Sarrazin takes pole in mixed conditions

Stephane Sarrazin claimed the Julius Baer pole position for today’s Visa London ePrix ahead of the Dragon Racing duo of Jerome D’Ambrosio and Loic Duval in a rain-affected qualifying session that added extra spice to the title fight.

The rain started to fall around Battersea Park shortly after the first group of five drivers took to the track and Venturi driver Sarrazin benefitted from running in the first segment as his time could not be bettered when conditions deteriorated later on.

Sarrazin said: “At first I wasn’t happy about being in the first qualifying group but this has worked out well with the rain coming. I tried to push early on and it paid off. Starting from pole, hopefully we can make up for yesterday where I hit problems with traffic and can come away with a good result today. We’ve also made a few set-up changes which have clearly paid off.”

D’Ambrosio had briefly held the top spot in the opening segment before he was deposed by Sarrazin as Duval slotted into third place ahead of Virgin Racing’s Sam Bird and Mahindra’s Bruno Senna in fifth.

Duval: “The weather was not so good and worse for group two. My aim was to beat Seb as he is looking so strong. I wasn’t able to beat Stephane but we tried. It’s always a gamble with the qualifying groups; sometimes good, sometimes bad.”

D’Ambrosio added: “That was a good qualifying session for us but also a lucky one. It’s a tricky track out there and even more so in the wet. It’s going to be interesting and we’ll see what we can do.”

The weather was much the same for the second qualifying group that featured the first of the three championship contenders: Sebastien Buemi. The e.dams-Renault driver, who won from pole position in Saturday’s race, was the fastest driver in the second segment but despite glancing the barrier in his effort, Buemi could not do better than sixth on the grid.

The rain began to fall even harder at the session’s halfway stage, which meant the best position the other two championship challengers, Nelson Piquet Jr and Lucas di Grassi, could aim for was 11th place on the grid given the wet track surface.

Piquet grappled with the conditions during the third section of the session, and the NEXTEV TCR driver lost the rear end of his machine at Turn 9 but managed to keep the car out of the barriers, but the championship leader ended up 16th on the grid.

Also in the third segment, Sakon Yamamoto broke the left-front wheel of his car on the barrier at the exit of Turn 11 and came to a halt, forcing an interruption with the red flag. The Amlin Aguri driver failed to set a time and so will start from the back of the grid.

Conditions had improved ever so slightly by time the fourth group hit the track but the drivers still chose to take it easy on their early laps. Oliver Turvey and di Grassi traded times good enough for the coveted P11 spot, but it was the Audi Sport ABT driver who prevailed, meaning he starts five places behind Buemi and five ahead of Piquet in the championship decider later this afternoon.

Nick Heidfeld slotted his Venturi car into seventh place ahead of Salvador Duran and the Trulli pair of Alex Fontana and Jarno Trulli who rounded out the top 10.