Sam Bird takes Marrakesh E-Prix pole despite damaged car
Envision Virgin Racing's Sam Bird powered to pole position in qualifying for the Marrakesh E-Prix, beating Jean-Eric Vergne to the top spot and three bonus points, despite racing with a damaged car.
Completing his initial qualifying lap in the third group of runners, Bird topped the group qualifying stages for the Audi-powered Virgin team, knocking Nissan e.dams' Sebastien Buemi off what was a seemingly secure position at the top of the timesheets, with Bird posting a 1m 17.851s lap to secure a place in the Super Pole shootout.
As the sixth fastest runner in group qualifying, Jaguar Racing's Mitch Evans opened the final shootout that would determine who would start on pole position and while the Kiwi posted a strong first sector with a very clean start to his lap, a lockup into Turn 7 removed the driver from contention for the top spot, being forced to take to the escape road.
For reigning Formula E champion Jean-Eric Vergne who was next to complete a lap in the Super Pole shootout, it was purple in all three sectors, with the Frenchman setting a 1m 17.535s lap to claim provisional pole.
Despite putting in their best efforts, Antonio Felix da Costa, Alexander Sims and Buemi were unable to mount a successful challenge to Vergne's position, with the prior coming the closest to the Frenchman's time, trailing his championship rival by only 0.091s.
For Bird, who had picked up damage to the diffuser on his customer Audi e-tron FE05 package at the end of group qualifying after Tom Dillmann rear-ended Robin Frijns in the pitlane, who in turn struck the British driver, it seemed unlikely that he would be able to challenge Vergne to the top spot, with the majority of the Gen2 Formula E car's downforce coming from its intricate rearwards design.
Despite this, the Briton was able to mount a credible, convincing, and ultimately successful challenge, taking pole position by setting a 1m 17.489s lap, beating Vergne by a narrow margin of 0.046s who will start the Marrakesh E-Prix on the front row of the grid in second place.
For Ad Diriyah polesitter da Costa, it was third in qualifying while Buemi secured fourth on the grid for Nissan e.dams as the Swiss driver aims to put an end to his ongoing winless streak this weekend.
Sims qualified in sixth place in the second BMW entry while Evans completed the top six as the slowest Super Pole runner with his best efforts being rendered as useless following his lockup.
For Formula E debutant Pascal Wehrlein, it was a strong showing on debut, with the German racer qualifying in seventh for Mahindra, narrowly missing out on a Super Pole spot while Frijns followed close behind in eighth.
Nelson Piquet Jr secured ninth on the grid in the second Jaguar while third-placed championship man Jerome d'Ambrosio completed the top 10.
Following the team's struggles in Ad Diriyah, it was another difficult qualifying session for Audi Sport Abt Schaeffler, with Lucas di Grassi only managing 11th in qualifying while Daniel Abt was 16th.
Following di Grassi in 12th was Oliver Rowland while Jose Maria Lopez and Oliver Turvey trailed the Briton, with Felipe Massa completing the top 15 for Venturi Formula E.
With Abt in 16th, Edoardo Mortara was 17th in the second Venturi while Dillmann was 18th, Gary Paffett 19th and Andre Lotterer 20th.
For the second qualifying session in a row, Maximilian Gunther made a trip into the barriers, relegating him to 21st on the grid while a power shutdown for Stoffel Vandoorne ensured that the Belgian driver's poor luck would continue into 2019, with the former McLaren driver completing the field in 22nd.
Marrakesh - Qualifying
|1||Sam Bird||Envision Virgin Racing||1:17.489||0.637|
|2||Jean-Eric Vergne||DS Techeetah Formula E Team||1:17.535||0.046|
|3||Antonio Felix da Costa||BMW i Andretti Motorsport||1:17.626||0.137|
|4||Sebastien Buemi||Nissan e.dams||1:17.738||0.249|
|5||Alexander Sims||BMW i Andretti Motorsport||1:18.400||0.911|
|6||Mitch Evans||Panasonic Jaguar Racing||1:29.379||11.890|
|7||Pascal Wehrlein||Mahindra Racing||1:18.126|
|8||Robin Frijns||Envision Virgin Racing||1:18.200|
|9||Nelson Piquet||Panasonic Jaguar Racing||1:18.347|
|10||Jerome d'Ambrosio||Mahindra Racing||1:18.440|
|11||Lucas di Grassi||Audi Sport Abt Schaeffler||1:18.595|
|12||Oliver Rowland||Nissan e.dams||1:18.604|
|13||Jose Maria Lopez||GEOX Dragon||1:18.612|
|14||Oliver Turvey||NIO Formula E Team||1:18.624|
|15||Felipe Massa||Venturi Formula E Team||1:18.780|
|16||Daniel Abt||Audi Sport Abt Schaeffler||1:18.921|
|17||Edorado Mortara||Venturi Formula E Team||1:19.133|
|18||Tom Dillmann||NIO Formula E Team||1:19.338|
|19||Gary Paffett||HWA Racelab||1:19.516|
|20||Andre Lotterer||DS Techeetah Formula E Team||1:19.633|
|21||Max Gunther||GEOX Dragon||1:23.332|
|22||Stoffel Vandoorne||HWA Racelab||1:33.404|