QUALIFYING REPORT: Wehrlein sets pace with pole in São Paulo

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QUALIFYING REPORT: Wehrlein sets pace with pole in São Paulo

TAG Heuer Porsche’s Pascal Wehrlein managed his second Julius Baer Pole Position of the season, beating DS PENSKE’s Stoffel Vandoorne by just 0.002s to the honour – the second closest pole margin in Formula E history.

Porsches Pascal Wehrlein takes Formula E pole position in Sao Paulo Brazil

The German driver, who sits second in the World Championship standings, will hope to bring an end to the Jaguar TCS Racing domination we saw here in Season 9. It was a dramatic session for the Jaguar powertrain cars, with Mitch Evans being the highest placed car in fourth. Nick Cassidy, who leads the championship, failed to make it through to the Duels and will start ninth, with both Envision cars down in 17th and 18th. 

DS PENSKE had a strong qualifying, and will start in second with Vandoorne and Jean-Eric Vergne in third. It’s a great first race result for new Deputy Team Principal Phil Charles. NEOM McLaren’s Sam Bird completed the top five, with Mahindra Racing’s Edoardo Mortara up into sixth for his best start of the season. 

WATCH: How to watch or stream Formula E's Sao Paulo E-Prix where you are

Nico Mueller made a surprising Duels cameo, but an earlier incident meant he wasn’t able to take to the track in the Quarter-Finals. Antonio Felix da Costa had his best qualifying session of the year for the Porsche team and will start eighth, after Maserati MSG Racing’s Maximilian Guenther will start from the back of the pack as a result of a grid-drop penalty - the German's penalty also incurring a stop/go penalty in the race.

Final

Stoffel Vandoorne took on Pascal Wehrlein in the finale, but it was the Porsche driver who managed to beat last year’s pole position holder by just an incredible 0.002s. This will be his second pole of the season, having achieved this feat in Mexico City where he went on to win the race. 

S10 SAO Duels

Semis

Both DS PENSKEs faced each other in the Semis, but it was Stoffel Vandoorne who emerged ahead. Both Jean-Eric Vergne and Vandoorne have faced each other in a qualifying Duels as teammates before, back in Jakarta, but it was Vergne who won that one. Vandoorne, who was chasing back-to-back poles at this circuit, put in a mega lap to go seven-tenths quicker than Vergne during his lap. The result of this guaranteed DS PENSKE a front row start in São Paulo for the second year running.

The other Semi-Final consisted of a German head-to-head as TAG Heuer Porsche’s Pascal Wehrlein took on Maserati MSG Racing’s Maximilian Guenther. Both drivers gave it their all but it was Wehrlein who got the quickest time to make it a DS PENSKE-Porsche front row for the second consecutive year here.

Quarters

First up was Mitch Evans and Stoffel Vandoorne, with the latter the Julius Baer Pole Position holder here last year. The Season 8 World Champion said he had “unfinished business” here ahead of the race weekend, and stuck to his word by beating Evans who won in São Paulo last season. By doing so, Vandoorne stopped the record of Jaguar cars reaching the Semis in every qualifying session this year. Evans had also won his last seven consecutive Quarter-Final Duels until today - he lines up fourth.

READ MORE: How Wehrlein drove to the win in Mexico

Up next was Jean-Eric Vergne and what should have been Nico Mueller, yet the impact the ABT CUPRA made with the barrier ended up ruling him out of the Duels. Vergne still went out and set a lap, but automatically progressed and Mueller starts seventh.

Edoardo Mortara took on Pascal Wehrlein in the third outing, but it was the TAG Heuer Porsche who made it through by half a second clear. Wehrlein started 18th in São Paulo last season and finished seventh, so will hope that starting further up the grid could see him achieve his second podium finish of the year after winning in Mexico City. This is also the first time a Mahindra has reached the Duels stages this season - Mortara lines up sixth.

Last up was Maximilian Guenther and NEOM McLaren’s Sam Bird, who made his first Duels appearance for the papaya team. The Maserati MSG Racing driver does have a 40-place grid penalty for inverter and gearbox changes, but that didn’t stop him speeding his way around this circuit to reach the Semi-Finals. Bird starts fifth.

Group A

The session got underway at 9:40 local time, but quickly came to an abrupt stop after a rogue balloon made its way on to the circuit, though it was quickly cleared by the marshals and the session got back on track and green flag conditions swiftly resumed. 

DS PENSKE locked out the top two spots of the group, with Vergne going fastest and Vandoorne a tenth behind his teammate in second. Mitch Evans guaranteed himself a spot in the Duels by finishing third, and ABT CUPRA’s Nico Mueller took the last spot by crossing the chequered flag in fourth despite whacking his front-right wheel on a barrier earlier in the lap. 

However, by finishing fourth, Mueller knocked out current World Championship leader Nick Cassidy. The Jaguar driver, who is the only driver to have finished on the podium at every round this season, was understandably irked by the qualifying result which sees him start today’s São Paulo E-Prix in xxx. 

“I am not surprised," the Diriyah E-Prix race winner told his team on the radio when informed of his fifth place result. It’s the first time in seven races that Cassidy has missed out on a chance in the Duels. 

Both Brazilians were also in this group, with ERT’s Sergio Sette Camara and ABT CUPRA’s Lucas di Grassi looking to give their home crowd something to cheer for. However, di Grassi could only manage a best result of eighth with Sette Camara in 10th. 

Group B

Guenther topped the second group with a time two tenths quicker than Vergne’s best efforts in Group A. The Maserati MSG Racing driver won’t be starting where he qualifies though, as he has a 40-place grid drop for going over allocated parts on his car. Pascal Wehrlein went second, with his Porsche teammate Antonio Felix da Costa missing out on a chance in the Duels by just 0.005s. 

Also through to the Duels was Edoardo Mortara, who has yet to score points this season. It’ll be a promising improvement for the Swiss, as he was forced to come to a stop after an issue on the car in Free Practice 2 earlier. The final spot in the Quarters went to McLaren’s Sam Bird, who will be looking to stand on the podium here for a second consecutive year. 

Reigning World Champion Jake Dennis couldn’t make it through, missing the Duels for the third time in four races this season. He finished sixth, but will hope the style of racing and so many overtaking opportunities will make up for his qualifying result. 

Envision’s Sebastien Buemi will also start down the pack, as he could only manage 10th place finish. Yet, his time was only 0.569s off that of Guenther on top, proving how close the competition is in this championship right now.

SCHEDULE: Where, when and how to watch or stream the 2024 São Paulo E-Prix Round 4

On to race day on Saturday 16 March; lights out on Round 4 follows at 14:00 local/17:00 UTC.

WATCH: How to watch or stream Formula E's Sao Paulo E-Prix where you are

View the full schedule in your time zone and check the broadcaster listings or tap the Ways to Watch button above to find out where to watch all the racing action where you live.