Sao Paulo E-Prix – Stoffel Vandoorne took his and DS Penske’s first pole of the season after defeating Antonio Felix da Costa in the final duel.
The bright green Envision of Nick Cassidy led the way out of the pits as the first qualifying group got underway. The Kiwi started the timesheets off with a 1:13.475 and was seemingly happy with that as an opening effort as he then headed back to the pits without a second attempt.
Just before the halfway point of the session as Cassidy was heading back out, and the others were returning to the pits, the Red Flag came out as Sergio Sette Camara, one of the two Brazilian racers in the series, had an issue and stopped on track. The NIO 333 racer was able to get back going and make it back to the pits under his own steam.
At that stage Jean-Eric Vergne was in P1 with a 1:13.157 while his teammate Stoffel Vandoorne was half a tenth slower in P2 with the other duel positions being provisionally filled by Pascal Wehrlein and Rene Rast.
The session got back underway after five minutes and most of the drivers headed right out to the track, including Sette Camara, but he was under investigation for red flag procedure.
In the final few minutes Wehrlein tapped the wall on his lap but wasn’t able to improve while Andre Lotterer was on a very fast lap but abandoned it to head to the pits, possibly having taken a more serious hit than Wehrlein
In the end it was Vandoorne who took the top spot with a 1:12.761 ahead of Cassidy, Edoardo Mortara and Jake Hughes who were all within a tenth and a half of each other. Sette Camara had put in a time good enough for P5 but as he’d caused the red flag his fastest time of the session was deleted, dropping him to P9. NIO 333 explained that his issue had been caused by the bump on the track, which had made his car reset.
The second group got underway with Maximilian Guenther leading the way out but had a yellow flag soon after when Robin Frijns’ ABT Cupra stopped on track. The Dutchman’s car hasn’t been an easy drive so far this season with Frijns’ temporary replacement, Kelvin van der Linde, having had a lot of technical issues with it during the past few races.
Guenther started the group B times with a 1:24.237 with five minutes to go, as most of the grid had returned to the pits, it was Antonio Felix da Costa, fastest in FP2, who was in P1 with a 1:12.866. Jake Dennis was 0.164 seconds behind in P2 while Sebastien Buemi and Norman Nato filled the rest of the top four.
At that stage Sam Bird and Lucas di Grassi were the slowest two after Bird aborted his first proper flying lap after di Grassi hit the wall in front of him and he collected some of the debris from the hit. While the Jaguar racer was back out for the final run, the Mahindra racer wasn’t seen again and will start at the back.
In the end it was Bird who took P1 with a 1:12.669, with Guenther 0.029 seconds off in P2. Da Costa and the other Jaguar, of Mitch Evans, will join the duels too.
Quarter-finals – Mortara vs Cassidy, Hughes vs Vandoorne, da Costa vs Guenther, Evans vs Bird
QF1 – It was advantage Cassidy at the start of the first duel with just 0.048 seconds between them after the opening sector. Mortara though pulled the time back and moved ahead over sector two
QF2 – The McLarens have been very good in the duels so far this season but it was Vandoorne who was ahead by the slightest of margins after the opening sector but a bit of a mistake from Hughes in the middle part saw him lose too much time to make up.
QF3 – Da Costa had been on the pace this weekend and the duel was no exception, helped by a slow first sector from Guenther the Porsche driver breezed into the semi-finals two tenths ahead of the German.
QF4 – The all-Jaguar showdown but it was Evans all the way with the Kiwi setting the fastest duel time while Bird, who has a 5 place penalty to serve after his clash with Evans in Hyderabad, was the fastest of those who won’t progress any further.
Semi-finals – Mortara vs Vandoorne, da Costa vs Evans
SF1 – There was very little in it over the first third of the lap with only 0.044 separating Mortara from Vandoorne, the Penske racer pushed his advantage over the middle portion of the lap and that ensured his progression despite Mortara being the faster over the final third.
SF2 – While da Costa was the fastest in practice, Evans was the best in the quarter finals and it was the Jaguar racer who was ahead at the start by nearly two tenths but the Portuguese driver closed up over the following sector and outpaced the Kiwi in the final corners to take the spot in the final by 0.040 seconds.
Final – da Costa vs Vandoorne
The final got underway with just 0.020 seconds between the two drivers in the opening sector, da Costa just having the advantage. Vandoorne flipped that over the following sector and while it was the Porsche that was the quicker in the final portion, Vandoorne’s middle sector was enough to secure him and Penske the pole.
Evans will line up in P3 with Mortara alongside him. Row three will be very brightly coloured with the green Envision of Cassidy beside Hughes’ papaya toned McLaren. As Vandoorne started the day in group A that means the others from that group will take the remaining odd numbered grid slots with the group B runners in the even numbered ones so that means Vergne and Nato will populate row four while Guenther will take P9 ahead of Bird, who drops back from P5 thanks to his grid penalty.