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Sacha Fenestraz in the Nissan.

Cape Town E-Prix Qualifying: Maiden pole for a young driver

The high-speed circuit provided plenty of drama, as well as a brand new polesitter.

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It’s a front-row start for Nissan’s Sacha Fenestraz, who took his first pole position after only six Formula E races.

Sacha Fenestraz on track at Cape Town in the Nissan.
Fenestraz put in the fastest lap in Formula E history. (Image credit: Formula E)

The drivers tackled the challenging Cape Town circuit ahead of the first South African E-Prix. The high-speed circuit is believed to be the fastest in Formula E’s history — and it’s a bit of a tricky one.

We saw collisions and wall-kissing as the drivers flew around the circuit. Meanwhile, the word around the paddock was that the younger drivers would be the ones to shine in Cape Town… a prediction that certainly rang true.

It was announced that Mahindra and ABT Cupra have withdrawn from the race, after safety concerns over the rear suspension failure that Lucas di Grassi suffered in Free Practice 1.

It’s hugely disappointing news for both teams, but particularly heartbreaking for home hero Kelvin van der Linde who was looking forward to racing in front of the local crowd.

The Groups

Group A

The Porsches were immediately quick, as Wehrlein went quickest, with teammate Da Costa 0.822s behind. There was a reshuffling of the order of things, as Cassidy, Lotterer and Fenestraz began to show some serious pace. 

Hughes picked up damage early into the session, the right rear making contact with the wall. Porsche picked up the pace, topping the timesheets yet again. This time, it was Da Costa who was just ahead of his teammate.

Vergne started to put in a strong lap, but Cassidy was quicker. The Envision driver went faster than Da Costa, going quickest by over four-tenths.

One minute left…

Hughes was back out after his incident, kissing the wall the whole way around the circuit. He went third quickest, provisionally making it through to the duels.

In the end, it was Fenestraz who went fastest with a 1.08.994, pushing Hughes and Da Costa out of the duels. Cassidy

Through to the quarter-finals: Fenestraz, Cassidy, Wehrlein, Vergne

Group B

The Maseratis were out first, tailed by Sebastian Buemi. Evans and Dennis got into the mix, while Mitch Evans put in some pretty quick laps.

Teammate Sam Bird looked strong too, the Jaguars holding onto a 1-2. Günther usurped Bird, going second fastest after a brilliant sector one and two. However, Buemi was quick to grab a hold of the second-place spot.

Rast was the first to go for a flying lap in the final minute of the session as the drivers squabbled for position. It was a great first sector for the McLaren driver, whilst Dennis seemed to struggle.

Red flags put an end to the session

A collision between Mortara and Bird brought out red flags. Mortara lost the car at Turn 9, the front of his Maserati making contact with the wall. No yellow flags had waved after Mortara’s crash, leaving Bird unaware of the incident.

As Sam Bird took the corner – seemingly losing the rear – he was unable to avoid Mortara’s stationary car. Bird collided with the wall before making contact with Mortara’s car. Thankfully, both drivers were okay.

As red flags waved, the checkered flag fell, making it impossible for the other drivers to improve upon their previous times. With that, the session came to an end.

Through to the quarter-finals: Rast, Evans, Buemi, Günther

The Duels
Quarter-final one: Wehrlein vs Cassidy

Nick Cassidy took on championship leader Wehrlein in the first duel of the day. Cassidy was quicker through the first corner, almost a tenth up. The gap continued to grow with each corner Cassidy took, increasing to a three-tenths gap.

Wehrlein started to chase, closing the gap by two-tenths. In the end, it was Cassidy who remained firmly ahead.

Cassidy goes through to the semi-finals.

Quarter-final two: Fenestraz vs Vergne

Vergne was out first, quicker than rookie Fenestraz by nine hundredths. The gap grew, but Fenestraz leapt ahead at the chicane. The gap grew from there as Vergne struggled slightly, with Fenestraz almost three-tenths up.

The Nissan driver nearly lost it in the final corner, sliding his way through. Everyone winced, but Fenestraz regained control, maintaining his lead on Vergne.

Fenestraz goes through to the semi-finals.

Quarter-final three: Evans vs Buemi

The two drivers were evenly matched, with Buemi a mere 0.001s behind. Buemi caught up to Evans, before losing it on a corner, making contact with the wall. He picked up minor damage to the front of his car.

Though Buemi was able to continue, it significantly impacted his time. Evans was able to finish clear of the Envision driver.

Evans goes through to the semi-finals.

Quarter-final four: Günther vs Rast

It was close between the two until Rast lost a chunk of time of the chicane. Gunther went ahead by three-tenths before Rast began to chase again.

In the end, Günther kept hold of his advantage, with Rast unable to catch the Maserati.

Günther goes through to the semi-finals.

The Semi-Finals
Semi-final one: Fenestraz vs Cassidy

Fenestraz was fastest out of the gate, two-tenths up on Cassidy. Though Cassidy started to close the gap, the Nissan driver remained the quickest of the two, finishing a tenth ahead of Cassidy.

Fenestraz goes through to the final. 

Semi-final two: Günther vs Evans

Evans started out strong, starting with a small time advantage over Günther which the Jaguar driver continued to build up. Evans soon seemed clear of Günther, with an advantage of over two tenths.

Things suddenly changed, though, as Günther jumped ahead. He closed the gap and then some, finishing well ahead of the Jaguar.

Günther goes through to the final.

The Final: Fenestraz vs Günther

Both drivers went into the duel seeking their first pole position. The gap between the two was marginal, as Günther was ahead by 0.03s. Fenestraz started to close the gap before getting just ahead.

The Nissan was soon flying, with Fenestraz going four-tenths quicker than Günther. Before long, it was Fenestraz who clinched his maiden pole, making him the second youngest polesitter in Formula E history.

The starting grid for today’s race:

Featured Image Credit: Nissan NISMO

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