Monday, April 15, 2024

Monaco E-Prix: All-Rookie Front Row as Sacha Fenestraz Claims Provisional Pole Position

Rookie Sacha Fenestraz claimed pole position for the Monaco E-Prix, following a sublime qualifying performance in the ninth round of the 2022/23 ABB FIA Formula E World Championship. It will be an all-rookie front row for Saturday’s race, as Jake Hughes was defeated by Fenestraz in the Final. It was a session to remember for Nissan, with their powetrains having secured a 1-2-3. Elsewhere, it was a messy qualifying for several championship contenders.

Group A

Kicking-off qualifying at the iconic Circuit de Monaco was all the drivers currently occupying an odd position in the Drivers’ Championship, meaning championship leader Pascal Wehrlein was joined by two-time Formula E Champion Jean-Éric Vergne, São Paulo and Berlin winner Mitch Evans, Sam Bird, René Rast, reigning World Champion and last season’s Monaco winner Stoffel Vandoorne, André Lotterer, Norman Nato, Dan Ticktum, Fenestraz and Berlin Race Two polesitter Robin Frijns.

As the opening group got underway, Evans, Vergne, and Vandoorne were arguably three of the favourites to make it into the top four places necessary to progress to the duels, having shown good pace in the two Free Practice sessions. As the twelve drivers completed their out-laps, there was an ominous rain cloud looming over the circuit, something which threatened to throw up some challenging conditions.

Following the the first real push laps, Evans topped the group from Vergne, Vandoorne and Bird; however, both DS Penske drivers were under investigation for a technical infringement. With three minutes remaining, Lotterer and Wehrlein demoted Vandoorne and Bird out of the top four, leaving the duo with work to do. It quickly became clear, though, that faster times were possible, as Nato, Fenestraz and Ticktum moved into the top four, demoting Vergne, Lotterer and Wehrlein.

It meant the final push laps would determine the top four of what was a frantic session, with several drivers having posted strong sector times. As the chequered flag was flown it was a shock Nissan Formula E team 1-2, as Nato topped the group from Fenestraz, Ticktum and Evans, who claimed the top four spots. It meant Wehrlein was once again eliminated in the group stage of qualifying, with the German set to start from eleventh. It was announced after the group that all of Vergne’s and Vandoorne’s lap times had been deleted for the technical infringement, to the disappointment of DS Penske.

Into the duels: Nato, Fenestraz, Ticktum and Evans.

Group B

With Wehrlein and Vergne out before the duels, Nick Cassidy had a great chance to capitalise on his title rivals misfortune; however, Group B was stacked with some extremely quick drivers. Joining Cassidy in the second group was Jake Dennis, António Félix da Costa, Sébastian Buemi, Hughes, Free Practice 2 pacesetter Maximilian Günther, Lucas di Grassi, Sérgio Sette Câmara, Oliver Rowland, Edoardo Mortara and Nico Müller.

Halfway through the session and it was Günther who sat at the top of the timesheets by just 0.043s, with the German having been narrowly faster than Cassidy. Considering that Cassidy hadn’t set a single push lap in Free Practice, his lap-time was a sensational effort by the Kiwi. Also in the top four after the opening push laps were Sette Câmara and Di Grassi. Sette Câmara was also under investigation, though, for a technical infringement.

With two minutes remaining, it was impossible to predict who’d progress to the duels, with some big names having been outside the top four. Günther, Hughes, Sette Câmara and Mortara occupied the spots as the session approached its close; however, several green sectors were being set. Dennis and Buemi both failed to make the top four with their final lap whilst Cassidy appeared to be blocked by Günther, who topped the group. The German topped the group from Hughes, Mortara and Sette Câmara; however, the latter remained under investigation.

It meant Cassidy would be starting the race from tenth, one-place ahead of the championship leader, with fellow title rival Dennis in twelfth.

Into the duels: Günther, Hughes, Mortara and Sette Câmara.

Quarter-Finals

After two hectic group sessions, it was time for the first duel of the day, as Ticktum went up against Fenestraz. Halfway round the lap and less than a tenth separated the pair; however, it was Fenestraz who held a narrow advantage. Fenestraz’s narrow advantage became a substantial one come the end of the lap, with the rookie having gone almost three-tenths faster than the Briton, after posting a mega 1:29.031.

Hoping to meet Fenestraz in the Semi-Finals was Evans and Nato, with the latter having been making his first duels appearance this season. Halfway round the lap and it was Evans who led by just over a tenth of a second; however, Nato pulled it back in the third sector. It meant it all came down to the final sector, where Evans had a huge slide, something which saw Nato progress to the Semi-Finals by almost three-tenths of a second. It meant the first Semi-Final would be an all-Nissan affair.

