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Qualifying report
Formula E Rome ePrix I

Rome E-Prix: Evans beats Jaguar team-mate Bird to pole

Jaguar secured a dominant 1-2 in qualifying for this weekend’s opening Rome E-Prix, as Formula E title challenger Mitch Evans pipped team-mate Sam Bird to pole.

Mitch Evans, Jaguar Racing, with his Julius Baer pole position award

Bird – who at one stage in qualifying had been stripped of a place in the duels due to a stewards’ decision, before being reinstated – was fractionally quicker than Evans through the opening sector.

But the Briton set a middle sector more than a second slower than his Kiwi rival, a deficit that remained until the flag as Evans set a 1m39.089s to take pole.

Evans also claimed three championship points for his pole position, reducing his deficit to championship leader Jake Dennis down to 29 ahead of the Rome E-Prix double-header.

Evans had progressed through to the final with a 1m38.461s time in his semi-final, as Envision Racing’s Sebastien Buemi put in a poor lap that was more than two seconds slower.

An error in the middle sector for Sacha Fenestraz meant the Nissan driver finished more than a second slower than Bird in the opening semi-final duel as the Briton set a 1m38.761s.

A strong final sector ensured Evans progressed through the last of the quarter-finals with the fastest time from qualifying – a 1m38.460s – as Maserati’s Edoardo Mortara finished nearly half a second behind.

Bird progressed through to the semi-final having got the better of Dennis in the opening quarter-final duel, the Andretti Autosport driver losing three tenths in the opening sector, which he was never able to recover.

Sacha Fenestraz, Nissan Formula E Team, Nissan e-4ORCE 04

Sacha Fenestraz, Nissan Formula E Team, Nissan e-4ORCE 04

Photo by: Simon Galloway / Motorsport Images

Fenestraz beat the second Maserati of Maximilian Guenther in their quarter-final battle by a comfortable margin of more than half a second, but the closest quarter-final battle was between Buemi and McLaren’s Rene Rast, as just 0.039s separated the pair.

Championship contender Nick Cassidy was the biggest high-profile victim not to progress through the qualifying groups, as a late red flag scuppered the final laps for drivers in the second session.

This was after Jake Hughes lost control of his McLaren on the high-speed run through Turn 6 over a bump, making heavy contact with the barrier on both sides of the circuit with just seconds left on the clock.

It meant Evans finished fastest in the session with a 1m39.300s, 0.159s clear of Buemi, but his Envision team-mate Cassidy was left in sixth and unable to progress.

Hughes had occupied third just ahead of team-mate Rast prior to his crash, but the heavy damage to the car meant he was not able to progress as Mortara was the driver to benefit by being promoted to the final duel spot.

McLaren team principal Ian James confirmed that Hughes, who suffered no injuries in the crash, would not start today’s race while a new car chassis is built up overnight ahead of Sunday’s second Rome E-Prix. 

Pascal Wehrlein was another title protagonist who missed out on a place in the duels by 0.034s, which left the Porsche driver fifth in the opening qualifying group.

Following the session, Porsche team principal Florian Modlinger suggested some drivers set personal best sector one times through a yellow-flag zone after Sergio Sette Camara lost control of his NIO 333 machine at Turn 4.

The stewards originally found that both Bird and Stoffel Vandoorne were guilty of not respecting the yellow flags, the former losing his spot in the duels after setting a lap good enough for second.

But, following an appeal by Jaguar, the stewards reinstated the times for both drivers “after further investigation”.

Reigning champion Vandoorne’s best lap put him sixth having damaged the front wing on his DS Penske machine earlier in the session when he lost control and hit the barrier at Turn 7.

Fenestraz topped the group with a 1m38.912s as Bird, Dennis and Gunther progressed.

Starting grid:

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