As the session began all eyes were on James Rossiter who was filling the seat of the absent Jean-Eric Vergne. Leading the pack out, it didn’t take long before he came tantalisingly close to meeting the barrier whilst familiarising himself with the track.
Following the completion of the usual test full course yellow, the cars began setting lap times again, showing just how tough these dusty conditions can be to handle. Alex Sims went off at turn 7 but continued his way around.
With just over 30 minutes remaining, Maximilian Günther was sitting at the top of the timing sheet with a 1:21.328 with almost half a second separating him from Sam Bird in P2. This gap didn’t settle for long though as Bird raised the bar to 1:21.192.
With around 25 minutes left of the session, drivers began to feel more comfortable with the track conditions, setting times to draw the pack closer together. Andre Lotterer was one of the first to try it but locked up during his lap, throwing a cloud of red dust up behind him. He didn’t improve his time further and remained in P14.
Whilst Vergne was absent, his teammate was displaying the Techeetah power. Antonio Felix da Costa crossed the line setting a 1:20.807, making him the first to break the 1:20 mark. Eager to improve further, he began another fast lap going purple in sector 1 before dropping off the pace and failing to increase the gap of +0.261 between himself and P2.
Rossiter was clearly growing in confidence as he pulled the second Techeetah up to P9, just +0.609 from P1. With 20 minutes left on the clock, the top 13 were all sat within a second of each other.
As drivers continue to lay rubber on the track, Brendon Hartley set an impressive lap time just +0.201 away from P1. He was swiftly knocked down to P5 as Nyck de Vries almost beat da Costa’s benchmark time but just fell short, +0.016 off the pace.
Lucas di Grassi tore his way around the track, topping the timesheets, but this wasn’t to last for long. Jerome D’Ambrosio surpassed him and then Alex Sims exceeded them both with a time of 1:19.102.
As the session approached its final 10 minutes, the drivers upped the ante in an effort to see their names at the top of the timesheet as the clock hit 0. James Calado wasted no time, jumping from P21 all the way to the top with 1.19.090 with the help of the 250kW setting.
As other drivers upped their own power settings, da Costa took the opportunity to raise the bar once again, cracking into the 1:18s before turning his own power up.
Günther sliced further time from the benchmark with a 1:18.725 making himself the new target. Edoardo Mortara appeared to be making his bid for P1 but found himself in P3, +0.309 away from Günther after making a small error in turn 10.
Everyone else learnt from his mistake as the final countdown begun. The times were coming in fast with many taking their turn at the top. Günther tried to regain his top spot after being knocked down but it didn’t last. The clock hit 0 with da Costa sitting in P1, 0.103 ahead of Mitch Evans in P2.
Image credit: FIA Formula E Media