|This chart is not meant to be entirely accurate but gives a good overview of the key updates introduced by Red Bull this season|
23 Jul 2019
This early shift in focus also had to be managed arm-in-arm with a change in powerunit supply, as the team jumped into bed with McLaren outcast - Honda. It’s a relationship that had been allowed to brew behind the scenes with their junior outfit - Toro Rosso, the pair seemingly working well in their first season with Honda making a sizeable leap forward on both performance and reliability throughout.
This new relationship has flourished, in part, due to both parties embracing the challenge of working with one another and whilst Honda had shunned McLaren’s advances to assist them in the early phase of the project they’re working hand-in-hand with Red Bull with ideas, funding and personnel straddling both projects.
It’s this harmony between different departments that’s helped Mercedes to profit from their entire operation since the hybrid era got under way, as working groups within mesh ideas together that don’t necessarily work in isolation.
As pre-season got into full-swing it was apparent that Red Bull were still a few beats off of their rivals and that adjustments would have to be made in order that they be able to profit from not only their learning phase of the new aerodynamic regulations but also how they needed to position the aerodynamic platform and chassis in order to maximise performance from the Honda powerunit, given it’s now in a much grander position than it had been.
As such, Red Bull have been busy back at Milton Keynes developing an update pathway that would help to unlock the RB15’s latent potential, a potential that’s started to surface in the last few Grand Prix.
As we can see from the chart the season opener had the gap pegged at around 8 tenths during qualifying, a gap that reduced over the next few races to around 5 tenths, with Spain and France being the outliers - suited more heavily to the Mercedes package and their ability to extract performance from the tyres than their counterparts at Red Bull.
However, that gap has shrunk massively at the last two rounds, with the performance gap during the race also lessened significantly, putting them in a position to not only usurp Ferrari but also take the fight to Mercedes.
So, let’s take a look at their updates throughout that period to try and glean just where that leap has occurred.
The development glide path of every team in the opening few rounds is pretty much set in stone, unless of course the team arrives at the first test and realise they’ve made a massive error. At that point a decision has to be made about whether to halt production immediately or continue to plough on, in the hope that those updates may actually help with the issues at hand.
It’s the reason why we usually see an extensive update package arrive at round 5 of the championship, in Spain, as it’s a venue that the teams know inside out and already have data from pre-season testing in order to ascertain that the revamp is working as expected. The smaller alterations that you see in the chart are indicative of this, as are the sweeping changes made for Barcelona.
However, whilst substantial, the package taken to the Spanish GP didn’t ultimately bring swathes of performance, instead it looked to improve the cars balance and realign the L/D ratio of the car, inline with the gains made by Honda. Returning to the qualifying comparison chart it’s actually an outlier in a steady gap to the silver arrows and perhaps one created not only by a similarly powerful update introduced by Mercedes around that time, but also due to the fact that Red Bull and Honda had to relearn their approach to accommodate the changes.
Tyres also become a huge factor at this point in the season too, as whilst the team and sometimes more importantly the driver have learnt how to get the best from them over one lap and a stint, they must reset and respond to the changes that the aero has had on the behaviour of the car.
Monaco is always a relatively happy hunting ground for Monaco, the tight narrow street track playing to the chassis strengths of Red Bull and whilst they didn’t have what might be considered huge updates they did have some interesting ones.
The main one was a redesign of the nose, which would have required a new crash test, so not the making of a moment. The switch will have undoubtedly resulted in a slightly lighter structure too, as the design with a through-flow tip requires bulk in key areas in order to pass the crash test. This also raises aerodynamic question marks about the behaviour of the nose tip in relation to the surrounding airflow, especially its interaction with the front wings neutral section below.
The team also had a new floor, complete with these four vanes on top of the longitudinal floor slots, guiding the airflow as it moves away from the bargeboard area, around the sidepod undercut and through the floor slot. These vanes just pick up that airflow and prevent it from becoming a turbulent mess that doesn’t do as it’s being told.
Canada saw a couple more minor modifications, including the nose horns that flank their ‘S’ duct and a revision to the outer portion of the diffuser but it was in France that we saw the team make another bold leap forward, and just like the last time they did that it came with some pain too, as we saw them with their furthest outright pace difference to Mercedes. The updates changed key design parameters on the RB15, with alterations made at both the front and rear that improve aerodynamic, chassis and powerunit performance.
