Former Toro Rosso Formula 1 racer Jean-Eric Vergne will start his first Formula E race from pole position after setting the quickest time in Punta del Este qualifying.
Despite running in the first session, which is usually slowest due to the track cleaning up through the four-session qualifying process, Vergne set an unbeatable 1m15.408s lap, brushing a wall along the way in his Andretti Autosport-run car. The performance was a brilliant effort given that he had never driven the Spark-Renault until this weekend.
In the second session, Sebastien Buemi looked the man most likely to topple his fellow ex-Toro Rosso racer, and set the fastest first sector but locked up at Turn 17. His DAMS teammate Nico Prost then topped Buemi on his last lap by 0.12 seconds. But neither DAMS car will start from the front row, as Nelson Piquet Jr. annexed second on the grid with a storming final sector in his China Racing machine. His lap was only 0.122sec off Vergne’s pole time.
The shock of the third session was Malaysia winner Sam Bird crashing out on his first flying lap at Turn 17. His Virgin car nosed into the TechPro barrier, and took no further part in the session.
Jerome d’Ambrosio also crashed, his right-rear clipping the wall at the exit of Turn 1, and he too failed to set a time.
Bird’s teammate Jaime Alguersuari will start fifth, having topped practice in the morning, with championship leader Lucas di Grassi next up for Abt, just 0.05sec slower. Jarno Trulli and Bruno Senna will share row four, ahead of Nick Heidfeld and Daniel Abt.
As expected, due to the low grip levels of the beachside street circuit, there were plenty of spins and collisions with the walls. Antonio Felix da Costa brushed the fence at the quick chicane, but not before he’d set the 13th-fastest time. Stephane Sarrazin will start next to him, but spun at Turn 1.
Matthew Brabham hit the wall in the second session, damaging his Andretti Autosport car on his first flying lap and joining the three-strong list of drivers who failed to record a time.
The race runs this afternoon, and airs tonight on FOX Sports 1 at 9:00 p.m. Eastern.