After finding his mojo in Diriyah, Sam Bird made the perfect start to race day at the fourth round of the 2022/23 ABB FIA Formula E World Championship, after topping a beautifully sunny Free Practice Two at the inaugural Hyderabad E-Prix. All eyes, though, were once again on the four Porsche-powered cars, who all returned to the circuit after missing the vast majority of Free Practice One, after Pascal Wehrlein suffered a “VCU disfunction”, as reported by The Race, in a huge crash.
As the sun rose in the morning Hyderabad sky, it was André Lotterer who was the first on-track as the first session of the day got underway, with all four Porsche-powered drivers having a lot of work to do to catch-up on the data gathering they missed in Free Practice One. To no surprise, the times quickly tumbled at the start of the session, as all the drivers attempted to clean the track surface in order to push for a better time; however, this caused traffic issues across the circuit.
Multiple drivers complained of traffic as the session moved through its opening phases, whilst Free Practice One pacesetter Sébastian Buemi remained calmly in the pits, with the Swiss driver having opted to remain in the garage until the circuit improved. On the timesheets and it was rookie Sacha Fenestraz who set the pace early on; however, he was almost immediately pushed down to third, as Lucas di Grassi and Bird moved above him.
As the session moved into its final twenty minutes, it was Mitch Evans who jumped to the top after setting the fastest time of the weekend so far, after becoming the first driver to move into the high 1:14s. With a 1:14 having been set so early in the session, it was a clear indicator that much faster times were possible, as the circuit continued to evolve. A faster time is exactly what Di Grassi posted as the session approached its halfway point, after moving to the top on a 1:14.8.
However, as the session did tick into its second-half, René Rast set a remarkable time of a 1:14.524, three-tenths faster than the time set by Di Grassi moments before. Di Grassi, though, is clearly a man on a mission this weekend, as the season opener pole-sitter returned to the top with twelve minutes remaining, by almost breaking into the 1:13s, after setting a 1:14.118, three-tenths faster than anyone else.
Fenestraz, Bird, Dan Ticktum and Maximilian Günther all quickly moved to within five-hundredths of Di Grassi’s time, as the times tumbled once again as the session entered its final ten minutes. With seven minutes remaining, Jean-Éric Vergne moved to the top, suggesting that DS Penske have strong pace at the Hyderabad Street Circuit, with the team in desperate need of some big points. In true Formula E fashion, though, he was quickly demoted to second as Rast moved back to the top, before Nick Cassidy set a blistering time.
Cassidy became the first driver to move into the high 1:13s, after posting a 1:13.811, two-tenths faster than the time set by Rast moments before. Cassidy was quickly joined in the 1:13s by Bird, who moved to the top after moving into the 1:13.6s, raising the question if a 1:12 is possible towards the end of the duels perhaps. Vergne moved in between Bird and Cassidy as the session entered its final minute, with the trio having been split by just under two-tenths.
As the chequered flag brought the session to an end, it was Bird who remained on top with a 1:13.631, a tenth clear of both Vergne and Cassidy ahead of qualifying. Edoardo Mortara claimed fourth whilst Fenestraz finished fifth, whilst Championship leader Wehrlein had to settle for seventh.
Full Results to follow…