Extreme E has finally started with an action-packed first qualifying session early this morning. It’s been described as “Star Wars pod racing meets Dakar Rally” and the first qualifying session didn’t disappoint. If you somehow managed to hit snooze and oversleep, here’s what you missed from the first session in Abu Dhabi this morning.
Qualifying 1: How It Played Out
The first qualifying session sees each team take on the desert course over two laps with both their male and female drivers taking one lap each. Here’s how it went.
X44 Taking Early Lead
Reigning F1 World Champion, Lewis Hamilton, is no stranger to starting from first position. Today, his X44 teams kicked off the Extreme E championship’s first qualifying session. For X44 it was Sebastian Loeb and Cristina Gutierrez behind the wheel, together putting in the fastest time for a large part of the day thanks to their 10 minute 48 second lap.
Old Rivalries Die Hard For Rosberg Racing
The Rosberg X Racing team is owned by Nico Rosberg who watched on in-person from the “bouncy castle” Extreme E command centre at the course. The 2016 F1 World Champion might well have been thinking back to his old rivalry with Lewis Hamilton when the two Mercedes teammates raced against each other. The legacy of their rivalry is arguably still visible today with Mercedes employing the services of Valtteri Bottas to maintain calm with a somewhat willing number two.
That rivalry was rekindled on the Extreme E course after a solid first lap by Swede Johan Kristoffersson was followed by a storming, full send lap by Aussie Molly Taylor. The Rosberg X Racing pair cutting over four seconds off the X44 time, putting in a 10 minute 43 second lap.
Real Drama Further Down The Field
Rosberg X Racing and the X44 team set the bar in terms of times and the rest of the field struggled to come close. The nearest was the Spanish Sainz XE Team with a somewhat disappointing 11 minute 16 second total time. But while there was a significant gap between the timings, there was some real drama to behold.
Catie Munnings Going Full Send
I’ve dished out my own first GridPlay vote to Catie Munnings for her exciting all push lap which helped secure the fourth spot in Qualifying 1. The British rally driver was second in the seat after Swede Timmy Hansens first lap. What I’ve not mentioned yet is that Hansen picked up a puncture on the first lap. Around the halfway mark of Munnings lap it was clear that she was struggling to control the car thanks to an ever degrading rear right tyre.
With dust flying up behind the car because of the tyre wildly flapping around the place, Munnings put in a hero lap of 11 minutes and 31 seconds to secure P4 in Q1.
Big Crashes For Cupra XE And Veloce Racing
Q1 ended with two DNF (Did Not Finish) statuses on the board for the German Cupra XE team and British Veloce Racing team. Veloce’s French driver Sarrazin hit a dune and rolled his car before Jamie Chadwick would even get her turn in what many thought would be the most dramatic spill of the day. That was until Claudia Hürtgen took on her lap.
Pushing had, the German got her car completely sideways at speed and flipped. The driver walked away from what was a rather dramatic wreck.
Both crashes leave Cupra XE and Veloce racing off the track to get their cars back up and running. For Cupra, at least, it’s going to take a miracle for them to make Q2 at 12 PM Irish time. The big positive, of course, is that both drivers walked away without and injuries.
There was some additional drama during the other runs.
Power Steering Failure
A power-steering failure for the all-American and Hummer-backed Segi TV Chip Ganassi Racing team showed us the slowest of the finishing teams. Towards the end of his first lap, Kyle Leduc seemed to be wrestling with the car. During the Switch section of the two-lap stint, Leduc could be seen resetting something in the car before Sara Price took over. Towards the end of her lap, Price was struggling to keep the car on course given the impact of a power steering failure which left the team last of those who finished with a 13 minute 33 second round and plum last on the timesheet.
The second slowest team of the day to finish both laps was the Spanish Hispano outfit. A somewhat disappointing two laps for the Spanish/British combo of Christine Giampaoli Zonca and Oliver Bennet was made worse when the team was handed an additional penalty for speeding in the Switch zone. The zone where drivers swap at the midway point of their two laps has a speed limit of 35kmph. Speeding here sees teams issued with 5 seconds for every 1kmph over the limit they are.
With a penalty of 75 seconds added to the Hispano team’s time, it was 6th position for them.
That’s it for the highlights of Extreme Qualifying 1 in what was an exciting curtain raiser for the new sport. It all’s go again for Qualifying 2 at 12 PM today to decide the first points of the championship.
Qualifying 1 Standings
|1||Johan Kristoffersson and Molly Taylor||Rosberg X Racing|
|2||Sebastien Loeb and Cristina Gutierrez||X44|
|3||Carlos Sainz and Laia Sanz||Acciona | Sainz XE|
|4||Timmy Hansen and Catie Munnings||Andretti United|
|5||Jenson Button and Mikaela Ahlin-Kottulinsky||JBXE|
|6||Oliver Bennett and Christine Giampaoli Zonca||Hispano Suiza Xite Energy|
|7||Kyle Leduc and Sara Price||Segi TV Chip Ganassi Racing|
|8||Mattias Ekstrom and Claudia Hurgten||ABT Cupra XE|
|9||Stephane Sarrazin and Jamie Chadwick||Veloce Racing|