In this image from Nicolas Carpentiers of F1i.com we can see the different approach that the team have taken to the design of their front wheels and upright, which on the face of it might seem fairly innocuous, but is far from it, as they work as a unified system.
The regulation changes for 2019 prohibit the teams from using the open axle design they have used for years (see above, the mechanic is cooling the brakes and has inadvertently given us a display of the blown axle in action, albeit without the turbulent mess created by the wheel and tyre that it would then help to mitigate, as it follows this jet of air).
This ‘blown axle’ was a concept used extensively by Red Bull and enabled them to weaken the outwash requirements of the front wing and allow the designers to concentrate their efforts in other ways.
The through flow of airflow essentially lessened the turbulence created by the rotating wheel and tyre and acted in much the same way as the wheel rim covers that were en vogue circa 2007-09 and seen here in day-glo yellow on the BrawnGP BGP001.
Knowing how powerful such a design can be from an aerodynamic perspective they won’t give up on it and Red Bull already had design features in their pre-existing design, such as the band on the wheel rim which would guide airflow and the small holes in the axle which would emit some airflow to the outside. However, the new design is a much bolder concept and required an entirely new upright, brake assembly, brake duct, brake disc and wheel rim to achieve the required result.
It’s a design that actually comes straight from the ‘follow the leader’ playbook too, as whilst Mercedes never actively sought to use a blown axle during the previous era they’ve used a similar design on the W10 since the start of the season, meaning their front wing has to do a little less work in terms of creating outwash too.
Again, these changes made by Red Bull have coincided with changes to the front wing, as they look to harmoniously harness both aerodynamic structures. This has resulted in the use of a tapered endplate, that alters how it interacts with the outboard upper profiles of the flaps and subsequently generates outwash. Meanwhile, the Y250 region has not gone unchecked either, with alterations to the leading edge of the mainplane and changes to the shape of the flap tips.
But, perhaps most interestingly Red Bull made several changes at the rear of the car too, some of which have circuit specificity in mind, such as the use of a T-Wing and an extra vertical slot on the leading edge of the rear wings transition, whilst others, such as the repositioning of the wastegate pipework has wide sweeping ramifications. These pipes had previously been mounted quite low on the RB15 (above) with any evacuating flow likely having a bearing on the cooling outlet they emerged from.
However, the new position is the highest and widest positioning we’ve seen from any team so far and begs the question - "When the wastegate is open are they throwing gas at the rear wing?" It’s a question and solution that’s been posed and trialled by many teams in the past, but given their experience with blowing techniques and their past experience of navigating an engine manufacturer toward such gains (as they did with Renault), it would be of no surprise to me that they’re leveraging some aerodynamic gains from the transitional period when the wastegate is open and the turbo is being driven by the MGU-H instead.
The performancee gap in France didn't make me think much of it at the time, but the Austrian GP really made me sit up and take notice, in fact, in a weekly discussion I have with a friend about Formula One my ‘hot take’ was their performance leap between France and Austria didn’t quite add up. Even taking into account the struggles that others encountered with the combination of heat and altitude at the Red Bull Ring and raised some questions about not only Red Bull’s improved performance but also how much Mercedes and Ferrari have been hurt by the supposed 7 technical directives that were issued ahead of the French GP.
Directives aside it’s clear to me that this is not a one-off and whilst their performance relative to Mercedes will clearly yo-yo over the course of the next few races, they seem to have found the necessary performance that’s pulled them well into the battle with Ferrari, if not beyond. As such, I look forward to the German GP and hope they have found what they need and can once again find themselves in the mix.
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16 Jul 2019
- Tuesday, July 16, 2019
- 0 comments
Just a few races ago there were complaints from fans and media alike that Formula One was broken, despairing at a single race due to a lack of activity. However, the two races that have followed have been barnstormers and it would appear that the modern short attention span and knee jerk reactionary crowd have been silenced, well, at least for the time being.
The important question here though, is Formula One broken? And my overwhelming response is no, nor is it in drastic need of a rethink, which is where we’re heading in 2021. So, in this article I’m going to propose some other, more metered solutions to the issues we currently face.
First off I have no doubt that FOM’s working group, headed by Ross Brawn and tasked with improving racing is doing some exemplary work. Afterall it’s been suggested that where a driver currently loses around 50% of their downforce when trailing in the wake of another car they have reduced this to approximately 10% and increased the trailing distance it’s achieved within.
