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São Paulo Qualifying:Vandoorne takes dominant pole position whilst championship leaders struggle

The São Paulo E-Prix was full of excitement as the championship leaders struggled and the Brazilian drivers had issues

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Stoffel Vandoorne takes an impressive pole position in the São Paulo qualifying whilst Wehrlein and Dennis struggle.

STREETS OF SAO PAULO, BRAZIL – MARCH 25: Stoffel Vandoorne, DS Penske, DS E-Tense FE23 during the Sao Paulo ePrix at Streets of Sao Paulo on Saturday, March 25, 2023, Brazil. (Photo by Sam Bloxham / LAT Images)

Stoffel Vandoorne finally found his qualifying form at the São Paulo E-Prix and took DS Penske’s first pole position. Both Wehrlein and Dennis struggled despite wanting to further their championship challenge. The home heroes, Lucas di Grassi and Sergio Sette Camara, unfortunately had issues in front of their adoring crowd.

Another new Formula E track means it’s all to play for in Brazil. In FP2, the field was incredibly spread out with nine teams taking the top ten positions. São Paulo is an electrifying track with four long straights, heavy braking zones, hairpins and bumpy surfaces.

This evening’s race, taking place in the Sao Paulo samba drome, the energy is bound to be exciting and it will be a home race for two Brazilian drivers, Lucas di Grassi and Sergio Sette Camara. This will all combine together to provide a great race, but first- qualifying.

In qualifying, the braking was an incredibly important factor. The high speeds from the straights, some of the highest speeds in Formula E, require confidence towards the end as the heavy braking zones have already caught people out.

Today’s qualifying was full of drama with red flags, contact with the wall and debris stuck in the cars.

Group 1

Group 1 in the qualifying session comprises of the drivers in the odd positions in the championship standing. Wehrlein took an early lead in qualifying with a 1-minute 13.280-second lap and Lotterer, Cassidy and Vergne followed to make up the top four.

As the rest of the drivers continued to build their speed, the lineup changed. Noticeably, with seven minutes to go, DS Penske took a provisional ‘one-two’.

With six minutes and ten seconds to go, the Red flag was deployed as the Nio of Sette Camara stopped on track. This was a result of a huge lockup that forced him to skip out of the chicane which appeared to be caused by an electrical issue. It was unfortunate to see a home hero grind to a stop, however, he managed to crawl back to the pits.

The provisional top four at this point were Jean Eric-Vergne in first and Vandoorne, Wehrlein and Rast respectively.

It was an intense rush to get the laps in after the red flag, but luckily all 11 drivers made it out!

Wehrlein was on a great flying lap and touched the wall as his rear got out of control at the end of the braking zone. There didn’t appear to be too much damage, however, it meant his lap was effectively a lot slower. This started a trend of many drivers getting out of shape on their push laps as Jean-Eric Vergne lost control out of turn 8 and Lotterer hit the wall and had to pit.

The Last Minute Rush

As the chequered flag came out, the top four were Vandoorne, Hugghes, Cassidy and Vergne. As all the drivers tried to beat their top times but Wehrlein again lost control on his lap, around turn 8. Jake Hughes looked like he was about to miss out on the duels after having some control issues on his lap but he managed to keep it together.

The top four, going through to the duels, were Vandoorne (with a top time of 1-minute 12.761 seconds), Cassidy, Mortara and Hughes (by the skin of his teeth). Cassidy looked very strong throughout the whole session and Mortara put an excellent lap together at the end.

Group 2

It was time for the second group and it was a pivotal one for Andretti’s Jake Dennis. If he managed to get into the duels it would help his championship campaign and bridge the gap between Wehrleing, who, as it stands is 18 points ahead.

A yellow flag came out almost immediately as the returning Robin Frijns broke down and stopped on track. After restarting the car he managed to get going again and the session continued. The order was all shaken up as the drivers consistently topped each other times, however, the fastest FP2 driver, Antonio Felix da Costa was in the top spot at the seven-minute mark. this was promptly beaten by the fastest FP1 driver Buemi.

Lucas di Grassi, a home hero, hit the wall on his push lap and Sam Bird who was behind him aborted his lap with what appeared to be debris stuck in his car.

Both Bird and di Grassi were in the pits for a very long time and it seemed like their qualifying would be over.

