Nyck de Vries (Mercedes-EQ) sealed Julius Baer Pole Position for the 2022 Diriyah E-Prix Round 2, edging out Edoardo Mortara (ROKiT Venturi Racing) by the slimmest of margins – just 0.005s – in an all-or-nothing final Duel between the Mercedes-powered pair.
De Vries danced the tightrope of available grip around the tricky Diriyah Street Circuit, slicing his way down the toboggan run through the first third of the lap and immediately to a chunky 0.3-second advantage.
Despite a slight mistake into Turn 1, Mortara didn’t give in. The Swiss left nothing on the table and had clawed much of the deficit back at the half-way point of the lap. Mortara continued to nibble away at the gap but ultimately fell short in a photo finish, by just five thousandths of-a-second. It couldn’t have been closer, and all is to play for come Round 2 at 20:00 local.
Di Grassi’s 1m07.216s looked tidy, but Round 1 winner de Vries produced yet another top-drawer lap to go four tenths quicker and seal a front-row start and a spot in the final duel. Di Grassi will line up fourth.
Mortara had stretched his legs to squeeze by Frijns’ benchmark by two tenths of-a-second, leaving the Dutchman to start Round 2 from third spot.
Double champion Vergne faced reigning champ de Vries in the first bout of the quarter-finals, with the Mercedes-EQ driver able to clamber away from the Frenchman over the first half of the lap by more than 0.6 seconds. The DS driver will line up for Round 2 in sixth.
Da Costa then squared up against di Grassi. The Portuguese set di Grassi a 1m08.681s to beat and after a delay, the Venturi driver picked his way around the Diriyah Street Circuit to outdo da Costa. Confusion reigned with da Costa backing off late during his effort, leaving him a net seventh after his time was deleted for missing his Duels slot - leaving him high, dry and inconsolable, and di Grassi fourth.
“I went when I saw the first green light which is what I’m supposed to do, but apparently I went on Lucas’ green light,” said da Costa. “From my point of view, I did nothing wrong so either I’m blind, or we made a mistake. It has really screwed my day up.”
Frijns made no mistake in dispatching Rowland, with the Mahindra Racing man scrabbling to keep up. The Dutchman went almost six tenths faster and duly made it through to the semis with Yorkshireman Rowland forced into settling for seventh but would drop a further three positions thanks to a penalty for contact with Frijns in Round 1.
A slide from Lotterer through the esses cost the Porsche driver dearly with Mortara able to mop up to the tune of 0.271s to make it through. Lotterer would have to make do with fifth.
A late flurry of laps saw then-provisional fastest man Jake Dennis (Avalanche Andretti) shuffled out of the top four and the Duels by de Vries, di Grassi, Rowland and Lotterer – the Mercedes man 0.144s up on best of the rest di Grassi.
Mortara had set the pace in Group B, with Frijns’ late flying lap good for second and progress, with DS TECHEETAH pair da Costa and Vergne third and fourth. Stoffel Vandoorne’s lap was loose, pushing the Mercedes-EQ driver to the brink of the top four and out, while neither Jaguar could progress.
Sam Bird hit the wall just as Nick Cassidy (Envision Racing) had done in FP3, bending the suspension on his Jaguar and forcing him to pull out of the Group B fight at the bottom of the timesheets, and ultimately 21st.
"Mitch also caught the wall and damaged his steering," said Jaguar TCS Racing Team Principal James Barclay. "He put together a good lap considering but as the lap went on it just went away from us. "Both cars hit the wall on their last run which obviously played against us. It’s a long day in Formula E and sometimes you don’t get the breaks in qualifying. We had good energy management in the race yesterday, so let’s see what we can do this evening."
Published on 29th January 2022