Local hero Vergne takes pole position ahead of Bird
Local hero Jean-Eric Vergne secured pole position after a surprising qualifying session that saw Maro Engel and Antonio Felix da Costa making their way to Super Pole, while Lucas di Grassi, Sebastien Buemi and Felix Rosenqvist missed out on the final shootout.
The five drivers of the first group waited until only three minutes were left on the clock before the made their way onto the track. Abt was the first driver to actually make a move on the tricky Parisian street canyons, but his four colleagues joined him rather quickly. Nevertheless, this created quite a bit of traffic which is a problem in a session as critical as qualifying but the drivers were able to stay out of each other’s way. Local hero Vergne put himself on P1 with an impressive lap, followed by Bird and Buemi. Both Rosenqvist’s and Abt’s chances for Super Pole looked weak as the two of them were more than half a second slower than Vergne.
Less traffic was expected for group two as Panasonic Jaguar Racing unfortunately did not manage to get Piquet JR’s cars repaired in time for qualifying. Thus di Grassi, Turvey, Lotterer and Evans took on the challenges of the Parisian track on their own. Again, the drivers were waiting for quite some time until they headed out on track, making it a last minute-thriller. Even though track conditions were set to improve, only Lotterer and di Grassi manaed to position themselves among the top-five in P3 and P5 respectively, pushing Rosenqvist out of Super Pole. Tuvey secured a provisional sixth place while Evans only managed to cross the line in P8 – putting him P18 on the starting grid at best due to his 10-place grid penalty.
Unlike in the groups seen before, Lynn, da Costa and Mortara headed straight out once the session was started. Da Costa put in an incredible second sector and crossed the line in P2, just 55 thousands of a second slower than provisional leader Vergne. Meanwhile, Lynn and Mortara struggled with the bumpy track, only managing to secure P12 and P13 respectively while Lopez managed to put his DRAGON on P8. Last but not least, Heidfeld put in his 200kw-lap and while he looked set for a promising result, he lost valuable time in the third sector, putting him in P10 in the end and demoting Lynn and Mortara to P13 and P!4.
The group 4 drivers went out onto the track as soon as the lights turned green. While d’Ambrosio managed to secure P6 on the starting grid for the moment, Prost, Blomqvist and Ma struggled and had to be content with P13, P17 and P19 respectively. The positively shocking moment came when Engel crossed the line: After two rather weak sectors, the German managed to show a fantastic third sector that allowed him to jump to P3, pushing di Grassi out of Super pole by just five thousands of a second.
Lotterer went out first and put in a 1:01.487 that was quickly beat by Bird, even though the Bird got a little bit amorous with the wall on his flying lap. Engel was up next and while his second sector looked like he might have a chance to beat Bird, he did not managed to keep it up in the last sector, losing valuable time and “only” putting himself into a provisional third place. The next man to go out was da Costa who made a mistake in the first sector that cost a lot of time and put him out of the fight for pole-position. The Parisian championship leader Vergne was hot for P1 on the starting grid and was already up on Bird after the first sector. In the course of his flying lap, he managed to extend his lead and secured pole-position with a flawless lap.