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Formula E

Vandoorne takes emphatic pole position in Diriyah

Mercedes' Stoffel Vandoorne has set the pace in qualifying for the first race of the Diriyah E-Prix weekend, winning out against Andretti's Jake Dennis.

Stoffel Vandoorne has taken pole position, the sixth of his Formula E career, for the first of the Diriyah E-Prix races this weekend.

The Mercedes driver set a time of 1:08.626 to beat Andretti's Jake Dennis in the final head-to-head as Formula E used its new qualifying format for the first time.

Having made it through the group stages to get into the quarter- and semi-final shoot-outs, Vandoorne kept his head to set the pace in the final as Dennis made a small error in the second sector of the lap. Vandoorne's pole means he claims the three points in the championship for the achievement.

The duel stages, used to determine the remainder of the grid, meant the second row has been filled by the two losers of the semi-finals – their lap times used to decide on which order.

Reigning champion Nyck de Vries lines up in third place in the other Mercedes, ahead of Porsche's Andre Lotterer.

Formula E rookies Oliver Askew, Dan Ticktum and Antonio Giovinazzi line up towards the back, with Askew winning the rookie battle in 17th, Ticktum in 20th and Giovinazzi in 22nd and last as the former Alfa Romeo F1 driver finds his feet in the all-electric series.

Picking out the top four from each group

The first part of qualifying sent out two sets of 11 drivers, splitting the field evenly between the teammates.

Both groups were given 12 minutes each in order to set the best time they were capable of, with the drivers struggling to cope with the dusty track surface as the pressure of the session began to build.

The goal of the two sessions was to pick out the fastest four drivers from each group, with Robin Frijns setting the fastest time of Group A ahead of Sam Bird, Vandoorne and Oliver Rowland – the four progressing on into the next part of qualifying.

In Group B, de Vries set the pace for Mercedes ahead of Nick Cassidy, Dennis and Lotterer, but the session came to a premature end as Edoardo Mortara went off with an apparent error that brought out the yellow flags. He was uninjured in the crash that saw him go into the barriers nose-first.

With the top four from each group decided, it set up the quarter-finals with Frijns and Lotterer as the first duel – Frijns being the fastest driver from the Group A four and Lotterer being the slowest driver from the Group B four.

The quarter-final duels

With the power increasing to 250kW for the quarter-final showdowns, Lotterer set off on his lap first. Setting a 1:09.018, Frijns fell just under a tenth shy, meaning it was Lotterer who progressed on into the semi-finals.

It was Dennis and Bird for the second of the duels, with Dennis setting the pace to make it into the semi-finals.

Vandoorne and Cassidy faced off for the third of the quarter-finals, with Vandoorne clocking a 1:08.873. Cassidy was just 0.073 seconds slower and knocked out, having looked stronger throughout the first half of the lap.

The battle between Rowland and de Vries, the last quarter-final, was decided almost immediately as Rowland locked up into Turn 1 and lost almost half a second in the first sector.

De Vries did not put a foot wrong and made it into the semis, with both Mercedes drivers progressing and, interestingly, forced into the position of battling each other in the next round.

The semi-finals to decide the top two

The first of the two semi-finals pitted Lotterer against Dennis, with Dennis beating Lotterer around the Diriyah track by six-tenths of a second to make it through into the final and guarantee himself a place on the front row.

The second semi-final, pitting the two Mercedes drivers against each other, was a closer battle but de Vries was knocked out.

The reigning Formula E champion made an error in the second sector, with the rear getting very loose as he scrabbled for control.

The error cost him four-tenths in total, meaning it was Vandoorne who progressed into the head-to-head battle for pole position, where he took top spot from Dennis.

Diriyah E-Prix Qualifying 1 Results

Position Driver Team
1 Vandoorne Mercedes
2 Dennis Andretti
3 De Vries Mercedes
4 Lotterer Porsche
5 Bird Jaguar
6 Cassidy Envision Racing
7 Frijns Envision Racing
8 Rowland Mahindra
9 Di Grassi Venturi
10 Gunther Nissan e.Dams

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