Diriyah E-Prix 2 – Oliver Rowland outdueled Robin Frijns to seal pole for Nissan in a mixed up grid to yesterday after Sebastien Buemi crashed earlier.
Sacha Fenestraz was the first to take to the Diriyah circuit and the Nissan driver kicked the session off with a leisurely 1:22.976, twelve seconds off the best time, by Mitch Evans, in FP3 a few hours ago.
Halfway through, after everyone had set a representative time, it was Evans on top with a 1:11.276, two tenths up on Robin Frijns while Nyck de Vries and Fenestraz completed the provisional top four.
Fenestraz was the first to re-emerge from the pits and had the track to himself for a few minutes, allowing him to set a 1:10.848 to move himself up to P1 with a couple of minutes to go.
Everyone improved on their final laps and nearly every driver was quicker than those ahead so those at the front of the queue who got into the top four were shoon shuffled back and in the end it was Fenestraz who took P1 with a 1:10.641 with Frijns, and the DS Penske’s of Jean-Eric Vergne and Stoffel Vandoorne, within two tenths of the Nissan driver in the other duels places.
Pascal Wehrlein, Maximilian Guenther, Evans, and Norman Nato who made it into the duels yesterday ended up in P5-P7 and P10.
Maserati’s Jehan Daruvala was the first out as the second group got underway, the Indian driver started with a 1:18.159 and after fast laps were on the board for all drivers it was Oliver Rowland in P1 with a 1:10.784 ahead of Jake Hughes, Daruvala and Sebastien Buemi.
Cassidy was the first to take the chequered flag, moving into P2 just before the Red Flag came out as Buemi hit the wall at T2. The Envision driver
That meant that most of group B were unable to finish their final flying lap so it ended with Rowland in P1 with a 1:10.486 with Cassidy, Hughes and Daruvala completing the top four.
Dennis ended the group stages in P8 but said his car was “the worst he’d ever driven in Formula E”, and felt he wouldn’t have made it through even without the Red Flag. So of yesterday’s duel participants, only Vergne and Cassidy made it through again.
Quarter-finals: Vergne vs Frijns, Vandoorne vs Fenestraz, Hughes vs Cassidy, Daruvala vs Rowland
There was a bit of a delay before the duels got underway to allow Buemi’s car to be cleared and the barrier repaired.
QF1: When the first duel did get underway it was a close run thing. Less than a tenth between the drivers in sector one, with Frijns taking the slight advantage, The Dutch driver extended that over the following two sectors and so yesterday’s polesitter was defeated in his first duel today.
QF2: Unlike duel one, there was a definitive advantage for Vandoorne in this one, the Penske driver with half a second over the Nissan driver in sector one as Fenestraz didn’t get his first corner right. Fenestraz was the quicker in the final sector but it’ll be Vandoorne who keeps Penske in the mix for pole.
QF3: Cassidy was almost two tenths up on the McLaren driver in the first part of the lap. The Kiwi was on it, continuing to improve over the course of the lap to definitely take the duel, six tenths up on Hughes.
QF4: Things were initially close with less than a tenth of a second between the drivers but Rowland put his foot down in sector 1 to take over two tenths advantage, the Maserati driver pulled a little back in the middle but Rowland had a super final sector to put in the fastest time of the day, a 1:10.149.
Semi-finals: Frijns vs Vandoorne, Cassidy vs Rowland
SF1: Initially there was nothing in it but Frijns did then pull a tenth and a half over Vandoorne, the Envision driver kept pushing despite sliding around the track, in true Frijns style, and took the win by two tenths.
SF2: It was close in sector 1 but Rowland had the upper hand, things remained close between the two drivers over the course of the lap but the Nissan driver is a pole position specialist and took the win with a 1:10.098.
Final: Frijns vs Rowland
Rowland was the quicker over the opening sector, just over a tenth up on Frijns. The two were very similar in the middle part so the gap remained pretty stable but the Nissan racer got through the final corners better and upped the gap to almost three tenths to seal his sixth pole and first points of the season.
Cassidy will be in P3 with Vandoorne alongside him, a great qualifying from Daruvala will see him start P5 ahead of Hughes, while Fenestraz and Vergne will share the fourth row. As Rowland started in Group B, that means the others in that group will take the remaining odd numbered grid slots so Sette Camara will start P9 ahead of Wehrlein.
Buemi would’ve been P9 but, as he caused the Red Flag, his best time was cancelled so if his car is repaired in time he’ll start P11.