Hamilton's X44 team sets Q1 pace ahead of Extreme E finale

Lewis Hamilton’s X44 team set the early Extreme E qualifying pace as it bids to wrest the championship away from Rosberg X Racing in the Jurassic X-Prix season finale.

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X44 sits 16 points adrift of Formula 1 world champion Nico Rosberg’s squad and is on course to maintain its 100% qualifying record at the fifth and final round in Dorset, UK.

Due to the British winter limiting hours of daylight, the runs were split between Friday afternoon and Saturday morning.

In the first session, Sebastien Loeb and Cristina Gutierrez were the last to run on the 2.36-mile course at the Bovington military base after missing their allocated qualifying slot.

This came after the Prodrive-run crew hastily swapped the front invertor on the Odyssey 21 E-SUV after identifying a malfunction following a software upgrade from Spark Racing Technology, which meant it escaped a penalty for the time delay.

A mandatory start for all male drivers in the first part of qualifying meant Loeb was in the hot seat for the first two of the three laps around the boggy tank proving ground and he ran fastest.

The nine-time World Rally champion completed his stint with a 1.86 seconds cushion despite running wide over the final jump to lose time as he clattered over an advertising sign.

Despite this, Loeb’s 2m25.329s standalone lap marked the quickest circuit of the event.

He handed over to teammate Cristina Gutierrez, who soon pulled another three seconds clear but undid her hard work by clipping a bank and tilting onto two wheels to fall back to 1.96s ahead.

But Gutierrez converted the remaining advantage as she and Loeb’s imperfect run combined for an overall time of 9m19.985s to post the fastest effort of the round so far.

Molly Taylor, Johan Kristoffersson, Rosberg X Racing

Molly Taylor, Johan Kristoffersson, Rosberg X Racing

Photo by: Colin McMaster / Motorsport Images

The final run from X44 came at a cost to the provisional pacesetter RXR, which was shuffled back to second place as Molly Taylor and Johan Kristoffersson were narrowly adrift.

Although they fell 1.9s behind X44, the first session in Dorset was comfortably the most competitive qualifying run so far in Extreme E as only 26s covered the nine-car field.

Acciona Sainz, the team co-founded by Carlos Sainz Sr, was bumped up the schedule by the delay for X44 and in arguably the squad’s best showing to date it ran to the third-fastest time.

Two-time World Rally champion Sainz coolly had to slam the gullwing door shut when it popped open early into his run, and then Laia Sanz deeply impressed with her final lap.

The Dakar Rally motorbike regular combined with Sainz for a 9m22.742s total to land third, only a further eight tenths adrift of RXR.

Abt Cupra’s Mattias Ekstrom and Jutta Kleinschmidt, having been the first out in qualifying, ran to fourth ahead of a new-look driver pairing for the Veloce Racing concern.

Lance Woolridge made his competitive debut as a replacement for the ousted Stephane Sarrazin, while two-time W Series champion Jamie Chadwick returned to the cockpit after missing Sardinia due to a calendar clash.

The Greenland event-winning Andretti United crew ran to sixth, with Catie Munnings having sought a Thursday night acupuncture session following a heavy landing in practice.

Sara Price did similar with a visit to the osteopath, returning on Friday afternoon to set a subdued 9m35.166s banker for Chip Ganassi Racing as she and Kyle Leduc look to put a torrid run of unreliability to bed.

JBXE and Xite Energy Racing completed the order having been penalised for missing (JBXE) and knocking down (Xite) waypoint flags on their run.

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