until Abu Dhabi Autonomous Racing League

Formula E

Vandoorne’s 2023 finally gets going, Wehrlein starts 20th

by Jack Cozens
4 min read

until Abu Dhabi Autonomous Racing League

Reigning Formula E champion Stoffel Vandoorne took his first pole position for nearly a year in a Sao Paulo qualifying session in which 2023 points leader Pascal Wehrlein was only 17th fastest even before a penalty was applied.

Vandoorne was 12th in the points heading into the weekend and had only made the duels stage of qualifying once previously this season in what has been a tricky start to life at the new DS Penske alliance.

But he was fastest in the Group A qualifying session in Sao Paulo – one that team-mate and Hyderabad winner Jean-Eric Vergne was knocked out of – which set the tone for his run through the knockout phases.

Vandoorne progressed comfortably from his quarter-final, as McLaren’s Jake Hughes ran deep on his lap and ended up almost three quarters of a second back, then saw off the Maserati of Edoardo Mortara in their semi-final.

He was initially down on Porsche’s Antonio Felix da Costa’s time in the final, but clawed that back over the final part of the lap to take pole – his eighth in Formula E – by 0.063s with a time of 1m11.904s.

Cape Town race winner Da Costa’s appearance in the final kept up his good run of form – his front-row start looks especially good considering the next-best Porsche-powered car, Jake Dennis’s Andretti entry, will start 14th – and came after he progressed at the expense of Mitch Evans from their semi-final.

Evans was up on da Costa for the majority of his lap but lost time in the final sector in particular, with his effort – two tenths down on the time he’d managed in the quarter-final – 0.040s shy of the Porsche driver’s time.

He had advanced to that semi-final stage by coming out on top of an all-Jaguar fourth quarter-final against Sam Bird.

Bird, who set the fastest time in the group stages, ended up 0.194s down on his team-mate but was the fastest of the losing quarter finalists.

A five-place grid penalty – for his part in a Hyderabad crash that was carried over from Cape Town because he could not start that race – means he will line up 10th though, with Nick Cassidy instead taking up fifth for Envision ahead of Hughes.

Sergio Sette Camara will start seventh after a peculiar qualifying session at his home Formula E race.

The Brazilian caused the Group A session to be red flagged when he stopped on track but he was able to get back to the pits and returned to the track when the session resumed, setting the fifth-fastest time.

That effort appeared to have been deleted – his penalty for causing the red flag – and NIO 333 driver Sette Camara was shown in the initial combined grid as starting 16th, but he was later shown in ninth in the official provisional qualifying classification that was issued. That will become seventh once penalties for Bird and Maximilian Guenther are applied.

Norman Nato was fifth in the Group B session and will therefore start eighth in the best of the Nissans, ahead of Guenther – who has a three-place drop for overtaking under yellow flags in Cape Town – and Bird.

Championship leader Wehrlein was more than three tenths off a place in the knockout phase of qualifying and only ninth-fastest in Group A, but will start from the penultimate row of the grid owing to his own penalty carried over from Cape Town for a collision with Sebastien Buemi.

He is due to start 20th, alongside Robin Frijns who has returned following a four-race injury layoff.

Lucas di Grassi did not fare well in front of his home crowd; he clobbered the wall on the inside of the track before the second part of the Turns 7 and 8 double-right-hander and damaged his Mahindra’s front-right suspension before he had set a time.

Di Grassi got his car back to the pits but did not return to the track and will start 22nd and last.

“Lucas just touched the wall on his first lap and broke the front,” explained Mahindra team principal Frederic Bertrand.

“It was a shame because we think he could have got a good position, but he will be determined to come through from the back and give all these Brazilian fans something to shout about this afternoon.”

Qualifying Results

Pos Name Team Car Q1 Q2 Q3 Q4
1 Stoffel Vandoorne DS Penske DS E-Tense FE23 1m12.761s 1m11.92s 1m11.929s 1m11.904s
2 António Félix da Costa TAG Heuer Porsche Porsche 99X Electric 1m12.837s 1m11.982s 1m11.982s 1m11.967s
3 Mitch Evans Jaguar TCS Racing Jaguar I-TYPE 6 1m12.95s 1m11.843s 1m12.022s
4 Edoardo Mortara Maserati MSG Racing Maserati Tipo Folgore 1m12.893s 1m12.132s 1m12.109s
5 Nick Cassidy Envision Racing Jaguar I-TYPE 6 1m12.852s 1m12.15s
6 Jake Hughes NEOM McLaren Nissan e-4ORCE 04 1m12.909s 1m12.657s
7 Jean-Eric Vergne DS Penske DS E-Tense FE23 1m13.157s
8 Norman Nato Nissan Nissan e-4ORCE 04 1m12.971s
9 Maximilian Günther Maserati MSG Racing Maserati Tipo Folgore 1m12.698s 1m12.189s
10 Sam Bird Jaguar TCS Racing Jaguar I-TYPE 6 1m12.669s 1m12.037s
11 René Rast NEOM McLaren Nissan e-4ORCE 04 1m13.161s
12 Sébastien Buemi Envision Racing Jaguar I-TYPE 6 1m12.971s
13 Nico Müller ABT CUPRA Mahindra M9Electro 1m13.2s
14 Jake Dennis Avalanche Andretti Porsche 99X Electric 1m12.991s
15 Sacha Fenestraz Nissan Nissan e-4ORCE 04 1m13.04s
16 Sérgio Sette Câmara NIO 333 Racing NIO 333 ER9 1m13.307s
17 Daniel Ticktum NIO 333 Racing NIO 333 ER9 1m13.045s
18 Pascal Wehrlein TAG Heuer Porsche Porsche 99X Electric 1m13.28s
19 Oliver Rowland Mahindra Racing Mahindra M9Electro 1m13.33s
20 Robin Frijns ABT CUPRA Mahindra M9Electro 1m13.671s
21 André Lotterer Avalanche Andretti Porsche 99X Electric 1m13.382s
22 Lucas Di Grassi Mahindra Racing Mahindra M9Electro 1m24.491s
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