London E-Prix: Vergne tops tightly-contested first practice

Jean-Eric Vergne topped the first Formula E practice session at the ExCeL Centre ahead of the London E-Prix as the quickest five drivers were split by just one tenth. 

London E-Prix: Vergne tops tightly-contested first practice
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A tweak to the usual weekend format moved the longer opening practice run to Friday evening, after a morning shakedown, as the world’s first indoor-outdoor circuit made its official debut. 

The tight 22-turn course is expected to produce processional racing with limited space for overtaking, while even a 4kWh race energy deduction made by the FIA is thought to be insufficient to create diverging strategies to allow drivers to have differing levels of pace. 

In the opening 45-minute session, DS Techeetah driver and two-time champion Vergne set the pace with his 1m21.650s benchmark that he posted in the final minutes. 

That moved Vergne, who admitted to being taken aback by the change from the dark indoor exhibition hall and the natural outdoor light, four thousandths clear of Envision Virgin Racing rival Robin Frijns. 

The Dutch racer enters the penultimate double-header event of the season third in the championship, but he is yet to win a race in 2021. 

In a rare move for the topsy-turvy campaign this year, the top five times appeared to reflect the relative competitive ranking as points leader Sam Bird ran to third quickest. 

The Jaguar Racing driver was 0.034s in arrears of Frijns, having traded places with teammate Mitch Evans at the top of the board as they cycled through their lower 200kW runs. 

Defending champion Antonio Felix da Costa, currently second in the table, split the Jaguars in the dying moments to clock the fourth-best time ahead of the Kiwi, although Evans’ best run was still only 0.096s shy of Vergne’s session-topping effort. 

Despite running quickest in the second-half of the practice session, once teams switched their drivers into qualifying simulation runs, Alex Lynn slipped to sixth for Mahindra Racing. 

Stoffel Vandoorne led the Mercedes charge, which has massively faltered from its points-leading prominence over the most recent three events, as he ran to sixth place. 

Disqualified Puebla victor Pascal Wehrlein split the Silver Arrow 02 machines as he ran to eighth and Nyck de Vries beat Sergio Sette Camara, who rounded out the top 10.  

Edoardo Mortara, whose third and victory in Mexico counts as the best double-header result of the season by any driver, ran to 11th ahead of Jake Dennis and Andre Lotterer. 

The Audi car pace, which had been most effective on more natural and bumpy Formula E street circuits, appeared subdued as Rene Rast was only 15th behind Norman Nato. 

The Dragon Penske Autosport machine of Joel Eriksson also eclipsed Lucas di Grassi for 16th as Audi customer team Envision Virgin Racing driver Nick Cassidy was just 20th fastest. 

A slow session for Nissan e.dams ensured Oliver Rowland was only 19th while 2015-16 Sebastien Buemi’s 2021-long search for pace seems set to continue as he was just 23rd quickest, although less than a second shy of Vergne.  

London E-Prix - FP1 results: 

Cla   Nº   Driver   Car / Powertrain   Time   Delay 
25 Jean-Éric Vergne DS 1'21.650  
4 Robin Frijns Audi 1'21.654 0.004
10 Sam Bird Jaguar 1'21.688 0.038
13 A.F.da Costa DS 1'21.715 0.065
20 Mitch Evans Jaguar 1'21.746 0.096
94 Alex Lynn Mahindra 1'21.794 0.144
5 S.Vandoorne Mercedes 1'21.815 0.165
99 Pascal Wehrlein Porsche 1'21.937 0.287
17 Nyck de Vries Mercedes 1'21.958 0.308
10  7 S.Sette Câmara Penske 1'22.038 0.388
11  48 Edoardo Mortara Mercedes 1'22.045 0.395
12  27 Jake Dennis BMW 1'22.054 0.404
13  36 André Lotterer Porsche 1'22.143 0.493
14  71 Norman Nato Mercedes 1'22.227 0.577
15  33 René Rast Audi 1'22.296 0.646
16  6 Joel Eriksson Penske 1'22.301 0.651
17  11 Lucas di Grassi Audi 1'22.342 0.692
18  28 Max Guenther BMW 1'22.429 0.779
19  22 Oliver Rowland Nissan 1'22.449 0.799
20  37 Nick Cassidy Audi 1'22.457 0.807
21  29 Alexander Sims Mahindra 1'22.556 0.906
22  88 Tom Blomqvist NIO 1'22.628 0.978
23  23 Sébastien Buemi Nissan 1'22.645 0.995
24  8 Oliver Turvey NIO 1'22.763 1.113
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