Storming into a brand new qualifying format, which made its debut in the season opener of the ABB FIA Formula E World Championship in Diriyah today, fiaformulae.com caught up with Julius Baer Pole Position winner Vandoorne, his teammate Nyck de Vries (starting 3rd) and Mercedes-EQ Team Principal Ian James after a stellar session from the German team ahead of the night race on the streets of the Saudi capital.
"It's amazing to start like this with this whole-new format. There was something to discover for everybody and I knew I had a very good car underneath me. We didn't show it in practice but we took the right decisions with tyres in qualifying. Getting through to the Duels is the exciting part - one lap at 250kW to beat your opponent. Nyck and I had our first 'date', let's say, in the Duels and I'm sure we'll have more of those this season.
"Being in the first group, there was a lot of track evolution and the track has a big reset with all the sand, so those first runs were not really worth much.
"But surprisingly, [doing multiple runs] is the fun part of it. You do the group stage and then you feel relieved that you're through to the Duel stages but suddenly the pressure ramps up massively because you're going head to head with one of your opponents. Every lap had to be good enough to go through. I had a solid couple of laps - I enjoy it when its just 250kW and everything on the line! But another pole position, so I'm really happy to start the season like this.
"It's going to be a long race and we've got a lot of competitive guys behind us, so they're going to keep us busy.
"There's so little running done on energy laps, so we don't really know where everyone is at. I think our car is competitive from what we saw here last year. We have a very good package and I feel confident going into the race, so let's see what we can do."
"I think firstly, you just don't know what to expect as we have the new format and it's the first time we've run it, so we're sort of guessing up to the last minute but a stunning job by Stoffel.
"We knew coming into this that we had a strong package and we have great stability in the team as well but as we said so many times before, the competition is so, so strong and I don't think that is going to change all season. So, despite this new format and despite the new meritocracy that we've brought into it through that, I'd expect this to go down to the wire. It's going to be an exciting season."
"I tapped the wall early in FP1 and I didn't have any running. FP2 was tough, building confidence again. It was quick and competitive up until the last run and I got wide, lost a lot of grip and almost shunted four times - if we can consolidate P3 then that's okay.
"The conditions are always so challenging. We're seconds away from where we were last year and no variables stay the same and you're always adapting. It's so hard to extract the maximum out of everything at any given moment. It's a tough championship but it's a decent start for us."
Published on 28th January 2022