Reigning World Champion Stoffel Vandoorne claimed a sensational pole position at the inaugural São Paulo E-Prix, with the Belgian starting in the best position for the sixth round of the 2022/23 ABB FIA Formula E World Championship, whilst he’ll be joined by on the front row by António Félix da Costa, for what looks set to be an incredibly exciting race.
Kicking-off qualifying in São Paulo were all the drivers holding an odd position in the Drivers’ Championship, meaning current championship leader Pascal Wehrlein was joined by double Formula E Champion Jean-Éric Vergne, Nick Cassidy, NEOM McLaren Formula E Team duo René Rast and Jake Hughes, André Lotterer, reigning World Champion Vandoorne, Sérgio Sette Câmara, Oliver Rowland, Edoardo Mortara and Nico Mueller.
Following every drivers initial run it was the DS Penske duo of Vergne and Vandoorne who sat at the top, with Wehrlein and Rast having been in third and fourth. The session was then stopped, though, with six minutes remaining after Sette Câmara came to a halt on-track. He was then able to return to the pits. When the session resumed a few minutes later there was a flurry of action, as the drivers quickly got back out onto the track, including, Sette Câmara.
There were improvements across the board as the opening group entered its final two minutes, as Cassidy and Mueller both moved into the top four, at the expense of Wehrlein and Rast. Mortara then jumped into fourth ahead of Mueller as the session moved into the final thirty-seconds; however, he was almost immediately demoted outside the top four by Hughes.
Mortara had yet more time in him, though, as he moved back into the top four, demoting Vergne out. Vandoorne made a further improvement to top the group from Cassidy, whilst Mortara and Hughes held onto third and fourth. It meant Wehrlein and Vergne were eliminated, with the championship leader set to start the race from eighteenth.
Into the duels: Vandoorne, Cassidy, Mortara and Hughes.
Aiming to join the four from Group A in the duels were Jake Dennis, Free Practice Two pacesetter and Cape Town winner Da Costa, Free Practice One pacesetter Sébastian Buemi, Sam Bird, home hero Lucas di Grassi, Mitch Evans, Norman Nato, Dan Ticktum, Sacha Fenestraz, Maximilian Günther and the returning Robin Frijns.
Frijns had a less than ideal start to the group after stopping on-track, before being able to continue following a car reset. It meant the first three-minutes of the session were completed under a yellow flag, meaning no competitive times could be set. The drivers got about it, though, as soon as the yellow flags were removed, with Da Costa having sat at the top following the initial runs, with Dennis, Buemi, and Nato having held the other top four places with four minutes remaining.
With two minutes remaining, Bird jumped to the top of the timesheets, demoting Nato outside the top four. It was clear, though, that further improvements were going to be made throughout the field, with Evans having jumped to third, pushing Buemi outside the top four. Buemi was unable to improve enough to make the duels, as was Dennis, who was unable to capitalise on Wehrlein’s poor qualifying. The Briton will start from fourteenth on the grid, whilst Bird, Günther, Da Costa and Evans made the top four. There was agony for the home hero, as Di Grassi will start the race in last.
Into the duels: Bird, Günther, Da Costa and Evans.
Following two exciting groups, the first Quarter-Final saw Cassidy against Mortara, with the New Zealander being Envision Racing‘s only hope for pole after Buemi missed the duels for the first time this season. Halfway round the lap and Mortara led Cassidy by just under two-tenths; however, the Envision driver was gaining time rapidly in the final sector. It wasn’t enough to beat Mortara’s time, though, with the Swiss driver having advanced to the Semi-Finals by just 0.018s.
The second Quarter-Final saw Vandoorne against rookie Hughes, with the latter having been exceptional in qualifying so far this season. It was the reigning World Champion who had a narrow advantage halfway round, an advantage which soon became over six-tenths following an error by Hughes, meaning the Belgian comfortably proceeded to his first Semi-Final of the season.
Quarter-Final number three saw FP2 pacesetter Da Costa against Günther, with the latter hoping to join his team-mate in the Semi-Finals. Halfway round and Da Costa had an advantage of just under a tenth; however, he was able to double his advantage to just over two-tenths as they both completed their lap, meaning Da Costa advanced to his first Semi-Final of the year.
