Sebastien Buemi resisted a rejuvenated opposition to take pole for this afternoon’s Putrajaya ePrix, with Team Aguri’s Antonio Felix Da Costa breathing down the necks of the more fancied front-runners.
Loic Duval wouldn’t have been happy starting in the first group for qualifying after setting the quickest time in practice, however it was always going to be between himself and Prost for early honours. With Prost having to take a few steering inputs to get his Renault e.Dams to turn in gave Duval the opportunity to attack, pipping the Frenchman home by two-tenths of a second, despite being down on his morning best. Bruno Senna was a further two-tenths away from Prost in 3rd with team mate Nick Heidfeld just a tenth away in fourth.
Group Two would provide Robin Frijns another opportunity to get on terms with driving 200kW trim, an art he himself admitted he’d been struggling with. One man turning it into his personal art-form was Sebastien Buemi, who was first out of the blocks and being matched by Lucas di Grassi through every corner and was up four tenths before clipping the wall in the final sector, effectively dropping him to fourth.
“The car was bent for the last corner and I managed with a crab-style car to get across the line” said a surprisingly upbeat di Grassi.
Frijns was making big gains for Andretti however by eclipsing the times of both Mahindra drivers to go provisionally sixth, but it was Buemi who looked to have close to half a second in hand in provisional pole and sent an ominous sign to the opposition after admitting he had “a bad start” to his lap.
With Group Three now out on track, Nelson Piquet was spending more time checking his steering wheel that the road ahead. Not surprisingly he took a huge amount of kerb in an effort to make up time for the ill-handling NEXTEV TCR, but only succeeded in throwing his car ever closer to the barriers. The big surprise was Jean-Eric Vergne and Sam Bird down in provisional 10th and 11th for DS Virgin. Adding further insult to injury would be for them to see Stephane Sarrazin jump into 2nd for Venturi, proving their package [also run by Dragon] was proving no fluke around the streets of Putrajaya.
Group 4 would offer a tantalising for Daniel Abt and Jerome D’Ambrosio to join their team mates in the top 5. Jacques Villeneuve was just a tenth down on Buemi in the first sector but had to settle for 12th, although still ahead of both DS Virgin drivers. The big loser was Abt, finishing down the order in 10th after making a few mistakes. Oliver Turvey would finish just a tenths behind team mate Piquet, with de Silvestro completing the order.
Super pole shootout saw Da Costa emerge first for Team Aguri with little to lose using last year’s powertrain. It showed with Antonio throwing the car through turn one, however a couple of missed apexes wouldn’t help his cause.
Prost was very aggressive over the kerbs through the first chicane, but lost all of his time with a big lockup braking into turn four with his Renault e.Dams seemingly experiencing more understeer than usual. His time of 1.21:7, meant that Da Costa would at least start fourth.
Knowing there was an opportunity to grab with both hands, Loic Duval was super late on the brakes into turn one, his Dragon just making it through the corner in the process. A clean lap of 1.20:8 was enough for provisional pole. Stephane Sarrazin matched Duval through the first two sectors on his run, but beating their technological partners, by taking provisional pole by a quarter of a second.
All eyes were now on Sebastien Buemi. The Swiss driver locked a front right heading into turn one and missed an apex at turn 5, but was still up on the timesheets. A huge moment through turn 11 made Buemi a little cautious through the final corner, but it was enough to secure pole and earn a clap from Alain Prost.
With Da Costa in fifth, those ahead will have to watch their battery temp carefully, with Team Aguri feeling confident this is one area they will have the wood on the opposition.