Based on some of the recent racing activity I do have reservations regarding the entire prospect of the overhaul though, as whilst it sounds great to have cars that can follow one another so closely the DNA of the sport is likely in danger owing to the changes too. The mooted changes take F1 perilously towards a spec series, with not only areas of the car heavily restricted, but certain ‘none performance enhancing’ components becoming a unified design element. Now whilst casual viewers of the sport can’t identify components from one team to another I not only make a living from doing so but find it intriguing as to how ten separate teams can come up with components that although share characteristics are not identical.
Engineering is the lifeblood of this sport, as whilst people tune in to watch the race on a Sunday afternoon and cheer on their favourite gladiator it’s often decisions and manufacturing made away from the track that ultimately decide the running order. Mercedes are a prime example of this, a team that is so unified over its various engineering disciplines that it has triumphed for 5 seasons in a row and is all but an implosion going to do so again for another. FOM’s decision to dilute this from 2021 onwards, for me at least, is a turn off and frankly may be seen as one by some of those that actually compete at this highest of levels.
Afterall, the likes of Mercedes, Ferrari, Renault and McLaren to a lesser extent use Formula One as a moving advertising billboard that shows the entire world how great their engineering excellence is and why you should be buying one of their cars, rather than a rivals. Lessening the engineering aspect of the sport could be a turn off and certainly one less reason to put their own funding into the project.
As you can tell I’m not convinced what’s being proposed will fix Formula One’s ills, as I thoroughly expect Mercedes to do another 2014 and throw an enormous amount of money at the new rules before the proposed budget cap comes into play, thus giving them a buffer to the other teams in the opening phase and allowing them to pull clear as the others hunt around for the performance that’s locked into the then W12.
Talking of budget caps I firmly believe that if such a device is going to work and reduce the gap to the midfield that the mooted sums must be far less than is on the table at the moment. At 175m with concessions for driver wages, advertising and costs associated with engines it's still far too much and well out of reach of many of the smaller teams. To be decisive that figure needs to be closer to 125m, with some hefty scrutiny placed on the expenditure associated with the concessions too, as it’s far too easy to have some flexible accounting to enable costs to grow.
This would be my first gambit, rather than introduce an all-new car that will require a floor up redesign for everyone and an opportunity for some to get it right and others to get it extremely wrong. We don’t want or need a topsy turvy shuffle, we need things to plateau to a point where everyone is racing in close proximity.
Talking of close proximity, let’s talk Max Verstappen and Charles LeClerc… the racing between those two has been pretty tasty in recent races, up there with the sort of midfield battling we’ve gotten used to in the last decade or so. So, what’s wrong with the current aero regulations if lap after lap we get that kind of action? Of course there is still work to be done in order to improve what we have, with some of the current freedoms taken away in order to make the cars less predictable but to say that it’s broken is laughable. Have you ever gone back and watched what many consider to be F1’s glory years? Trust me there aren’t any, there are snippets, small moments that define those years but not wheel-to-wheel racing action week in, week out.
So, the Somers Formula (or tweaks) would be as follows and would hopefully make for a much more exciting racing (note I talk about racing, racing ie, wheel-to-wheel action is not necessarily about overtaking!)
Ditch powered steering or reduce its effectiveness dramatically - for those that want to see the drivers work harder this is a must, as it means they have to put more effort into rotating the car
Reduce areas of critical downforce development - Since the giant downforce leap forward in 2017 certain areas of the car have become critical to producing downforce, with the bargeboards and edge of the floor areas within the regulations that require some tidying up.
The development of these structures have been identified as the designers as the low-hanging fruit, easy to cherry pick as there is freedom in what can be done. The easiest way to reduce their effectiveness is to reduce the box area in which the bargeboards can exist, lower the lip on the leading edge of the floor, making it more difficult to force air underneath and reduce the area on the outer portion of the floor that can be used to create fully enclosed within - a hangup from the way the regulations were transferred from 16>17.
These are changes that will make the car a little more squirrelly, at least until the teams identify ways to recover the lost downforce, at which point you make some further detail changes, perhaps to the size of the diffuser or height of the rear wing in order that their interaction is metered.
