Formula E

Monaco Formula E pole for McLaren after Nissan penalty

by Sam Smith, Valentin Khorounzhiy
4 min read

McLaren Formula E driver Jake Hughes will start the Monaco E-Prix from pole after Sacha Fenestraz was excluded from the final duel.

Fenestraz, driving for McLaren’s powertrain supplier Nissan, had seen off Hughes in the final duel of Saturday qualifying.

Hughes had headed Fenestraz after the first sector but messed up the entry into the Nouvelle Chicane, cutting the initial right-hander after a slide – which meant Fenestraz, who had beaten Dan Ticktum and team-mate Norman Nato in previous rounds, was automatically assured of outpacing Hughes as long as he finished the lap.

However, he was placed under investigation soon after – finding out about it while he was being interviewed as the presumed pole-sitter – and eventually had his pole-clinching laptime cancelled for “power usage over regulatory limit of 350kW”.

Though Hughes’ laptime was also cancelled due to the aforementioned track limits breach, by virtue of being on track first he won the tie-breaker and was handed pole.

Nissan’s technical chief Vincent Gaillardot told The Race that he couldn’t comment on the infraction as “the team is still waiting for data to be analysed” after the parc ferme process that the top three cars from qualifying are required to go through.

“It’s a bit disappointing, but let’s see,” Fenestraz told Formula E TV reporter Nicki Shields after hearing of the investigation.

“We did a pretty good job, we really didn’t expect this after what happened in Berlin and also Sao Paulo, two terrible races, so I am pretty happy with this, but the race is the most important.”

Fenestraz’s penalty means a second Formula E pole for Hughes (and McLaren) rather than Fenestraz, though a 1-2-3 of Nissan powertrains a the front of the grid is preserved.

“I think we showed we had something three races ago [at Cape Town when Fenestraz took pole] as well,” said Gaillardot.

“Definitely it has some things to do with the track and, as I said, the whole changes for where we put our focus has definitely helped, so a pleasant surprise in a way here where we took pole in season five [2019 with Oliver Rowland].”

Remarkably, there was only one driver in the duels of the championship’s current top eight and that driver – Jaguar’s Mitch Evans – was eliminated in the first round. Evans is 24 points behind championship leader Pascal Wehrlein – who qualified 12th and will have two title rivals right ahead of him.

Despite his costly La Rascasse slide in the semi-final, Nato – running a tribute helmet to his late friend Jules Bianchi – still salvaged third place, having gone quicker than Maserati’s Maximilian Guenther.

Guenther, like Nato, had topped his group, but should’ve been eliminated in the first round, with a big front right lock-up at the Nouvelle Chicane. His opponent, Sergio Sette Camara, was however dinged for a pit exit procedure infringement, allowing Guenther to claim an eventual fourth on the grid.

“I think it’s just bad for everyone that the faster driver gets taken out like this,” said Sette Camara of the outcome.

Sette Camara’s team-mate Ticktum was fastest of those defeated in the first round and should line up fifth, followed by Evans, Maserati’s Edoardo Mortara and Sette Camara himself.

Andretti Porsche driver Andre Lotterer looked on course for his final duels appearance of the season when he went to first place in Group A at the chequered flag – only to be shuffled down to fifth in the following minutes.

This means he is to start 10th, right behind momentum-carrying title contender Nick Cassidy.

The Envision Jaguar driver suffered a chronic vibration in practice and, after that was addressed, was stymied late on in Group B by traffic in the final sector, in the form of Guenther, but still salvaged a top-10 start.

“I guess Max was pushing, so that’s life, that’s racing,” said Cassidy. “Fifth [in the group] is where our pace was.”

It was a compounding catastrophe of a qualifying session for the DS Penske team, which held a Group A 1-2 for a chunk of the running but had both of its drivers pushed out of top-four spots late on.

Adding insult to injury was both drivers then having all of their laptimes deleted for a tyre pressure infringement, meaning Stoffel Vandoorne and Jean-Eric Vergne lost their places on the sixth and eighth row respectively.

“We will need to investigate,” said DS Penske chief technical officer Nicolas Mauduit of the infringement. “We recognise that it seems to be the case, and the consequences are quite harsh.

“We will do everything we can to fight back – we have shown strong pace this morning.”

Those exclusions mean Wehrlein will start 12th, joined on the six row by Porsche’s other main title hopeful – Andretti driver Jake Dennis.

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