Diriyah E-Prix 1 – Sam Bird led the way for Jaguar TCS Racing in the opening practice in Diriyah ahead of his 100th Formula E race tomorrow.
With the sun set in Diriyah, the Gen3 cars got their first under the lights running of the season and there was a bit of rain and dampness to welcome them out. The Maseratis of Edoardo Mortara and Maximilian Guenther led the cars out with the Swiss racer opening the timesheets with a 1:20.489. At that point twenty of the twenty two cars were on track, DS Penske’s Jean-Eric Vergne and ABT Cupra’s Nico Mueller having remained in their garages for the opening few laps.
Neom McLaren’s Rene Rast had to pit before finishing his first timed lap after contact with Stoffel Vandoorne broke the German’s front wing. From Rast’s report to his team it sounds like the two cars moved the same way as the McLaren racer was going to overtake the reigning champion.
After the opening ten minutes of the session it was Sebastien Buemi who was at the top of the times with a 1:11.635 with Jake Hughes less than a tenth behind. Hughes’ teammate, Rast, was the only driver without a lap time on the board at that point.
Heading into the final ten minutes of the session, NIO 333’s Dan Ticktum was holding the top of the leaderboard with a 1:10.953 with Sacha Fenestraz P2 ahead of the two Penskes. The lap times came in thick and fast at the end of the session, but there were a good few lock ups and errors.
It ended with Bird’s 1:10.402 in P1, just 0.084 seconds quicker than Vergne. The Jaguar and Penske teams took the top four spots with Mitch Evans in P3 and Vandoorne in P4, but they were a few tenths slower than their teammates.
Nick Cassidy was P5 for Envision with a 1:10.770 with Ticktum only a few thousands behind. Hughes ended P7 for McLaren while Buemi and Lucas di Grassi were P8 and P9. Rounding out the top ten was Jake Dennis, winner oft he opening race of the season, who was 0.505 seconds slower than Bird in the session.
Kelvin van der Linde, who is sitting in for the recovering Robin Frijns at ABT Cupra, finished slowest after spending the majority of his first practice session in the garage with what the commentators believed was a battery issue.