Quarter-Final number three saw Mortara against Hughes, with the Swiss driver having been pushing for a Sem-Final appearance for the local team. It was Hughes who had the edge halfway round the lap by just over a tenth of a second; however, by the time they both completed their laps, Hughes’ advantage had grown to over four-tenths, putting him into the Semi-Finals.

The final Quarter-Final saw Sette Câmara against Günther, with all of Maserati MSG Racing‘s hopes having rested on the latter. Halfway round the lap and it was Sette Câmara who was clearly quickest by over half a second, with the Brazilian having ultimately cruised into the Semi-Finals. However, the NIO 333 Racing driver had his lap-time deleted for leaving the pits too late, meaning Günther progressed into the next stage of the duels.

Semi-Finals

Following a short delay to deal with Sette Câmara’s incident, it was time for an all-Nissan Semi-Final, as Fenestraz went up against Nato. So Nissan were guaranteed to have a driver in the final, but which Frenchman would it be? Halfway round the lap and it was Fenestraz who had the edge by just over a tenth of a second; however, Nato pulled back a load of time in the third sector. As they crossed the line, it was Fenestraz who set the quicker time with a record-breaking 1:28.773, to beat Nato fairly comfortably.

Hoping to meet Fenestraz in the final was Hughes and Günther, with the NEOM McLaren Formula E Team driver being the clear favourite. Through the first half of the lap and Hughes boasted a decent advantage of almost three-tenths of a second, which quickly became nearly five-tenths through the third sector. Hughes comfortably held his advantage to set-up a meeting with Fenestraz in the Final, meaning a Nissan powertrain front row was secured.

Final

So with a Nissan powertrain front row lock-out confirmed, it was also set to be an all-rookie front row, meaning Formula E’s newbies had shown the field exactly how its done at Monaco. Both drivers have already claimed a pole position this season, meaning the pair knew exactly what was needed to claim the front spot on the grid.

As they started their laps, it was Hughes who held a miniscule advantage; however, he locked-up as he entered the Nouvelle Chicane, resulting in him cutting the corner. It meant that Fenestraz simply had to complete his lap to claim a famous Monaco pole position, his second of his rookie campaign. Hughes simply had to push too hard to try and match the Frenchman, resulting in the error. Regardless, it was a great effort by the McLaren driver, who’ll be on the front row for this afternoon’s race.

Fenestraz was understandably ecstatic with his second Formula E pole position, with the rookie being in the best position to claim his maiden Formula E win. There was some late drama, though, as it was announced that the Frenchman was under investigation for an energy-related technical infringement.

Monaco E-Prix Round 9: Provisional Qualifying Results

POS. NO. DRIVER. NAT. TEAM. TIME.
1 23 Sacha Fenestraz FRA Nissan Formula E Team 1:29.131
2 5 Jake Hughes GBR NEOM McLaren Formula E Team NO TIME SET
3 17 Norman Nato FRA Nissan Formula E Team 1:29.236
4 7 Maximilian Günther DEU Maserati MSG Racing 1:29.450
5 33 Dan Ticktum GBR NIO 333 Racing 1:29.326
6 9 Mitch Evans NZL Jaguar TCS Racing 1:29.350
7 48 Edoardo Mortara CHE Maserati MSG Racing 1:29.484
8 3 Sérgio Sette Câmara BRZ NIO 333 Racing NO TIME SET
9 36 André Lotterer DEU Avalanche Andretti Formula E 1:30.332
10 37 Nick Cassidy NZL Envision Racing 1:30.427
11 94 Pascal Wehrlein DEU TAG Heuer Porsche Formula E Team 1:30.481
12 27 Jake Dennis GBR Avalanche Andretti Formula E 1:30.548
13 58 René Rast DEU NEOM McLaren Formula E Team 1:30.613
14 8 Oliver Rowland GBR Mahindra Racing 1:30.555
15 10 Sam Bird GBR Jaguar TCS Racing 1:30.645
16 16 Sébastian Buemi CHE Envision Racing 1:30.570
17 4 Robin Frijns NLD ABT CUPRA Formula E Team 1:30.937
18 51 Nico Müller CHE ABT CUPRA Formula E Team 1:30.610
19 13 António Félix da Costa PRT TAG Heuer Porsche Formula E Team 1:30.675
20 11 Lucas di Grassi BRZ Mahindra Racing 1:30.821
21 25 Jean-Éric Vergne FRA DS Penske NO TIME SET
22 1 Stoffel Vandoorne BEL DS Penske NO TIME SET
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