Monday, June 24, 2024

Berlin E-Prix: Sébastian Buemi Claims Record-Breaking Sixteenth Formula E Pole

Sébastian Buemi will start round seven of the 2022/23 ABB FIA Formula E World Championship from pole position, after beating Sam Bird in the Final of the duels at the Tempelhof Airport Circuit. With championship leader Pascal Wehrlein starting from fifteenth, it gives Envision Racing a great opportunity for to close the gap at the Berlin E-Prix.

Group A

Getting qualifying underway in Group A were all the drivers occupying an odd position in the Drivers’ Championship, which meant current standings leader Wehrlein was joined by the in-form Nick Cassidy, António Félix da Costa, Buemi, São Paulo winner Mitch Evans, reigning World Champion and Free Practice 1 pacesetter Stoffel Vandoorne, André Lotterer, Sérgio Sette Câmara, Oliver Rowland, Edoardo Mortara and Nico Müller.

With so many drivers in the opening group having looked quick this weekend, it was incredibly difficult to predict just who would claim a spot in the top four, and the all-important pathway to the duels. After the opening laps it was Vandoorne who sat at the top by a tenth of a second, with Buemi, Cassidy and Evans having occupied the remaining top four spots. It meant both TAG Heuer Porsche Formula E Team drivers had work to do in the final five minutes of Group A.

As the twelve drivers started their final push lap it was clear that the top four was going to change. Vandoorne remained at the top on a 1:05.978, with the Envision Racing drivers occupying second and third. However, fourth went to Sette Câmara, who knocked Evans out of the top four. The biggest shock, though, was that Wehrlein could only manage eighth, meaning the championship leader and home driver will start today’s race from fifteenth on the grid, opening up a huge opportunity to his title rivals.

Into the duels: Vandoorne, Buemi, Cassidy and Sette Câmara.

Above: Nick Cassidy/Envision Racing – Credit: Simon Galloway courtesy of FIA Formula E

Group B

With Wehrlein starting from the eighth row of the grid, it opened up a great opportunity for Jake Dennis to capitalise on his championship rival. Joining Dennis in Group B were two-time Formula E Champion Jean-Éric Vergne, Bird, René Rast, Jake Hughes, Lucas di Grassi, Norman Nato, Dan Ticktum, Sacha Fenestraz, Free Practice 2 pacesetter Maximilian Günther and Robin Frijns.

After the first real push laps it was clear that Group B was going to be exceptionally close, with just over two-tenths having separated the top five. With five minutes remaining, Bird topped the group on a 1:06.018, from home driver Günther, Ticktum and Dennis. Vergne was certainly a driver to watch in the closing minutes of the group, given how quick he’s been in Berlin so far this weekend.

As the chequered flag was flown, there were improvements being made across the board. Bird was the first to make a further improvement after setting a 1:05.975, whilst Günther also set a better time. Nobody, though, was able to get amongst the top four, with Bird, Günther, Ticktum and Dennis having safely made it into the duels. It meant Vergne was out, something which came as a shock given how good the Frenchman has looked. Dennis making it into the duels was a huge story, though, given that he will start at least seven places ahead of Wehrlein. A special mention should also be given to NIO 333 Racing.

Into the duels: Bird, Günther, Ticktum and Dennis.

Above: Maximilian Günther/Maserati MSG Racing – Credit: Andrew Ferraro courtesy of FIA Formula E

Quarter-Finals

Heading into the duels and the first Quarter-Final was an all Envision affair, as Buemi went up against Cassidy. Halfway round the lap and Buemi had an advantage of almost two-tenths; however, Cassidy posted an incredible final sector. It wasn’t enough, though, to get the better of Buemi, with the Swiss driver having qualified for the Semi-Finals by eight-hundredths of a second.

Quarter-Final number two saw Group A pacesetter Vandoorne against Sette Câmara, with the latter having been pushing for a shock Semi-Final appearance for NIO. Halfway round the lap and Vandoorne had the edge by over three-tenths of a second, a gap he maintained for the entirety of the lap to safely proceed to the next stage of the duels.

The third Quarter-Final saw the other NIO of Ticktum against Günther, with all of NIO’s hopes having now rested upon the Briton. Halfway round the lap and just three-hundredths of a second separated the duo, the Günther having narrowly had the edge. It was heartbreak for the German driver, though, as he went incredibly wide at the penultimate corner, meaning Ticktum made it comfortably into the duels to the joy of the Chinese team.

The final Quarter-Final saw Bird against Dennis, with the Avalanche Andretti Formula E driver already knowing that he had a huge advantage for the race over Wehrlein. Halfway round the lap and it was Bird who had the edge by just six-hundredths, a gap he maintained for the second half of the lap, meaning he made it safely through to the Semi-Finals. Despite losing the duel, Dennis’ time was still very strong, with him set to start the race from fifth after being the fastest of the losers in the Quarter-Finals.

Above: Jake Dennis/Avalanche Andretti Formula E – Credit: Simon Galloway courtesy of FIA Formula E

Semi-Finals

Onto the Semi-Finals and the first of two matchups saw Buemi against Vandoorne, in what was a battle of Formula E champions. Halfway round the lap and it was Buemi who had the edge, with the Swiss driver having been a tenth ahead of Vandoorne. The Belgian driver posted a strong second half of the lap; however, Buemi did excellently to match it, meaning he maintained his advantage of just over a tenth of a second to make it into the Final.

The second Semi-Final saw an all-British affair, as Bird and Ticktum attempted to join Buemi in the Final. Halfway round the lap and Bird held an advantage of almost two-tenths, after Ticktum went wide at the first corner. The Jaguar TCS Racing driver remained ahead of Ticktum for the entirety of the lap, meaning it was Bird and Buemi in the Final, whilst Ticktum and Vandoorne will occupy the second row of the grid.

Final

So, the Final duel ahead of the first of two races in Berlin this weekend saw Bird against Buemi, in what was an all-Jaguar powertrain affair. With a front row start guaranteed, both drivers could give their maximum to claim pole.

Buemi had the edge through the first sector by just five-hundredths, with the gap having grown to over two-tenths of a second halfway round the lap. Buemi was clearly on a sensational lap, with the Swiss driver having ultimately claimed pole comfortably by just under two-tenths, after setting a 1:05.605. It means Buemi will start on pole from Bird, with Vandoorne in third with Ticktum in fourth, with Dennis starting a superb fifth.

Buemi’s pole position also saw him become the all-time record-holder for pole positions in Formula E, with his Berlin pole having been the sixteenth of his career in the all-electric series. To add to what was a stellar performance by Buemi, the Swiss driver will collect three points for claiming pole.

The race looks set to be an absolute thriller, with all eyes set to be on whether Wehrlein can defend his championship lead at his home E-Prix, despite starting fifteenth on the grid. Likewise, Dennis will be pushing to close the gap to the German driver, after suffering considerable bad luck in the last three races.

Full Results to Follow…

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