Seoul E-Prix 1 – There was no stopping Oliver Rowland in the wet conditions as he put in spectacular laps to dominate in the duels.
The rain had just started to spit as the lights went green for the first qualifying group and as such all drivers were out as quickly as they could. Robin Frijns’ 1:23.169 was the first time on the board but that was soon shuffled back as the others set times and it was Jake Dennis who put in the best of the opening efforts with a 1:22.441.
The rain was visible on the cameras after the first times were set but while it was slippery in places the rain wasn’t quite bad enough to prevent more times being set with Edoardo Mortara improving from P8 to the top of the times with a 1:22.397. Sergio Sette Camara also improved into the progression spots while Stoffel Vandoorne, who had been sitting in the pits after going P2 after the first runs, made a swift return to the track after seeing those times being set.
While the Mercedes driver couldn’t improve he remained on track as a precaution and when the remaining cars headed back out for the final few minutes they found, as Vandoorne had, that the conditions weren’t quite there for fast times to be set.
That meant that Vandoorne did manage to get through in P4 with Mortara, Dennis and Sette Camara joining him.
Oliver Askew, who gone P6, subsequently had his two fastest times deleted after not respecting the minimum pit stop time.
The rain continued falling as group B started. The reigning champion Nyck de Vries;s put in the first time, a 1:35.306 but those behind put in much better times and it was Lucas di Grassi on top with 1:32.361 after the first rounds.
Faster times were then being set before Alexander Sims lost the rear of his Mahindra and went nose first into the barriers. The Red Flag was brought out with just over six and a half seconds on the clock to allow the marshals to clear up the debris while Sims himself was able to extract his car and return to the pits.
At that point Pascal Wehrlein was top of the times with a 1:31.202 with championship contenders Mitch Evans, Jean-Eric Vergne, as well as Oliver Rowland in the top four spots.
The session was swiftly restarted and the track seemed to be in pretty good condition as Evans put in the fastest sector one although he wasn’t able to improve overall. Following that attempt he had a spin at the start of his second lap, which ruined that one for him while his teammate Norman Nato put Jaguar on top with a 1:30.943.
The conditions continued improving in the final couple of minutes with purple sectors constantly being set. It was a very tense end to the session with Evans one of the last on track leaving it to be either Evans or Vergne making it through. The Jaguar did manage to beat the Techeetah on track going P4 behind Wehrlein, Rowland and di Grassi.
However an investigation then appeared on screen looking into Evans not respecting the pit stop time. The Kiwi’s final time was removed from the charts, dropping him back to P6 but given he pitted with the Red Flag, and had no pit stop work done on the car as he was wheeled into the garage and then released a few seconds later, that seemed to negate the need for the minimum stop time and the Jaguar racer’s time was reinstated.
Quarter-finals – Evans vs Mortara, di Grassi vs Dennis, Sette Camara vs Rowland, Vandoorne vs Rowland
There was no time to breathe at Jaguar as Evans was first out in an all-championship rival fight between Evans and Mortara. The Kiwi had a much better start to his lap, taking a gap of over six tenths through the first sector and that doubled in sector two and barring an incident for Evans there was no coming back for Mortara, and after the drama at the end of the groups, the first duel went very smoothly for Jaguar.
In the second quarter final di Grassi, like Evans, had the much better time of it at the start of the lap, Dennis getting slightly sideways on his attempt. While the Andretti was able to match the Venturi over the remainder of the lap he couldn’t undo the sector one time difference.
There was no grip to be found for the Dragon racer and he then ground to a halt on track after the first sector, allowing Rowland to have an easy run of it. Sette Camara did manage to get going but retired to the pits instead of completing the lap.
It was advantage Wehrlein from the get go, the championship leader not looking like he would be extending his lead after qualifying with the Porsche just managing to find grip and despite hitting the wall, Wehrlein’s early pace ensured his continuation in qualifying leaving Vandoorne to start in P7 for the race.
Semi-finals – di Grassi vs Evans, Wehrlein vs Rowland
SF1 The only championship contender to make it to the semi finals, Evans was almost two tenths off di Grassi’s pace over the first sector. With both drivers having moments thanks to the conditions, the Jaguar racer was able to close up in the final sector but not by enough and so the most recent race winner, di Grassi will progress to fight for pole.
SF2 Unlike the previous duels, there was barely anything between Rowland and Wehrlein through the opening sector with only 0.029 seconds separating the two. From there though it was all Mahindra as Rowland, despite a serious wiggle in the rain, blew Wehrlein out of the water through the remainder of the lap to go almost two seconds faster than the Porsche.
Final – di Grassi vs Rowland
Next year’s newly confirmed Mahindra teammates would be battling it out for the inaugural pole in Seoul. While the two set similar times in the first sector, Rowland once again had an insane middle sector to pull a huge gap over di Grassi and despite the Brit going wide at T22, he had enough in the bank to still finish over six tenths quicker than the Venturi racer.
So it’s another pole for Rowland while di Grassi will sit alongside him on the front row. Evans will start P3, as the best of the title contenders, ahead of Wehrlein, with Dennis lining up P5 ahead of the remaining championship hopefuls Mortara and Vandoorne in P6 and P7.
Sette Camara will be on row four with Vandoorne while Vergne, who is now mathematically ruled out of the fight, will have Buemi beside him as the two round out the top ten.