Beijing ePrix: Buemi edges Prost for season opener pole

Sebastien Buemi took a clear pole position for today’s Beijing ePrix after topping the first-ever Formula E Super Pole qualifying session.

The Swiss ace beat his Renault e.DAMS team mate Nicolas Prost in a thrilling final showdown in the Super Pole.

Prost, who was aiming for a second consecutive Beijing pole, was ultimately just 0.284s off.

Buemi managed to salvage his lap after a big lock-up in sector two and was just under 0.2s down on Prost’s benchmark time, overhauling the deficit with a strong final sector.

The new qualifying format meant drivers had just one flying lap in the earlier group session before the overall top five went through to the 15-minute Super Pole session.

The five fastest drivers that went through to Super Pole from the single-lap group stage portion of qualifying were Buemi, Jean-Eric Vergne, Prost, Nick Heidfeld and Lucas di Grassi.

Heidfeld set a fine 1m38.339s lap in his Mahindra M2ELECTRO to claim a place on the second row of the grid and Mahindra’s best-ever starting position.

Di Grassi, meanwhile, had a major moment at Turn 1 at the start of his fastest lap which ultimately led to his time being a second adrift from what the ABT Schaeffler Audi Sport driver achieved in his group qualifying. As a result, the Brazilian starts fourth on the grid for today’s race.

Finally, Vergne failed to set a competitive time in the Super Pole after locking up and taking a trip down the Turn 1 escape road. The Frenchman cut a dejected figure after the incident, saying over the team radio: “I want to understand what the hell is going on with those brakes.”

Group 1

The first group of the original qualifying run saw Daniel Abt head the times with the first ever 200kW qualifying fastest lap of 1m39.220s. The German outpaced Andretti’s Simona de Silvestro by 0.4s, while Team Aguri’s Antonio Felix da Costa was third and Nelson Piquet fourth.

Reigning champion Piquet struggled, appearing to have to aggressively warmed up his brakes, almost losing the car. The NEXTEV driver also had a major moment exiting Turn 2 and his fraught session ensured that he starts from the final position on the Beijing grid.

Felix da Costa had set the fastest sector one time but an error in sector two lost him at least half a second.

Group 2

The second group saw Prost set the pace and break into the 1m38s territory with a best lap of 1m38.206s in his Renault e.DAMS entry. All of the Group 2 times bettered those of Group 1.

Prost’s time eclipsed Nick Heidfeld’s effort in the Mahindra. The former BMW and Lotus F1 driver set a 1m38.512s lap which was just good enough for second in his group and, at that stage, second overall.

There was disappointment for practice two pacesetter di Grassi in the ABT Schaeffler Audi Sport car as he placed only third, just 0.007s behind Heidfeld – albeit that would eventually prove sufficient for a Super Pole berth.

Bruno Senna set the fifth best time in the group, yet his 1m38.761s lap was good enough for a seventh position starting place.

Group 3

Buemi set the fastest overall time in his Renault car and was the only driver to get in to the 1m37s bracket by setting a 1m37.488s lap.

This time was 0.540s quicker than Vergne, who hurled his VIRGIN DSV-01 around the Beijing track to grab what would remain the second-fastest time overall and thrust him in to the Super Pole.

Jacques Villeneuve was third fastest but a long way off the pace of the top two in his group, while Formula E debutant Nathanael Berthon was unable to match his practice pace and only cleared Piquet in the overall timesheets.

Group 4

Loic Duval was quickest in the final group session but the Frenchman’s time was not good enough to depose the top five Super Pole qualifiers.

Duval’s 1m38.859s netted him eighth quickest time overall, which was a disappointment after his practice pace.

Sam Bird placed second in the group with his VIRGIN DSV-01. The winner of last season’s Putrajaya and Battersea rounds will start the Beijing race in ninth position.

Jerome d’Ambrosio was third and was lucky to be able to complete lap after glancing the wall during his quick lap. The Belgian starts 10th for the race.

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