The length of the car is also problematic to me, as it’s not only aesthetically woeful - as the length/width ratio is messed up, making the car look less aggressive, it’s also making the cars more aerodynamically stable. One major bug-bear I have with the regulation change in 2017 was the swept front wing, as this increased the nose box by 350mm a dimension that subsequently crept up by a further 25mm, making the cars longer by default. I’m not sure that it actually improves the look of the cars either and whilst it improves safety in the process it also increases weight in front of the axle meaning that has to be compensated for at the rear.
Formula One teams has for years been pushing the envelope to save weight here and sought ever more complex structures to do so, so of course I expect that the more well funded teams have been able to overcome this obstacle in ways that the smaller teams have not, especially as there has been a shift toward more complex nose structures that assist from an aerodynamic perspective.
The black art of tyres is one that requires innumerable articles but it’s quite clear to me that the switch to three compound choices has been a disaster for Pirelli, as it makes life easier for the quicker teams when it comes to one-stop races, especially as the hard tyre is even more performance oriented this year. I’d propose a switch back to the two compound scenario with a larger gap in performance between the two compounds available at each race, that way it forces their hand - really struggle on pace to make a one stop work or go flat out for a multi stop strategy.
The lack of variance in race strategy is also driven by other factors, the most obvious being fuel load, as whilst the regulations have seen the maximum fuel load increased to 110kg to account for the increase in drag it’s still not enough to create divisional thinking and allow the drivers to push throughout the race*. Jean Todt has recently proffered a return to refueling in 2021, worth a cursory glance in its own right but not one that will likely lead to a great deal of strategy variance in my opinion. Instead I’d take away the maximum fuel load criteria and allow the teams to choose how they go racing.
Whilst this potentially means heavier cars at the start of a race it also means they’ll be forced into more tyre stops and we’d have a variance up and down the grid as each team choose a way to go racing that suits their car/direction, much like we had in the V8 era.
I’d also make some changes to the fuel flow restrictions and ERS model too whilst I’m at it, giving the drivers more tools when they require and forcing them to recover more energy at less critical phases in the race. Still at 100kg/h, I’d suggest upping the fuel flow limit in order that the engine can make more peak power, whilst the MGUK is surely at a stage that allows us to push beyond the current 120kw (approx 160bhp) to something a little more potent for when battle ensues.
I’ve also made my feelings about DRS heard in the past but in short the current format for me is somewhat contrived. I want both drivers, both the lead and chasing driver, to have tools at their disposal to fight and my suggestion would be to have a set number of uses per race, deploy them how you see fit but once they’re gone, they’re gone.
Anyway I’ve banged on enough, for me I’m struggling to see the rationale for full blown change other than Liberty stamping their mark on the sport, for me it’s just easier to fix what we have, rather than the risk of another runaway Red Bull or Mercedes. I think this is where the teams are at too and why it’s taking so long to sign off on what appears to be a diluted version of FOM’s original vision.
*In fact the teams will always slightly under fuel the car for a given circuit and do some management throughout a race as fuel is just extra weight that must be carried, which results in a time loss.
15 Jul 2019
- Monday, July 15, 2019
- 0 comments
Ambient 32C Track 38C Humidity 47% Wind 8 kph
The duel: di Grassi, Vergne, P11 and P12 in a fight for the championship while Techeetah led Audi by 24 points with Lotterer starting P20 and Abt P6. Could be tight, especially if there is the same kind of carnage as Round 12 saw.
Buemi nabbed P2 off the line thanks to starting on the clean side of the grid with Vandoorne into P5. Lopez spun into T6 and getting back in tagged Lotterer who was trying to get by. Great start by Lotterer who was up to P14 before the damage from Lopez, then dropped to P16 after. Vergne was all over the back of di Grassi so close that and into the hairpin he was forced to swing wide to avoid tagging the back of the Audi.
The following lap both Vandoorne and Frijns chose to engage attack mode and the gaps at the front were well under a second. Frijns had a serious go Buemi but Sebastian was able to successfully defend as Lotterer was into the pits and then a Safety Car was called for Lopez who had stopped at T7.
On replay Lopez was first tipped by Lotterer and then Lopez drove into Lotterer trying to regain the track. Broken left rear suspension for Lopez, and lotterer was out, but a lap down. It was clear the drivers had learned nothing from the previous days shenanigans.
