Nelson Piquet has made a cracking start to his season three campaign by bagging pole position in Hong Kong. It is his first pole in a Formula E career which spans two seasons and includes the first ever Formula E drivers’ title. His team mate, Oliver Turvey, set a qualifying lap good enough for second place, giving NextEV a front-row lockout for the season opener.
It was a truncated qualifying session, which saw the super pole session cancelled after too much time was lost recovering damaged vehicles. Lap times in qualifying were slower than in practice after track officials opted to remove part of the kerb at the chicane, leaving the drivers without a marker for their sight line when coming into T3. “It’s changed the dynamic of the middle sector,” Sam Bird explained. “We’ve lost a bit of time and a bit of confidence.” The teams were also reportedly not informed of the change ahead of qualifying and, as a number of drivers fell foul of the revised corner, it was a point of contention throughout the paddock.
The early shock in qualifying came in the second heat when di Grassi hit the wall at the exit of the chicane, damaging the left-hand side of his car. The Brazilian was left to trudge back to the pit lane on foot and, without a fast lap under his belt, a back-row grid slot to boot.
Robin Frijns’ session also ended early after a nasty crash at the chicane during Q3, sliding into the TecPro barrier before narrowly avoiding being hit by Vergne who was following on his fast lap. Thankfully, Frijns walked away from the crash unharmed, but he was resigned to joining di Grassi at the back of the grid. The shunt caused enough damage to the TecPro barrier to result in a lengthy red flag period while the barrier was repaired, leaving the remaining drivers to sit and wait for their chance to complete a hot lap. What’s more, the impact has necessitated a new tub for the Dutch driver, which is a big job for the mechanics ahead of the race.
Prior to the shunt, the NextEV duo of Piquet and Turvey had shot to the top of timesheets after some stunning laps, appearing to banish the demons the team faced last season. Their laps remained the benchmark despite a threat from Vergne before the red flag. When officials announced that super pole had been cancelled due to the delays, the pair enjoyed a provisional front-row lock-out ahead of Q4.
Defending champion Sebastien Buemi pushed to get an early march on the field and take pole, yet the Swiss racer could only go fifth-fastest. Jose Maria Lopez enjoyed a strong showing in his first qualifying session in Formula E, finishing third ahead of DS Virgin Racing teammate Bird. Buemi was left to settle for P5.
Felix Rosenqvist put his impressive street course form to good use on his Formula E debut, qualifying sixth ahead of Daniel Abt and Louc Duval. Vergne was left down in ninth place after losing a purple first sector due to Frijns’ shunt, while Nico Prost rounded out the top 10 for Renault e.dams.
The race in Hong Kong kicks off at 1600 local time (0900 in the UK).
Group qualifying results