After being nowhere in practice, Lucas Di Grassi seized pole position for the Berlin ePrix by a mere thousandth of a second – the closest in Formula E’s history – whilst title rival Sebastien Buemi languished back in fourteenth.
Group 1 took their time to get going with each driver waiting until the last possible moment before heading out. Robin Frijns lead the way with all five cars on track bunching up.
Sam Bird was first to put in a 200kW lap to put in a time 6-tenths off Saturday’s best, but his next pal – a 1.08:3 – put the British driver provisionally fastest ahead of Daniel Abt, Robin Frijns, Adam Carroll and Antonio Felix Da Costa. Ironically it was only Bird who went faster in this session whilst everyone else effectively went backwards. Bird accounted for the change in form in Group 1 being down to the concrete surface not offering the same progressive grip feel as traditional asphalt, but admitted that such a prognosis could be entirely psychological.
Nicolas Prost and Jerome D’Ambrosio lead the way out in Group 2 ahead of Loic Duval and Mario Engel. Engel was first to put in a flyer to immediately to slot himself into 6th behind Prost and D’Ambrosio. Carroll and Duval meanwhile could only manage laps good enough for 8th and 9th respectively.
Nelson Piquet, Lucas Di Grassi, Felix Rosenqvist, Mitch Evans and Jose Maria Lopez were next in Group 3, with Lopez straight into his 200kW lap. The DS Virgin cars appeared to be able to use more throttle through turns 2 and 3. Rosenqvist however immediately went to the top of the timesheets with Lopez jumping to third behind Sam Bird. Di Grassi and Verge consolidated 4th and 5th respectively whilst Piquet and Evans could only manage 10th and 11th.
An engine issue for Vergne hampered his qualifying session with some indication he may need a power unit change.
Tom Dillmann, Sebastien Buemi, Nick Heidfeld, Stephane Sarrazin and Oliver Turvey were the last to head out in Group 4. Buemi was the fastest through the first sector whilst Turvey was looking completely at ease with the tricky changes of direction on the makeshift airfield/circuit. Turvey’s first flyer was good enough for 7th. Heidfeld’s best slotted him into 3rd and a Super Pole shootout berth while Buemi had a disastrous session to finish 14th.
Buemi complained of oversteer throughout the morning and wasn’t confident for the race given the speed in his Renault e.Dams wasn’t to his liking. “I just have no speed” he said on the team radio.
That left Rosenqvist, Bird, Heidfeld, Lopez and Di Grassi to fight it out for Super Pole. With fifth the worst he could do, Di Grassi was in all-out attack to make up crucial ground on Buemi in the championship. A neat and tidy lap was good enough for a 1.08:3.
Lopez took a tighter line into turn 1 than Di Grassi and appeared to suit the DS Virgins characteristics, but not enough to fall a mere one thousandths of a second behind Di Grassi. Heidfeld meanwhile looked straight as an arrow, but was 73 thousandths of a second behind in sector one. In the end he had to settle for third.
Bird was very quick on entry with snaps of oversteer. The Brit may have asked a bit too much however with the car skating across the abrasive surface and finishing a provisional fourth. Rosenqvist could sniff an opportunity and was 12 hundredths up in the first sector but an untidy final sector relegated him to third and handing pole for Di Grassi.
Images: FIA Formula E
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