Still under the Safety Car, Lynn, who had served his drive through penalty was back out and attached to the back of the pack, a nice break for one who was so cruelly served by the race gods. Restart on lap 5 and Sims was really off before Buemi could react. Sims nabbed attack mode on his way through T5 and was nearly a full second up on Buemi.
Vandoorne, meanwhile, had managed to snatch a spot from Sam Bird and was up to P4 and he, too had grabbed a handful of attack mode. bird responded the following lap be going for his second attack mode, which was needed as he was now under serious threat from Oliver Rowland behind.
Frijns then sold Buemi a dummy into T1 and slid through huge clouds of dust offline at the start of lap 8, somehow getting his Envision Virgin stopped and led the way through the first complex, P2 secured and off in search of Sims in the lead.
Bird, feeling frisky as well, chucked one up the inside of Vandoorne and relieved the HWA driver of P5, setting his sights on Buemi ahead as the team had clearly got something figured out overnight.
The championship battle, by contrast, consisted primarily of Vergne and di Grassi staying quite chilly through the opening stages of the race, with di Grassi just using his first attack mode to get round Paffett for P9. Vergne followed suit and it was status quo in that fight. At the front, though, Oliver Rowland felt no such compunctions and put a ruthless move on Vandoorne, taking P5 away from him.
Another fight was raging as well, as Evans was trying to get by Abt, who shut the door hard and then a lap later, snuck up the inside and put Vandoorne another spot down. Determined to stop the bleeding, he put a robust block on Evans, who tried his best to get round but was forced to concede to the unyielding logic of an approaching wall.
22 minutes to go and 15 laps in the books and Frijns was finally cutting seriously into Sims'lead. Into T1 they went and again Frijns went to the beach, chucking up clouds of sand as Sims tried too late to shut the door. Off he went in search of ultimate glory and he was rapidly a second ahead of the BMW Andretti driver. This left Bird tracking down Buemi, looking for a double podium to salvage a little pride for the Envision Virgin team which had started strong but had been plagued by ill luck and the odd rash decision.
The Lopez and Lotterer tango was officially announced as being investigated, but given they were both out of the race, not much in it. Evans was on a tear in the meantime, and with just under 14 minutes to go he took P6 away from Oliver Rowland, which put his 2nd place in the championship officially into jeapordy as just 3 points had separated di Grassi and Evans at the start of the race.
Responding, di Grassi used his fanboost to steal aplace from Vandoorne. Carrying on, he then did the same to Rowland, minus the fanboost and it was P7 for the Brasilian, with Vergne still in P10 and less than 10 minutes left to go. Realising that time was short, Vergne activated his attack mode and was off to have a go at Vandoorne. Buemi had a go at Sims and that caused him to get very out of shape, opening the door for Bird who pounced. Buemi was able to wrestle the car back from the brink and was able to defend, but the team were well pleased with the way things were going.
7 minutes to go, 28 laps in the books and Bird was told that Buemi was getting agitated on the radio while further back, Vergne had made his way past Bnadoorne and was in the process of lining up Rowland. Yellow flag for Gunther T6 was about to monkey wrench the field but he was able to clear the way before they got back round.
Evans on Abt was the fight on track with Abt defending ably but Evans not about to give him any quarter. Under 4 minutes to go and Massa had a lunge up the inside of the hairpin, on Turvey, resulting in the inevitable contact, of the non-race ending variety.
1 minute to go and Frijns began to ratchet it down in hopes of running one less lap. Vergne had decided to hold station behind Rowland, sensibly and as the clock ran to 0:00 the next lap was to be the last of the season. Frijns 4 seconds up the road easily sailed through the final lap and crossed the line while OOOOH, not to be outdone for spectacular sendoffs, di Grassi, trying to go up the inside of Evans, wound up locking wheels instead and the pair of them roasted the hoardings all the way down to the runoff for T11. di Grassi got the worst of it, with Evans able to cross the line in 14th while Lucas was stranded in the runoff, sealing the championship for both Vergne and Techeetah.
For Vergne it was back-to-back championships, and for Techeetah it was a redemption after last years bitter loss in the teams championship. On replay, the action between Evans and di Grassi looked clearer, with di Grassi, after tagging Evans on the way into the the hairpin, tried to sell a dummy on the outside with Evans already heading that direction. Evans cut back to the inside, but di Grassi had already cut back and was already there, and they touched wheels and it was all over.
