Marrakesh E-Prix: Bird snatches pole from Vergne

Jake Boxall-Legge
Motorsport

At the conclusion of the third group session, NIO’s Tom Dillmann drove into the rear of Bird’s teammate Robin Frijns, who was subsequently nudged into Bird's car.

Virgin mechanics had also changed Bird's powertrain after the car developed water pump issues in second practice.

Under parc ferme conditions, the damage on Bird’s diffuser could not be fixed, but the British driver put in a stunning 1m17.489 lap to edge Jean-Eric Vergne by just half a tenth - claiming his first pole since the second New York race in season three.

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Reigning champion Vergne will start on the front row of the grid at the Circuit Moulay El Hassan in Morocco.

Antonio Felix da Costa collected third place, having topped the opening group - electing not to do a warm-up lap before switching over to full power, then watching his time withstand a late siege from Vergne and Mitch Evans.

However, the Portuguese driver is under investigation for exceeding 200kW on his initial in- and out-laps in the group running, while a difficult first sector in his superpole lap undid his attempts to beat Vergne.

Sebastien Buemi was unable to surpass da Costa and fell a further tenth behind - but ultimately beat Alexander Sims to fourth on the grid.

Evans attempted to lay down the first benchmark in the superpole shootout, but a huge lock-up at Turn 7 meant the Kiwi had to settle for completing the third row.

Pascal Wehrlein impressed in his first FE qualifying session to qualify seventh, having briefly factored in the top six of the overall times before Sims deposed him from factoring within the superpole fight.

Frijns claimed eighth before his involvement in the pitlane fracas at the close of the third group’s running, beating Nelson Piquet Jr. and Jerome d’Ambrosio - who completed the top 10.

A flurry of scruffy laps from Audi pair Lucas di Grassi and Daniel Abt ended their chances to progress from the second group and join the superpole shootout, ensuring the works Audi outfit was outqualified by the customer Virgin team.

The Venturi-powered HWA team endured a number of issues, as Stoffel Vandoorne lost power on his group flying lap and Gary Paffett was limited by similar woes - the pair qualifying 22nd and 19th respectively.

Vergne’s DS Techeetah teammate Andre Lotterer lost bundles of time in his second sector during his group one lap and will start 20th, while Maximilian Gunther hit the wall on the exit of turn six to bring his qualifying efforts to a premature end for the second consecutive round.

Qualifying results

1

2

Sam Bird

Virgin Racing

1'17.489

 

138.027

2

25

Jean-Eric Vergne

Techeetah

1'17.535

0.046

137.945

3

28

Antonio Felix da Costa

Andretti Autosport

1'17.626

0.137

137.783

4

23

Sébastien Buemi

DAMS

1'17.738

0.249

137.585

5

27

Alexander Sims

Andretti Autosport

1'18.400

0.911

136.423

6

20

Mitch Evans

Jaguar Racing

1'29.379

11.890

119.665

7

94

Pascal Wehrlein

Mahindra Racing

1'18.126

0.637

136.901

8

4

Robin Frijns

Virgin Racing

1'18.200

0.711

136.772

9

3

Nelson Piquet Jr.

Jaguar Racing

1'18.347

0.858

136.515

10

64

Jérôme d'Ambrosio

Mahindra Racing

1'18.440

0.951

136.353

11

11

Lucas di Grassi

Team Abt

1'18.595

1.106

136.084

12

22

Oliver Rowland

DAMS

1'18.604

1.115

136.069

13

7

Jose Maria Lopez

Dragon Racing

1'18.612

1.123

136.055

14

16

Oliver Turvey

NIO Formula E Team

1'18.624

1.135

136.034

15

19

Felipe Massa

Venturi

1'18.780

1.291

135.765

16

66

Daniel Abt

Team Abt

1'18.921

1.432

135.522

17

48

Edoardo Mortara

Venturi

1'19.133

1.644

135.159

18

8

Tom Dillmann

NIO Formula E Team

1'19.338

1.849

134.810

19

17

Gary Paffett

HWA Racelab

1'19.516

2.027

134.508

20

36

Andre Lotterer

Techeetah

1'19.633

2.144

134.311

21

6

Maximilian Gunther

Dragon Racing

1'23.332

5.843

128.349

22

5

Stoffel Vandoorne

HWA Racelab

1'33.404

15.915

114.509

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