Robin Frijns topped the first day of Formula E’s three-day pre-season test in Valencia, while Venturi’s Edoardo Mortara edged his new team-mate Lucas di Grassi to triumph in the first trial of the new qualifying format.
Frijns, who finished fifth in the drivers’ championship last year with two wins, was fastest for the newly renamed Envision Racing outfit.
Jaguar’s Sam Bird was quickest in the three-hour morning session on a 1m27.169s, but Frijns was able to go two tenths quicker in the afternoon to lead the day on a 1m26.968s.
Times during that afternoon session were only recorded for the first 90 minutes, with the remaining time used to conduct the first real-world trial of Formula E’s new qualifying format.
The times of that qualifying session will not be made official, but The Race can reveal that Venturi duo di Grassi and Mortara were quickest in their respective groups of 11 drivers.
Under the new system, the four fastest drivers from each group combine to form a series of head-to-head knockout sessions until the two fastest drivers are left.
Di Grassi, Bird, two-time champion Jean-Eric Vergne and the second Envision of Nick Cassidy were the fastest four in group one, while Mortara, Jaguar’s Mitch Evans, Frijns and Mahindra’s new signing Oliver Rowland would have progressed from the second group.
At the test, all drivers were able to sample the dual system so even those outside of the top eight were able to experience it, helping the series and teams to gather more data on it.
It also meant the top two drivers from group qualifying (di Grassi and Mortara) progressed straight to the final, when ordinarily they’d join the six other drivers in the quarter-finals.
Vergne beat Frijns in their semi-final showdown while Bird got bragging rights at Jaguar after going faster than team-mate Evans during their shootout.
In the final, Mortara was able to beat di Grassi by just 0.024s, setting a 1m26.840s and going quicker than Frijns’ official benchmark earlier in the day.
That ‘pole’ time was three tenths slower than Antonio Felix da Costa’s pole position time for the first race at Valencia earlier this year in April.
In the official times before the qualifying simulation, Frijns was flanked by the DS Techeetah champion pairing of Vergne and da Costa, who also bettered Bird’s morning best.
Cassidy, who finished 15th in his rookie Formula E campaign last year, was fourth-quickest, with Bird’s morning benchmark leaving him fifth on the combined times.
Porsche’s Andre Lotterer began testing for his fifth Formula E season with the sixth fastest time, ahead of Evans and di Grassi who was forced to look for another employer after Audi exited the series last season.
Qualifying simulation topper Mortara was ninth-quickest, while Andretti’s Jake Dennis completed the top 10.
Defending Formula E champion Nyck de Vries was 11th-fastest for Mercedes EQ, with team-mate Stoffel Vandoorne 12th.
Oliver Askew was the quickest of this season’s three rookies, with the Andretti driver setting a time that was 1.4s slower than Frijns’ fastest effort.
Alfa Romeo Formula 1 driver Antonio Giovinazzi (Dragon-Penske) was two tenths adrift of Askew, with Formula 2 race winner and NIO 333 driver Dan Ticktum the slowest of the three rookies, a further two tenths off.
Formula E testing will resume with two further days on Tuesday and Thursday this week. Ticktum will miss that final day due to F2’s return at Jeddah this weekend. He will be replaced by erstwhile Jaguar FE driver Adam Carroll.
Giovinazzi is likely to miss Thursday’s running, too, because he also needs to be in Saudi Arabia – but that’s yet to be confirmed.
Meanwhile, at Envision, Monday pacesetter Frijns will make way for the team’s simulator driver, W Series race winner Alice Powell for a day of testing on Tuesday.