From heartbreak to elation 💔🤩
From Sam Bird having his lap time deleted to Mitch Evans landing Pole, it was a rollercoaster of emotions for @JaguarRacing in Quali!@GreenkoIndia #HyderabadEPrix pic.twitter.com/YxYxFzxbyJ
— ABB FIA Formula E World Championship (@FIAFormulaE) February 11, 2023
Mitch Evans (Jaguar TCS Racing) sealed Julius Baer Pole Position for the inaugural Greenko Hyderabad E-Prix by the slimmest of margins – shading the DS PENSKE of Jean-Eric Vergne by just 0.021 seconds.
Evans had earlier seen off Maximilian Guenther (Maserati MSG Racing) and Sebastien Buemi (Envision Racing), and topped Group A to fire him into the Final.
Vergne made it through after thinking he was all done in the Quarters when Jaguar TCS Racing’s Sam Bird beat him on-track. Track limits came into it in a big way, though, and the Brit had his time removed, much to his frustration, as did Rene Rast (NEOM McLaren) and Edo Mortara (Maserati MSG Racing) in the fourth Quarter-final. All that meant the Frenchman was promoted to the final, and ultimately second on the grid – beaten by the smallest deficit this season.
Buemi wound up third on the grid for Envision Racing – extending his hot streak in qualifying with the Swiss the second-best average qualifier up to this point.
Jaguar powertrains led both practice sessions and qualifying in Hyderabad – some showing so far for the TATA-owned manufacturer. Evans’ benchmark also made it seven different polesitters in seven races – a record that had stretched back to Season 5.
Evans vs Buemi was the only on-track contest of the Semis with track limits violations in the quarters seeing Vergne progress to the Final unchallenged. The Kiwi looked relatively comfortable over the lap, and saw off the Swiss by a quarter of-a-second.
Fenestraz made his second Quarters appearance of the season in the Nissan and faced Buemi. The Frenchman had lost a couple of tenths through the first chicane but pulled the gap back and more by the end of the lap. There was nothing between them into Sector 3 but it was the Envision Racing driver who made the Semis for the third time this season with just a tenth of-a-second in it. Neat and tidy, and that left Fenestraz a net fourth on the grid after the track limits violations shook out.
Guenther and Evans squared off next – the former absolutely on track limits and leaving nothing to spare. It was the Jaguar driver that strode away, with Guenther giving it a little too much. More than a second was the gap in the end, meaning Guenther will start fifth.
Vergne made his first Duels appearance of 2022/23 to face Bird. The Jaguar driver had topped FP2, and looked properly on it – looking like he’d seen off the double champion to progress by just 0.036 seconds. However, a track limits violation saw his time deleted and the Brit demoted to sixth.
Mortara was next to give it a go for Maserati MSG Racing – the first time the team had both cars in the Duels this season. Going up against Rast looked a big ask given the German’s form and McLaren’s one-lap pace but a big slide saw the multiple DTM champion fall behind early on. He clawed it back but just as quickly threw it away taking too much kerb at Turns 12 & 13.
Mortara initially went through on-track but track limits, once again, reared its head – costing both their times and promoting Vergne to a minimum front-row start, with a chance of sealing pole. Mortara starts seventh and Rast eighth.
Group A had scorching 43 celsius track temperatures to contend with and traffic proved to be an issue for standings leader, Porsche’s Pascal Wehrlein – his flying lap was good enough for only sixth.
Jake Hughes’ peerless streak in quali had looked like it would continue as he sealed the Group A-topping time of 1m14.121s – the NEOM McLaren driver the best qualifier in what is his rookie season to this point. However, it wouldn’t last – the Brit’s best two times were deleted for exceeding the minimum pit stop time. This promoted Guenther to fourth and through for a first Quarters appearance.
Evans brought a racy-looking Jaguar I-TYPE 6 around just shy of Hughes’ then-benchmark in a net second with Fenestraz and Buemi also progressing.
Lucas di Grassi overcooked it at the chicane and had to take avoiding action around the tyre barriers. The Mahindra Racing driver wouldn’t make it to the Duels and wound up last, with teammate Oliver Rowland seventh.
DS PENSKE’s woes continue with reigning champion Stoffel Vandoorne’s time good enough for only 10th in Group A.
Kelvin van der Linde’s stricken ABT CUPRA halted Group B’s running half way through the session – a technical issue seeing him run into the runoff and retire the car.
Rast was the first to fire top with a real push lap as the time ticked away and duly made it through to the knockouts for the third race in a row. Improvement was harder to come by for the rest with Vergne holding second, Bird third and Mortara squeaking through in fourth at the last – pipping Nick Cassidy (Envision Racing) by 0.001s, with the Kiwi searching for his first Duels appearance of the season.
Jake Dennis was sawing away at the wheel, giving it everything but the second-placed man in the Drivers’ table will start on just the sixth row for the E-Prix.
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