Bird came out with around four minutes to go but there was still no sign of di Grassi. As it stood with two minutes to go, the top four were Da Costa, Dennis, Buemi and Nato. Once Bird started on his push lap, however, it seemed like Da Costa was under threat and Bird set a 1-minute 12.833-second lap which put him on top.

As the end of the session neared all the drivers were trying their best with Ticktum being a standout after going fastest in the first sector. Ticktum then locked up and went off the track effectively spoiling his lap.

As the chequered flag dropped, it was all to play for and no one appeared to be safe. Jake Dennis went on his flying lap yet couldn’t go any quicker and came up in seventh.

The top four who went through to the São Paulo qualifying duels were Sam Bird, Günther, Da Costa and Evans.

Duel 1

Edoardo Mortara vs Nick Cassidy

Mortara was first on track with Cassidy following as the pair began their duel. The sun came out even higher for these duels meaning the tyres would be critical in this one-lap blowout.

Mortara was already on the backfoot as he started the head-to-head but he began to catch and took the timing lead over Cassidy. The Maserati Mortara crossed the line and managed to get through with a lap of 1-minute 12.132 seconds.

Duel 2

Jake Hughes vs Stoffel Vandoorne

An interesting matchup as Vandoorne has great experience whilst use is proving himself to be a qualifying expert.

Hughes went way too deep into turn seven and locked the front tyres whilst Vandoorne kept it tidy and that effectively gave Vandoorne a ticket to the next round with a quick lap of 1-minute 11.920 seconds. This time, experience won out and braking, again, proved to be an issue.

Duel 3

Antonio Felix Da Costa vs Maximilian Gunther

Da Costa went onto the track first with Günther’s Maserati following. Da Costa took an early lead but Günther, like his teammate, was catching. It wasn’t enough and this time, Da Costa went through with a time of 1.11.982 seconds.

Duel 4

Sam Bird vs Mitch Evans

It’s the battle of the teammates this time. Mitch Evans took to the track first and looked incredibly strong. Bird struggled to hit his marks at the end of the first straight and struggled in his turn which put Evans in good form. Mitch Evans created an astonishing lap of 1-minute 11.843 seconds which catapulted him into the semi-finals.

Semi-Final 1

Edoardo Mortara vs Stoffel Vandoorne

The Maserati took to the track first with the DS Penske close behind.

This duel was agonisingly close in the beginning but Stoffel Vandoorne pulled ahead towards the end of the lap and made sure he would be on the front row of the grid.

Semi-Final 2

Antonio Felix da Costa vs Mitch Evans

Evans went into this duel as the favourite having set the quickest lap of the qualifying and seemed strong, however, he lost a lot of time in the final sector and Da Costa sneaked through. This was Porsche’s best qualifying performance of the season having proved their worth in races but previously struggled in qualifying.

The Final Head-to-Head

Stoffel Vandoorne vs Antonio Felix Da Costa

Both set great times in their semi-finals with Vandoorne setting a 1-minute 11.929-second lap and Da Costa setting a 1-minute 11.

It was Porsche onto the circuit first with DS Penske following. Stoffel Vandoorne has seemed at ease all weekend but Da Costa is hungry to catch up to his teammate.

As the lap started they were separated by one-thousandth of a second! Could it have gotten any closer?

Vandoorne stormed to the line and took pole position by a big margin and a lap of 1 minute and 11.904 seconds.

Will Vandoorne be able to hold up Da Costa in the race later on today? Will Dennis and Wehrelin be able to fight their way though the field for some points? Watch the race later today at 5 pm BST to find out.

The Results
  1. Stoffel Vandoorne
  2. Antonio Felix da Costa
  3. Mitch Evans
  4. Edoardo Mortara
  5. Nick Cassidy
  6. Jake Hughes
  7. Jean-Eric Vergne
  8. Norman Nato
  9. Maximilian Günther
  10. Sam Bird
  11. René Rast
  12. Sebastien Buemi
  13. Nico Muller
  14. Jake Dennis
  15. Sacha Fenestraz
  16. Sergio Sette Camara
  17. Dan Ticktum
  18. Pascal Wehrlein
  19. Oliver Rowland
  20. Robin Frijns
  21. Andre Lotterer
  22. Lucas di Grassi

Feature Image Credit: FiaFormulaE.com

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