Di Grassi, Lotterer, Blomqvist, Lopez and D’Ambrosio were first out in Group 1, Lotterer and Lotterer cutting the early laps. – weaving more than usual to get heat into the tyres on the cold and foggy circuit. Blomqvist initially pipped Lotterer only to be usurped by Di Grassi. Lopez slotted into P2 and only a tenth off Di Grassi – a remarkable achievement for the Dragon team despite Andre Lotterer being mired down in thirteenth.
Next up were Engel, Lynn, Prost, Buemi and Filippi. Prost was first out in Group 2 but was already slower than Filippi in the first sector due to a loose rear end. Prost was ultimately eight tenths off the pace while Buemi ended up provisional third – just under two tenths behind Di Grassi.
Group 3 featured Bird, Vergne, Rosenqvist, Mortara and Heidfeld. Rosenqvist appeared a little out of shape on his first lap, as did Jean-Eric Vergne with a big moment. Rosenqvist did enough however to take pole while Sam Bird could only manage fifth. Edoardo Mortara had bigger issues after having to slow down for Nick Heidfeld, who came in way too hot at turn eleven and smacking the wall heavily on the exit.
The final group of Evans, Piquet, Abt, Da Costa and Turvey had to wait a little longer for track repairs to take place in the aftermath of the Heidfeld incident. Once they got going, Turvey and Apt were the first out on track with a lot of debris still at turn eleven. A mistake into the last turn saw Piquet run wide and ultimately finish seventh, however a big moment over the kerbs threw Antonio Felix Da Costa into the barriers at turn 7 – a deflating tyre looking to be the cause.
The red flag was brought out to remove Da Costa’s MS&AD Andretti. At the fall of the green Abt went purple in the first sector only to lose time in the second. To finish a disappointing P8 while Turvey was two spots further back in tenth.
That left Rosenqvist, Di Grassi, Lopez, Buemi and Bird to contest the Super Pole shootout, with Bird being the guinea pig for the grip levels at turn eleven. A 1:20.615 was tidy but inconclusive as to whether it would be quick enough for the Brit to take pole.
Buemi was next up and on a very clean lap. A 1:20.355 put him ahead of Bird, but still slower than the quickest of the earlier sessions. Lopez dutifully followed as the third man out but a big moment saw him narrowly miss the wall at turn 9 and fall behind Bird in third.
Di Grassi was next and was already eight hundredths up in sector one, but a hesitation in sector two. A software error infuriated Lucas the Brazilian and ultimately finished in P4.
“I had a reliability problem with my drivetrain” said Di Grassi. “A similar problem to the one we had in Hong Kong. We’ll work hard to fix the problem, but otherwise the car was pretty fast”.
This left Rosenqvist with a seemingly free run, but was two tenths down in the first sector as the back end stepped out early over the kerbs at turn five and glanced the barrier. P3 was all he could manage and handed pole position to Buemi.
“I’m not sure we were the quickest overal” said Buemil. We were lucky that the guys in group four had problems. I was fortunate to be able to put it all together”.
Images: Renault e.Dams and Techeetah Racing