History was made in Riyadh for the second qualifying session of the weekend, as BMW Alexander Sims scored his second pole of the race meeting, and third in a row overall after his pole position in New York City at the end of season five. This stat means he becomes the first man in Formula E’s short history to score three pole positions in a row, in what will be Formula E’s 60th race.
With yesterday’s results in race one determining the qualifying groups for this session, it would appear to be an open goal for the drivers that didn’t fare well such as Nissan’s Sebastien Buemi, Audi’s Daniel Abt, and two-time reigning champion Jean-Eric Vergne, who’s been struggling in Riyadh so far this weekend. The difference in pace between groups one and four would be of a smaller margin in this session compared to yesterday’s qualifying as the track was much cleaner, allowing for faster times and there being much more rubber on track.
In group one, it was yesterday’s race one victor Sam Bird, Andre Lotterer, Stoffel Vandoorne, Oliver Rowland, Robin Frijns and Nyck de Vries that would take to the track. When the six minute session began, it was a typical waiting game as the drivers wanted to get a clean lap instead of effectively sweeping the road if they went out first. Eventually, the drivers emerged with just over three minutes remaining to set their banker laps, but the 250kW lap was to be the telling lap, and it was Sam Bird who clocked the fastest time with a 1:12.007, followed by Lotterer, Vandoorne, Frijns, Rowland and de Vries, with the Dutchman losing over a second in the final sector alone.
In group two, we had Felipe Massa, Mitch Evans, Alexander Sims, Edoardo Mortara, Jerome d’Ambrosio and Pascal Wehrlein looking to take advantage of the obvious track evolution to put pressure on the group one drivers for a Super Pole spot. The drivers used a similar tactic in this session, leaving it until the final minutes before setting their laps, and it was Jerome d’Ambrosio that set the fastest time in group two with a 1:11.835, even after clipping the wall as he crossed the finish line, putting the Belgian in Super Pole position. Sims, Evans, and Mortara also found a way into provisional Superpole, but Wehrlein and Massa weren’t quick enough for Mahindra and Venturi respectively.
Group three consisted of Oliver Turvey, Lucas di Grassi, Antonio Felix da Costa, Neel Jani, Maxi Gunther, and James Calado. It was the same as the two previous groups, with drivers setting a banker lap followed by their fastest 250kW laps. But it was da Costa that set the fastest time in group three and fastest overall on a 1:11.418, with di Grassi joining him in provisional Super Pole, shuffling Lotterer out of contention. Neel Jani was disappointing again in comparison to his more experienced Porsche teammate Lotterer, clocking a time that was only good enough for 14th place.
The final group consisted of the heavy hitters of Vergne, Buemi, Abt, also being joined by debutant Muller, Hartley and Ma Qing Hua. Sebastien Buemi topped the group, over three tenths slower than da Costa, but earning a place in Super Pole and showing the latent pace in the Nissan after Oliver Rowland’s strong race yesterday, but Vergne, Abt, Muller, Hartley, and Hua failed to make the final shootout. Antonio Felix da Costa earned the bonus point for setting the fastest lap in the preliminary group qualifying.
Super Pole order as follows:
Mitch Evans was out first, as Super Pole is a single lap shoutout, and the Kiwi set a quick lap of 1:11.929. Season three champion Lucas di Grassi was up next. The Brazilian managed to put himself in a better position than yesterday, clocking a time of 1:11.784 to go provisional pole position. Yesterday’s pole-sitter Alexander Sims was next on track and the BMW stalwart went fastest with a 1:11.476, even with a massive slide coming out of turn 17 onto the main straight. Formula E veteran d’Ambrosio made a mistake in the first sector, costing him a good starting place, setting a time that was over six tenths behind Sims’ monstrous lap. Season two champion Sebastien Buemi was next to go, and the Swiss driver put himself on the provisional front row with a lap of 1:11.686. The final man to go was Antonio Felix da Costa, and the Portuguese former Red Bull young driver over drove the car in the middle of the lap, oversteering on the dust and marbles to go sixth fastest, meaning Alexander Sims scored his third pole in a row, becoming the first man in Formula E history too do so.
Qualifying Top 10 as follows:
Picture source: FIA Formula E Media