Diriyah Formula E: Sims beats Mercedes duo to pole for season opener

Alex Kalinauckas
Sims beats Mercedes pair to pole for season opener
Sims beats Mercedes pair to pole for season opener

BMW Andretti's Alexander Sims claimed pole for the 2019-20 Formula E season-opening Diriyah E-Prix ahead of ex-Formula 1 driver Stoffel Vandoorne, as last year's championship frontrunners qualified down the order.

Ailing from the third qualifying group, Sims made it through to the superpole session, before a rapid and planted flying lap in the final segment gave him a 1m14.563s and three points for the first pole of the season - and the second of his FE career.

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Sims was investigated for a clash with Jean-Eric Vergne at the end of FP2, but the stewards took no further action as they assessed the incident as a "non-punishing race situation", per an FIA bulletin.

Vandoorne benefited from a strong final sector to claim a front-row start for Mercedes' first FE race as a works entrant, while his team-mate - newly crowned 2019 Formula 2 champion Nyck de Vries - will start third.

De Vries had been up on Sims's lap through the first two sectors, but a slow end to the lap cost him four tenths and a shot at pole.

Edoardo Mortara backed-up the efforts of the works Mercedes drivers with fourth for the manufacturer's customer squad Venturi Racing, qualifying ahead of Sam Bird, who topped the group running and picked up the first point of the season as a result.

But Bird could not follow up on that effort in superpole as he made a mistake at the long Turn 4 right-hander by getting off-line and sliding close to the wall on the extremely low-grip surface, losing 0.8 seconds to Sims in the first sector.

He stayed on it - setting the fastest sector three of superpole - to take fifth ahead of Mahindra Racing's Jerome D'Ambrosio.

Andre Lotterer was the top runner not to make it through to superpole and will start his first FE race for Porsche seventh, qualifying ahead of Oliver Rowland, who survived a brush with the wall going through the rapid and undulating second sector on his group two lap.

Maximilian Guenther and Oliver Turvey both from group three - will round out the top 10 on the grid for Friday's race.

Reigning champion Jean-Eric Vergne will start 11th after he topped a frantic group one ahead of Robin Frijns, who qualified 12th.

The top six drivers from last year's championship left it very late to head out in a bid to find better track conditions on the ever-improving circuit.

Sims beats Mercedes pair to pole for season opener
Sims beats Mercedes pair to pole for season opener

Antonio Felix da Costa ended up leading the pack, but he went to the full 250kW after one out-lap from the pits and ended up well adrift of Vergne, later reporting he had a brake issue, and will start 21st in his first race for DS Techeetah.

Lucas di Grassi headed the queue of group one runners taking a second warm-lap - they all had to overtake da Costa in the first sector on their 250kW laps - and he ended up with the second-slowest time in that segment, and down in 19th overall.

Vergne and Frijns topped the group from the middle of the pack, which was running virtually nose to tail by the chequered flag, as Sebastien Buemi and Mitch Evans followed them in the group one standings.

Buemi was eventually shuffled back to 14th and Evans 16th.

Brendon Hartley will make his series debut from 18th after struggling massively for grip throughout his group-four lap, after he missed much of practice following a crash in FP1 and braking issues in FP2.

Neel Jani will start his first FE race for Porsche from 20th after he was held up by yellow flags brought out for separate crashes for James Calado and Nico Muller at the end of group four.

Calado hit the wall going through the ever-tightening Turn 16 right-hander then slid into the barrier at the exit of Turn 17, which follows immediately and leads on the track's main straight.

Seconds behind Calado's pair of crashes, Muller had exactly the same sequence - losing the rear in Turn 16 and striking the wall before sliding to a halt at the Turn 17 outside barrier.

Muller and Calado were later disqualified from the qualifying result as Dragon and Jaguar asked to remove them from parc ferme to make repairs to their cars - but they will line-up in the same order they qualified based on their warm-up lap times in 23rd and 24th.

Starting grid

Pos

Driver

Team

Car

Time

Gap

1

Alexander Sims

BMW

BMW

1m14.563s

-

2

Stoffel Vandoorne

Mercedes

Mercedes

1m14.839s

0.276s

3

Nyck de Vries

Mercedes

Mercedes

1m14.929s

0.366s

4

Edoardo Mortara

Venturi

Mercedes

1m15.131s

0.568s

5

Sam Bird

Virgin

Audi

1m15.350s

0.787s

6

Jerome d'Ambrosio

Mahindra

Mahindra

1m15.539s

0.976s

7

Andre Lotterer

Porsche

Porsche

1m15.518s

0.955s

8

Oliver Rowland

e.dams

Nissan

1m15.653s

1.090s

9

Max Guenther

BMW

BMW

1m15.680s

1.117s

10

Oliver Turvey

NIO

NIO

1m16.018s

1.455s

11

Jean-Eric Vergne

DS Techeetah

DS

1m16.129s

1.566s

12

Robin Frijns

Virgin

Audi

1m16.200s

1.637s

13

Pascal Wehrlein

Mahindra

Mahindra

1m16.200s

1.637s

14

Sebastien Buemi

e.dams

Nissan

1m16.243s

1.680s

15

Daniel Abt

Audi

Audi

1m16.264s

1.701s

16

Mitch Evans

Jaguar

Jaguar

1m16.532s

1.969s

17

Felipe Massa

Venturi

Mercedes

1m16.583s

2.020s

18

Brendon Hartley

Dragon

Penske

1m17.074s

2.511s

19

Lucas di Grassi

Audi

Audi

1m17.213s

2.650s

20

Neel Jani

Porsche

Porsche

1m17.745s

3.182s

21

Antonio Felix da Costa

DS Techeetah

DS

1m18.613s

4.050s

22

Ma Qing Hua

NIO

NIO

1m21.701s

7.138s

23

Nico Muller

Dragon

Penske

1m23.017s

8.454s

24

James Calado

Jaguar

Jaguar

1m23.792s

9.229s

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