Weather conditions changed dramatically overnight in Berlin, with rain resulting in a wet track for the session after a damp Free Practice 3. It meant the first time we’d see these conditions for qualifying in GEN3 - a new challenge for the drivers, engineers and the new-for-Season 9 Hankook tyres.
We saw the ABT CUPRA cars hook it up and finally find their feet, delivering a stunning front-row lock out here in front of the team’s home support. The duo of Robin Frijns and Nico Mueller helped deliver one of the biggest surprises of the season so far, on their way to the team’s best-ever qualifying result for their two drivers.
That was Frijns' second-ever Julius Baer Pole Position and a first for the team since its return to the series, as well as for partners CUPRA.
If anyone had predicted it before the day started, they wouldn't have been telling the truth but both ABT CUPRA drivers lined up against one-another in the Final of the Duels. Although both the teammates, and close friends, had been setting some stunning lap times along the way, it was Frijns who stormed ahead and made it look easy with a 0.6 second margin.
Navigating the wet circuit surface, the Dutchman went six tenths quicker in the final stage of their herculean qualifying efforts to set a time of 1m18.748s. It also means that Mahindra Racing powertrains now have two poles this season, whereas TAG Heuer Porsche who lead the championship have none.
Although the polesitter of the last ten Formula E races have not gone on to win, this result will inevitably help with team morale as they’ve earned their first championship points of the season, three for pole.
There were questions about how long ABT CUPRA could hold on to this incredible pace in qualifying, especially as they had never even made it through to the Duels at all so far this season. However, both Mueller and Frijns put on a show for the team’s home crowd.
Taking to the track first was Jean-Eric Vergne (DS PENSKE) and Mueller. The ABT CUPRA driver up until today had a best career start of sixth in Diriyah 2021, but managed the seemingly impossible and beat the two-time champion in the battle by going a tenth quicker, with the car hooked up in wet trim. Frenchman Vergne would settle for fourth.
After him, teammate Frijns tried his best to make it the first-ever front row lockout. Would it be an all ABT CUPRA lock out or an all Swiss front-row as he went up against Envision’s Sebastien Buemi? Frijns’ last front-row start was at Tempelhof last season, and he managed the same in 2020. In a typically-Formula E twist, Frijns managed to beat Buemi and make it an ABT CUPRA lockout, with the Swiss set to start third.
First up was championship leader Pascal Wehrlein vs Mueller. The ABT CUPRA driver had yet to reach the Duels, and had a best qualifying result of 13th up to this point in Season 9. However, it was incredible scenes as Mueller managed to get the better of the two laps and progressed into the Semis. Standings leader Wehrlein will line-up sixth.
It wasn’t just him, as in Quarter Final 3, teammate Frijns did the same and knocked out yesterday’s race winner, Jaguar TCS Racing's Mitch Evans. Clearly the wet conditions were a blessing to the team who had yet to score points this season. Yesterday's race winner Evans starts fifth.
DS PENSKE’s Jean-Eric Vergne went up against Avalanche Andretti driver Jake Dennis for a third time. The Brit had not won in the Duels since the opening race of the season in Mexico City, and this unwanted record continued as Vergne managed to go 0.429s quicker in the head to head. Dennis will start Round 8 from seventh on the grid.
Envision Racing had another teammate battle as Cassidy and Buemi went up against each other. Although it was Cassidy who went quickest, drama struck after the session was over as the man second in the championship standings had his lap time deleted after being found guilty for improper use of the full-power 350kW mode. Instead, Buemi got the place in the Semis. With that deleted time, the Kiwi is forced into starting from eighth position.
As the cars got to grips with the wet conditions, Mueller set the early pace. The Swiss seemed to thrive in these conditions, eventually finishing in third and getting himself and an on-point ABT CUPRA through into the Duels for the first time. All teams have now had at least one driver in the Duels in GEN3.
Vergne finished the session quickest, with home hero Wehrlein just behind him in second. Dennis also slotted into fourth to qualify for the next stage of qualifying, the Andretti driver hoping to rectify his abrupt end to yesterday’s race after crashing out in dramatic fashion.
ABT CUPRA immediately looked strong in the wet, as Frijns set the fastest time with five minutes left on the clock with the quickest second and third sectors. This is only the third race back for Frijns, who didn’t finish the first five races of the season after breaking his hand in a racing incident in Mexico City.
Sam Bird couldn’t replicate his pace from yesterday and failed to make it through to the Duels - a big change compared to Saturday when he started the Berlin E-Prix on the front row. Maximilian Guenther (Maserati MSG Racing) also had a poor result, and will start his race towards the back of the grid after finishing last in the Group B qualifying. It’s the first time in five races that he has failed to progress into the qualifying Duels.
Buemi topped the timesheets, with Frijns in second. Round 7 race winner, Mitch Evans (Jaguar TCS Racing), made it through as well as Nick Cassidy. The Envision driver made some spicy comments about his teammate Buemi during the session after the pair had a bit of a disagreement in race one oin Saturday.