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Wehrlein surges to maiden pole position

Pascal Wehrlein continued his exceptional form in his rookie season to take his maiden pole position, outqualifying nearest challenger Lucas di Grassi by 0.306s. Fellow rookie Felipe Massa took his best grid slot so far with a strong drive to the third fastest time.

Group one featured the top five in the championship, led by Santiago race winner and championship leader Sam Bird along with Jerome d’Ambrosio, Antonio Felix da Costa, Robin Frijns and Jean-Eric Vergne.

It was the championship leader who broke the silence after the usual wait for the optimum track time with Bird heading onto the circuit first, closely followed by Marrakesh race winner d’Ambrosio.

It proved to be a disaster for Bird, however, as the Envision Virgin Racing pulled to the side of the track. There was also trouble for d’Ambrosio as he encountered traffic on his flying lap, with his time duly ruined.

The Belgian was held up by Frijns in the stadium section, with the Dutchman subsequently coming under investigation for impeding his Mahindra Racing rival.

The remaining three drivers, who left it later to set their laps, were able to avoid any issues with da Costa setting a 59.778s to set the benchmark, followed by Vergne and Frijns.

After group one

1) da Costa 59.778s
2) Vergne +0.024s
3) Frijns +0.597s (UI)
4) d’Ambrosio +0.677s
5) Bird N/C

The second group of the session was formed by Mitch Evans, Daniel Abt, Andre Lotterer, Wehrlein and Alexander Sims.

Sims was the first of the group to set his time and made it a provisional BMW 1-2 as he lapped a slender 0.004s behind his teammate.

The remaining four drivers, who had elected to set a banker lap before turning it up to full, then made their attempts to enter Super Pole.

Lotterer set a purple sector one in his Techeetah, but after encountering traffic following a scruffy middle sector could only go provisionally fourth fastest.

Evans then went purple in sector one but couldn’t keep his momentum, with the Kiwi slipping down to seventh.

Abt struggled on his lap and could only manage P9, before Wehrlein lit up the timing screens and put in a stellar lap to usurp da Costa of the fastest time and provisionally enter Super Pole.

After group two

1) Wehrlein 59.604s
2) da Costa +0.174s
3) Sims +0.178s
4) Vergne +0.198s
5) Lotterer +0.446s
6) Frijns +0.771s (UI)

Group three featured Sebastien Buemi, Edoardo Mortara, di Grassi, Oliver Rowland, Oliver Turvey and Jose Maria Lopez.

Mortara got proceedings underway and went on to take the provisional fifth fastest time, before Lopez looked set to challenge Super Pole with a purple first sector, but a mistake into the final chicane meant the Argentine could only manage P7.

Turvey was able to put in a respectable time to take P6, but his provisional entry into Super Pole was short-lived as di Grassi took the second fastest time.

Rowland then put in an all-purple lap to go fastest of all and top the times with only one group to go. Nissan e.dams teammate Buemi provisionally put both cars into Super Pole with the fourth fastest time.

After group three

1) Rowland 59.593s
2) Wehrlein +0.011s
3) di Grassi +0.146s
4) Buemi +0.170s
5) da Costa +0.185s
6) Sims +0.189s

The fourth and final group fielded Nelson Piquet Jr, Tom Dillmann, Gary Paffett, Stoffel Vandoorne, Massa and rookie Felipe Nasr.

Massa went to full power straight away and looked to continue his strong form from FP2, which he duly did as he went third fastest to book his place in Super Pole.

Vandoorne showed promising pace in practice, but a scruffy first sector put pay to his full power lap and the Belgian provisionally went P16.

Nasr then put in a solid lap in his first qualifying session to take the 12th fastest time before Piquet put in a purple first sector, but a mistake coming into the stadium section put him down to P11.

Dillmann then put his NIO into P13, with the last driver of the group, Paffett, compounding HWA Racelab’s misery further as he could only circulate fast enough for the 16th fastest time.

After group four

1) Rowland 59.593s
2) Wehrlein +0.011s
3) Massa +0.126s
4) di Grassi +0.146s
5) Buemi +0.170s
6) da Costa +0.185s

These top six advanced into the Super Pole shootout, the first of which to attempt to take pole being Ad Diriyah race winner da Costa.

Despite a snap of oversteer coming through turn two, the Portuguese put in a respectable benchmark of 59.819s and gave the remaining five drivers their target to aim for.

Season two champion Buemi was next up and went purple in sector one by a narrow margin of 0.004s, but couldn’t match the BMW driver in the second and third sector, eventually lapping 0.130s down to provisionally take second.

Buemi was the followed by long-time rival and season three champion di Grassi, whose smooth driving enabled him to carry the momentum and take provisional pole from da Costa with two purple sectors.

Next up was Massa, who was looking to carry forward his strong form from the group stages as he entered Super Pole for the first time in his Formula E career.

The Brazilian matched his compatriot in sector one before going purple in sector two, but couldn’t quite get the job done in the final sector and missed out on provisional pole by a mere 0.042s.

The penultimate driver was Wehrlein, aiming for his maiden pole position after narrowly missing out in Santiago.

The German driver drove a near-perfect lap to trounce his rivals, setting a 59.347s to go over three tenths faster than di Grassi with only Rowland left to run.

The Englishman set a purple sector one but fell behind in the remainder of the lap and took P4 to join Massa on the second row of the grid.

That meant that Wehrlein celebrates his maiden pole in Formula E ahead of di Grassi, with two other Formula E rookies in the top four in the form of Massa and Rowland.

After Super Pole

1) Wehrlein 59.347s
2) di Grassi +0.306s
3) Massa +0.348s
4) Rowland +0.461s
5) da Costa +0.472s
6) Buemi +0.602s

da Costa is best placed of the current championship contenders in third, with Vergne and Frijns eighth and 17th respectively.

Championship leader Bird will start last following his stoppage, while d’Ambrosio will line up 19th.

About Topher Smith
Topher is an experienced and passionate Motorsport journalist with Formula E, Formula 1, GP2/F2, GP3 and IndyCar all on his resume. When he isn't at the trackside you can find him furthering his own capabilities and knowledge through his endless search for original ideas and material. Also plays league pool.