Jean-Eric Vergne’s late-season revival continued in qualifying for the Berlin race as he edged out Sebastien Buemi to take his first pole position of the season. Mahindra Racing managed to get both cars into the top five, with Daniel Abt completing the first five slots.
Arriving in Berlin after a maiden podium with DS Virgin Racing in Paris, Vergne sprung a surprise to take pole ahead of Buemi in the final superpole shootout. While title leader Lucas di Grassi languished in P10 after the group qualifying stages, the likes of Mahindra and NextEV TCR enjoyed strong sessions to shake up the grid for the race.
An indication that this qualifying wasn’t going to follow the norm came in Q1, when Oliver Turvey converted his pace in FP1 into the fastest time of his group, beating Lucas di Grassi. “I did a small mistake on my lap, but I could not go much quicker than I could,” the Brazilian explained before admitting his surprise at NextEV’s pace.
Even Turvey was surprised: “Nothing’s really changed with the car. We were able to get the most out of the track quite quickly. The first part of the lap was quite good. I made a few little mistakes at the end of the lap so I was quite surprised I was quickest.”
Turvey’s tenure at the top of the timesheets didn’t last long though. Four of the five drivers in Q2 were able to go quicker, with Vergne taking over the top spot for DS Virgin Racing. The Frenchman managed to hang onto P1 until Q3 as Nick Heidfeld and Nelson Piquet squeezed their way into the top five, leaving Buemi as the final major threat to follow in the final leg of group qualifying.
Buemi secured a near-perfect lap (the fastest of the day) to storm to P1 in the group stages but the biggest surprise arguably came from Mahindra Racing, as Bruno Senna went even quicker than Heidfeld to finish second overall. Vergne and Daniel Abt made it through to superpole, while Sam Bird was left out in P6. With di Grassi resigned to starting P10, Buemi had a golden opportunity heading into the final fight for pole.
A mistake at the final corner meant Abt completed his one flying superpole lap slower than his group quali lap, but his blushes were spared after a mistake by Heidfeld at T8 which resigned the Mahindra racer to a third-row start. Vergne managed to capitalise on their errors to take provisional pole with his lap and, when Senna could only manage P3, pole became Buemi’s for the taking.
But the Renault e.dams driver’s pole drought continued. Through all three sectors, the splits came up marginally slower than Vergne, leaving Buemi an agonising one-hundredth of a second shy of P1. For Vergne, it marked his first pole position of the season and third in a row for DS Virgin Racing.
“It’s good,” Vergne said. “I didn’t think the lap was going to be good enough but in the end everyone went slower. Everything is going well at the moment, hopefully we can put on a good show. The e.dams are really strong in the race, they were stronger than us in Paris. It’s going to be really difficult, but I’m going to give it my best. I’ve got nothing to lose.”
Group qualifying results