purple in the opening sector. The Englishman was spectacular in the rest of the lap and went quickest of all to book his place in the Super Pole.
da Costa could only manage tenth place, while Ma ruined what would have been a respectable lap with a half spin at the final corner of his 200kW lap. The Chinese driver was still able to register the 15th fastest time.
That meant the top five and Super Pole contenders were Bird, Vergne, Sarrazin, di Grassi and Prost.
Prost was the first out onto the Parisian circuit, and looked racy as he came close to clouting the wall at turn two. An otherwise edgy lap meant a 1:02.709 set the benchmark for the remaining four drivers.
Next on the track was di Grassi, who was in search of his first ever pole position in Formula E. A spectacular lap from the Brazilian trumped Prost by almost eight tenths of a second, leaving a lot of work for Sarrazin, Vergne and Bird to do.
Sarrazin, who continued his strong form from Long Beach, followed di Grassi out and set off to claim what would be his second pole in the series. However, a slow first sector put pay to that as the Frenchman could only go second fastest, six tenths away from provisional pole.
The two DS Virgin Racing drivers rounded out the session, with local favourite Vergne looking for his first pole of the season. The Parisian was less than a quarter of a second down in the first sector, and gradually improved to take second place, less than a tenth away from di Grassi. This guaranteed the championship leader a front row slot, with Bird the only driver left to take pole away from him.
Despite a slower first sector, Bird made up the difference in sector two and finished the lap in style to steal pole position and increase di Grassi’s wait for a pole position.
The result means Bird now has three Formula E pole positions to his name and his second in a row having started at the front in Long Beach. di Grassi will start in second for an amazing fifth time without having started from pole, while Vergne ensured that DS Virgin Racing will have both cars in the top three on the grid. Sarrazin will start in fourth, while Prost rounded out the Super Pole contenders.
Frijns will start the Paris ePrix in sixth place ahead of Turvey, while Buemi will have to settle for eighth on the grid. Piquet Jr and da Costa round out the top ten.