Vandoorne 'in a great position' as championship rivals fall back in London

Championship leader and Mercedes-EQ driver Stoffel Vandoorne finds himself "in a great position" as he starts on the front row in London for Round 13. As for his main championship rivals, only ROKiT Venturi Racing's Edoardo Mortara qualified inside the top 10, starting ninth on the grid, while DS TECHEETAH's Jean-Eric Vergne starts 13th, one place ahead of Jaguar TCS Racing's Mitch Evans. 

"For us, it's a great position starting on the front row with Nick [de Vries] just behind me in third," said Vandoorne after qualifying. "We've always had this consistency since the start of the season. I'm happy that I've been able to extract it again today, even though I've just missed out on pole position. It's still a good position to go racing and hopefully we can convert this result into the race as well." 

Sitting top of the standings after an intense double-header in New York City with 155 points to his name, Vandoorne is currently 11 points ahead of Mortara in second. With the Venturi driver back in ninth after failing to make it through to the Duels, Vandoorne will start the race comfortably clear of his closest championship rival.   

Just losing out on Julius Baer Pole Position to Avalanche Andretti's Jake Dennis, who claimed the win here last year, Vandoorne claimed he lost time in the new chicane, giving Dennis the edge during the final duel. "It was very close fight with Jake [Dennis] for pole position," said Vandoorne. "It was well deserved - I tried to give it everything but didn't quite hook up the new chicane here at Turns 10, 11, 12 and 13. Jake won last year, so he's obviously obviously very quick around here." 

Hoping for a strong result in London is Vergne, who's already 27 points behind Vandoorne. He's still right in the fight for his third title, but Vergne's disappointing qualifying session will see him start 13th on the grid. Known for his ability to fight through the pack, the DS driver will need to call on his experience to keep his championship chances alive.  

Despite being only 16 points behind Vandoorne in the standings, Jaguar driver Evans suffered a set back in qualifying after being held up by Venturi's di Grassi. Both in Group A, Evans was clearly frustrated, feeling the Brazilian impeded his lap through the new chicane. The veteran driver was later penalised for holding up Evans and Envision Racing's Robin Frijns in Turn 16, dropping him to the back of the grid, while Evans will start the race in 14th. 

“It’s unfortunate. On Mitch’s first lap, Lucas really blocked Mitch through the chicane which put all the pressure on the second run," said Jaguar Team Principal James Barclay. "It put all the pressure on there and we can’t let that kind of thing happen – you must have equal opportunity. It put us on the back foot. We won’t give up and we’ll keep on pushing. There’s a long race and we’ll try to make the best of it. We’ll try and get points.”

Now in prime position to extend his championship lead this weekend in London before the final in Seoul, Vandoorne will need to keep his cool and try to take Dennis for the win. As the Belgian battles at the front, his main rivals will be busy fighting their way through the traffic to keep their championship chances alive in the UK capital. 
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