Maserati took the first pole position of its so-far fraught Formula E programme with Maximilian Guenther at the first leg of this weekend’s Jakarta double-header.
Guenther had been quickest in both practice sessions across Friday and Saturday morning, topped his qualifying group and then beat his Maserati MSG team-mate Edoardo Mortara, early-season championship leader Pascal Wehrlein’s Porsche and title contender Jake Dennis’s Andretti Porsche across the qualifying duels to take his first pole in the series and his team’s first since Mortara’s Berlin double in its final season as Venturi last May.
Maserati’s high-profile Formula E entry was made possible by a rule adjustment that allowed it to use the powertrain from its Stellantis group stablemate DS.
The pace both DS Penske and Maserati MSG showed in pre-season testing at Valencia then suggested the DS package would start the Gen3 era as the one to beat.
But that pace has rarely been seen over the race weekends, with Jean-Eric Vergne’s win for DS Penske in Hyderabad the only victory for a DS powertrain so far in the new-generation rules.
What’s made it much worse for Maserati MSG is the large number of crashes by both Guenther and Mortara, which have been the biggest reason why it only has one podium finish so far this season (with Guenther in Berlin) and is a distant eighth in the teams’ championship, 153 behind leader Envision going into this weekend.
And while pole in Indonesia will be a morale boost, the disparities between single-lap pace and race pace have been so stark in the Gen3 era that only one polesitter this season has converted that into a podium finish – and remarkably that’s Lucas di Grassi, who followed up his shock pole at the Mexico City season-opener with a third place that seems even more miraculous now given Mahindra’s miserable form since then.
Team principal James Rossiter acknowledged that actually getting the job done in the race was something Maserati MSG now had to prove it could do.
“It’s something that we’ve been working hard on,” he said. “We’ve learned a huge amount. We’ve definitely learned what not to do. Hopefully we can get it right this time.”
The very hot conditions in Jakarta do seem to have triggered a reshuffle of the Formula E pack, though.
The DS quartet certainly have raw single-lap pace, with all four reaching the duels. Vergne, team-mate Stoffel Vandoorne and Mortara back up Guenther’s pole with fourth through sixth on the grid.
And the return to a warmer venue has brought the Porsches back towards the early-season form that suggested they would dominate the season. Dennis and Wehrlein start second and third, with Dennis confident he has the race pace to leave the DS group behind.
Jaguar has won the past four races but its four cars are all between 10th and 16th on the grid in Indonesia, led by championship leader Nick Cassidy’s Envision entry with Mitch Evans’ works car one place behind.
Factory team principal James Barclay put that down to not getting the best out of the Hankook tyre for a single lap.
“It’s a difficult quali but it’s all about the tyre and how you get that tyre in the window, and we didn’t quite manage that,” he said. “But it’s a long race.”
What’s still ominous for Jaguar’s rivals is that only one of that string of recent wins was achieved from anywhere near the front (Evans winning from third in Sao Paulo). The next three wins came from eighth or ninth. The challenge this time may be getting to the front before the Porsches have got away.
The other striking element of Jakarta qualifying was the performance Abt Cupra achieved with its Mahindras.
Bar its front row heroics in the wet in Berlin, Abt has been off the pace throughout its Formula E return season so far. But Robin Frijns reached the duels in Jakarta and qualified seventh with team-mate Nico Mueller starting ninth.
That was far better than the works Mahindras: Oliver Rowland’s replacement Roberto Merhi makes his Formula E debut from last on the grid, but that’s only one place behind his past champion team-mate di Grassi.
|1||Maximilian Günther||Maserati MSG Racing||Maserati Tipo Folgore||1m08.837s||1m08.402s||1m08.271s||1m08.141s|
|2||Jake Dennis||Avalanche Andretti||Porsche 99X Electric||1m09.013s||1m08.477s||1m08.381s||1m08.482s|
|3||Pascal Wehrlein||TAG Heuer Porsche||Porsche 99X Electric||1m08.866s||1m08.549s||1m08.646s|
|4||Jean-Eric Vergne||DS Penske||DS E-Tense FE23||1m09.205s||1m08.51s||1m08.74s|
|5||Stoffel Vandoorne||DS Penske||DS E-Tense FE23||1m09.108s||1m08.588s|
|6||Edoardo Mortara||Maserati MSG Racing||Maserati Tipo Folgore||1m09.135s||1m08.704s|
|7||Robin Frijns||ABT CUPRA||Mahindra M9Electro||1m09.271s||1m08.957s|
|8||René Rast||NEOM McLaren||Nissan e-4ORCE 04||1m09.025s||1m09.205s|
|9||Nico Müller||ABT CUPRA||Mahindra M9Electro||1m09.191s|
|10||Nick Cassidy||Envision Racing||Jaguar I-TYPE 6||1m09.273s|
|11||Mitch Evans||Jaguar TCS Racing||Jaguar I-TYPE 6||1m09.202s|
|12||Sacha Fenestraz||Nissan||Nissan e-4ORCE 04||1m09.333s|
|13||Sébastien Buemi||Envision Racing||Jaguar I-TYPE 6||1m09.216s|
|14||Daniel Ticktum||NIO 333 Racing||NIO 333 ER9||1m09.339s|
|15||António Félix da Costa||TAG Heuer Porsche||Porsche 99X Electric||1m09.28s|
|16||Sam Bird||Jaguar TCS Racing||Jaguar I-TYPE 6||1m09.41s|
|17||Norman Nato||Nissan||Nissan e-4ORCE 04||1m09.405s|
|18||Sérgio Sette Câmara||NIO 333 Racing||NIO 333 ER9||1m09.645s|
|19||David Beckmann||Avalanche Andretti||Porsche 99X Electric||1m09.47s|
|20||Jake Hughes||NEOM McLaren||Nissan e-4ORCE 04||1m09.933s|
|21||Lucas Di Grassi||Mahindra Racing||Mahindra M9Electro||1m09.562s|
|22||Roberto Merhi||Mahindra Racing||Mahindra M9Electro||1m10.56s|