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ABT of Nico Müller at the Berlin E-Prix

Berlin Qualifying: ABT lockout the front row in a wet qualifying session

The underdog prevails as ABT impress during qualifying ahead of the Berlin E-Prix

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ABT has zero championship points on the board — but that could be set to change after the team locks out the front row ahead of the Berlin E-Prix. 

Frijns and Müller at the Berlin E-Prix
Robin Frijns starts on pole after a difficult start to the season. His teammate, Nico Müller, starts just behind in P2. (Image credit: @abtmotorsport on Twitter)

Jaguar was the team to beat yesterday, the British team taking home a dominant 1-2. Rounding out the podium was Maximilian Günther, whose Maserati had looked fast all weekend. Yesterday’s race winner Mitch Evans continued to set the pace, having gone fastest in the rainy free practice session this morning.

It was a wet qualifying, the track still damp from a downpour earlier in the morning. There was plenty of standing water on track, the spray coming from the back of the cars decreasing visibility. The slippery circuit forced corrections from the drivers.

The Groups

Group A

ABT’s Nico Müller was the first to set the pace, putting in a time of 1:19.476. Jake Dennis improved on Müller’s middle sector but narrowly missed out on beating his lap time, going just 0.009s slower than the Swiss.

A second lap from Dennis promoted him to the top of the time sheets with a time of 1:19.264. With just under four minutes to go, Pascal Wehrlein then went quickest, shaving 0.021s off Dennis’ time.

René Rast made a trip to the pits, with only a couple of minutes to go, giving the McLaren driver just enough time to put in another lap. Müller went fastest again, whilst António Félix da Costa improved on his previous lap time, falling just short of the top four.

The checkered flag came out as the drivers put in their final lap. In the final seconds, Jean-Éric Vergne went quickest with a 1:19.047. Müller’s third-place finish meant that ABT Cupra was now set to make its first appearance in the duels this season.

Through to the quarter-finals: Vergne, Wehrlein, Müller, and Dennis

Group B

The pace of the ABT Cupra did not relent — in the early moments of the session, Robin Frijns put in a time of 1:19.282. Mitch Evans soon after improved on Frijns’ time with a 1:18.945. Envision’s Nick Cassidy leapfrogged Frijns to P2, but remained three-tenths behind Evans.

Going for another push lap, Frijns then set a time of 1:18.713. Evans once again sought to improve on Frijns’ time. The Jaguar driver went just over a tenth quicker with under three minutes to go.

Evans made a brief trip to the pits, whilst his teammate Sam Bird finally broke into the top four. Stoffel Vandoorne, meanwhile, was struggling to put in a time that would allow him to make it to the duels. Nick Cassidy improved on his time, replacing Bird in the top four.

As the drivers tried to improve their times in the final seconds of the session, it was yesterday’s polesitter Sébastien Buemi who went fastest. It appeared that Sam Bird suffered a stuck throttle, leaving him in a disappointing P6.

Through to the quarter-finals: Buemi, Frijns, Evans, Cassidy

The Duels
Quarter-final one: Müller vs Wehrlein

Nico Müller took on his first duel appearance and was immediately ahead as Wehrlein went deep into a corner. Müller increased the gap by over a tenth of a second.

Wehrlein briefly improved on Müller’s time, but the ABT driver was quick to claw more time back. Müller finished three-tenths up on the championship leader, putting ABT Cupra through to the semi-finals.

Through to the semi-finals: Müller

Quarter-final two: Dennis vs Vergne

The gap between the two was narrow, with Vergne just four-hundredths up on Dennis. As Jake Dennis slid his way around the corners of the Tempelhof circuit, Vergne’s advantage steadily increased. Vergne came across the line four-tenths clear of the Andretti Avalanche of Jake Dennis.

Vergne goes through to the semi-finals.

Quarter-final three: Evans vs Frijns

Yesterday’s race winner went up against the second of the ABT drivers. Frijns got the advantage at first, but Evans went three-tenths quicker than Frijns through the first corner. The ABT driver quickly closed the gap to Evans once again, with mere hundredths of a second between the two drivers.

In the end, Frijns narrowly made it through by only 0.069s. With that, both of the ABT drivers went through to the semi-finals.

Frijns goes through to the semi-finals.

Quarter-final four: Cassidy vs Buemi

With simmering tensions between the two teammates as a backdrop for this battle, it was Buemi who started the lap fastest. Buemi was three-tenths up on Cassidy, but Cassidy began to catch his teammate.

It all came down to the final seconds. A bad exit from the final corner for Buemi handed Cassidy the advantage he needed to get through to the next stage. There was a narrow 0.05s between the two Envision drivers.

However, it was revealed shortly after that Cassidy’s lap was deleted due to an “improper use of 350KW mode”. With Cassidy’s lap time deleted, it’s Buemi who goes through to the next stage.

Buemi goes through to the semi-finals.

The Semi-Finals
Semi-final one: Vergne vs Müller

As the semi-finals got underway, the rain increased once again. Müller edged ahead with a minor advtange on Vergne, but the DS Penske driver was quick to put a gap between them.

Nico Müller remained impressive as he began to catch up to Vergne. The ABT driver took an advantage in Turn 6, but Vergne remained only marginally slower. Vergne couldn’t get ahead, though.

Nico Müller crossed the line six-tenths up on Vergne, guaranteeing a place on the front row for ABT.

Semi-final two: Frijns vs Buemi

Frijns kept up ABT’s impressive streak, taking an early advantage. However Buemi got ahead, putting a few tenths between himself and Frijns. It looked like it might go the Envision driver’s way — until Frijns sailed his way through Turn 9.

Frijns went three-tenths quicker than Buemi to claim his place in the semi-final. With that, it’s a front row lockout for ABT.

The Final: Frijns vs Müller

It was a win-win for ABT as their drivers took each other on in the final qualifying battle. Frijns and Müller were evenly matched, but Frijns soon put four-tenths between himself and his teammate.

Müller attempted to catch Frijns, but the Dutchman was absolutely flying. Robin Frijns finished over half a second ahead of Müller, sailing across the line to take home his second pole position.

After an immensely difficult start to the season for ABT and Frijns, the team seems set to take home some solid points — and possibly even a race win.

But with the chaos of yesterday’s race still fresh in our minds, it’s safe to say that the Berlin E-Prix could be anyone’s race. Will Frijns be able to hold onto the race lead, or will someone else challenge him for the win? 

The starting grid

Featured Image Credit: @FIAFormulaE on Twitter

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