The final Quarter-Final duel was an all Jaguar TCS Racing affair, as Bird went up against Evans. It was Evans who was almost two-tenths faster through the first half of the lap, with Bird having had no response in the second half of the lap, meaning its the New Zealander who made it through to the Semi-Finals thanks to posting the fastest time of the Quarter-Finals. Bird’s time was the fastest of the losers, meaning he’ll start tenth for the race once his five-place grid penalty for hitting Evans in Hyderabad is implemented.
The first Semi-Final saw Mortara against Vandoorne, with both drivers targeting their first Final of the year. Halfway round the lap and it was Vandoorne who held the advantage by just four-hundredths of a second, a gap which grew to almost two-tenths across the line, with Mortara having had no answer to the reigning World Champion. It meant Vandoorne advanced to his first Final of 2023, thanks to setting a 1:11.929.
Attempting to meet Vandoorne in the Final was Da Costa and Evans, with the New Zealander having boasted an advantage of just under two-tenths halfway round the lap. Da Costa found a huge amount of time in the second half of the lap, though, and advanced to the Final by just four-hundredths of a second to meet Vandoorne in the Final, thanks to a 1:11.982.
The sixth Final of the 2022/23 season saw Vandoorne against the driver he replaced at DS Penske, Da Costa, with both drivers’ Semi-Final time having been exceptionally close to one another.
Da Costa was the first to start his lap with Vandoorne having followed closely behind, with the Portuguese driver having been just six-hundredths faster through the first half of the lap. Vandoorne was stunning in the final sector, though, and overhauled his deficit to Da Costa to claim his first pole position of the season.
The reigning World Champion claimed pole with a very strong 1:11.904 with the Belgian now hoping to end the current pole position curse, with the last eight polesitters having failed to claim victory. Vandoorne heads into the race now with an excellent opportunity to kickstart his season, following a woeful start to the Gen3 era. Da Costa also has a great chance to make further progress towards the front of the championship, given that Wehrlein, Dennis and Vergne all had a miserable qualifying.
São Paulo E-Prix Round 6: Qualifying Full Results
|1||1||Stoffel Vandoorne||BEL||DS Penske||1:11.904|
|2||13||António Félix da Costa||POR||TAG Heuer Porsche Formula E Team||1:11.967|
|3||9||Mitch Evans||NZL||Jaguar TCS Racing||1:12.022|
|4||48||Edoardo Mortara||CHE||Maserati MSG Racing||1:12.109|
|5||37||Nick Cassidy||NZL||Envision Racing||1:12.150|
|6||5||Jake Hughes||GBR||NEOM McLaren Formula E Team||1:12.657|
|7||25||Jean-Éric Vergne||FRA||DS Penske||1:13.157|
|8||17||Norman Nato||FRA||Nissan Formula E Team||1:12.971|
|9||7||Maximilian Günther||DEU||Maserati MSG Racing||1:12.189*|
|10||10||Sam Bird||GBR||Jaguar TCS Racing||1:12.037*|
|11||58||René Rast||DEU||NEOM McLaren Formula E Team||1:13.161|
|12||16||Sébastian Buemi||CHE||Envision Racing||1:12.971|
|13||51||Nico Mueller||CHE||ABT CUPRA Formula E Team||1:13.200|
|14||27||Jake Dennis||GBR||Avalanche Andretti Formula E||1:12.991|
|15||23||Sacha Fenestraz||FRA||Nissan Formula E Team||1:13.040|
|16||3||Sérgio Sette Câmara||BRZ||NIO 333 Racing||1:13.307|
|17||33||Dan Ticktum||GBR||NIO 333 Racing||1:13.045|
|18||94||Pascal Wehrlein||DEU||TAG Heuer Porsche Formula E Team||1:13.280*|
|19||8||Oliver Rowland||GBR||Mahindra Racing||1:13.330|
|20||4||Robin Frijns||NED||ABT CUPRA Formula E Team||1:13.671|
|21||36||André Lotterer||DEU||Avalanche Andretti Formula E||1:13.382|
|22||11||Lucas di Grassi||BRZ||Mahindra Racing||1:24.491|