Evans was dinged with a 10 second stop and go which was converted to a time penalty and he was dropped to P17, that being the end of that. But he paid a higher price in the championship, as with the win Frijns elevated himself to 4th overall by a single point, a result he'll likely not soon forget.
The other participant in that kefuffle, di Grassi also managed to cost himself a place in the championship, thought that would've been a done deal regardless as he would've needed to get by not only Evans, but Abt and Bird, highly unlikely on the final lap....
Quick shout to Gary Paffett finishing in the points after a season of remarkably bad luck and to Alexander Sims as well, his first podium in Formula E and well deserved after a strong season.
Perhaps the biggest winners on the day, though, were Envision Virgin whose haul of points, 37, in the final round was enough to move them past Nissan e.Dams and up into 3rd overall in the teams championship. Never dull, apparently, this little race in New York and with Porsche and Mercedes joining the championship next season, there will definitely be some fun to be had with the driver market over the summer but it's worth remembering that new teams, regardless of how well prepared they are, tend to take a season or so to really get their feet under them.
Editors notes - Lastly, a big thanks to Matt for providing his insight and coverage for the site this weekend
- Monday, July 15, 2019
- 0 comments
Ambient 32C Track 42C Humidity 54% Wind 4 kph
Group 1 - Vergne, di Grassi, Evans, Buemi, da Costa
da Costa led the way followed by Vergne, di Grassi, Buemi and Evans last. After the outlaps it was Buemi, once again fastest, but for the moment just in the least favorite of qualifying groups according to the drivers. Evans was next closest, taking advantage of his last place position to finish within 0.06 seconds of Sebastian. di Grassi outpointed Vergne by a mere 0.023 seconds but he was mre than a quarter second back of Evans so another midfield start was looking likely for the pair and da Costa, apparently less concerned about start position after yesterdays race, finished at the bottom thanks to his role as cleaning the track. Interestingly, on the way in, Vergne kept swerving well offline, kicking up huge clouds of dust, though whether that was to annoy di Grassi, spoil the line for Group 2 or just to test the surface before the race was impossible to say...
Group 2 - Lotterer, Abt, Frijns, Bird, d'Ambrosio
Lotterer and Abt were out first to do a warm up lap, but by time they got round to the business end of their circuit they were both on the edge of making the start line before the checquers fell. Lotterer nailed the line by just 3 seconds and it was Bird, then Frijns then Lotterer all taking the fastest first sector. Neatly arranged first Bird then Frijns then finally Abt took P1 and it was a disaster for Lotterer, who finished dead last, losing huge chunks of time in the second and third sector, a 1:10:699 vs a 1:09:902 for Abt at the top of the sheets after the completion of the first two groups.
Group 3 - Rowland, Wehrlein, Mortara, Massa, Sims, Vandoorne
Rowland was the leader in group three, tracked closely by Sims who looked as if he wanted to get past and there was almost a coming together down the starting straight as Rowland swung back toward the wall as Sims was trying to go round the outside....
Mortara was first up on his hotlap and the car was decidedly sketchy under braking, the rear looking to go first left, then right at the first hard braking zone. Behind, Sims was going quicker than anyone with Vandoorne there or thereabouts. Massa, off to a wretched start was well off the pace even before a mistake into T6 ended his efforts, leaving him parked sideways in the runoff area.
Sims completed his run and went to the top and Vandoorne, confirming his form in the first sector, finished P2. This dropped both di Grassi and Evans out of superpole and left Buemi sitting on the bubble, with the very speedy Alex Lynn coming up in the last group.
Group 4 - Gunther, Lynn, Paffett, Turvey, Lopez, Dillman
Massive controversy as Gary Paffett, on a fast lap clearly capable of ousting Buemi from superpole, was balked by a loitering Dillman, clearly unaware that the fast moving HWA was heading straight toward his rear wheels. Easily costing him half a second just from having to slow to avoid a collision that sealed the fate for the Buemi, confirming him in superpole as Lynn, the other driver considered capable of mounting a superpole drive, had a mistake in his first sector that put him out of contention. Even at that, Paffett was quickest of the session, going P9 overall, with Lopez behind then Dillman, Gunther and Lynn, already tagged with a 20 spot penalty for his change of motor after yesterday's failure....
Superpole - Buemi, Bird, Frijns, Abt, Vandoorne, Sims
Buemi was first off the line, good first sector, as he without a prep lap times tend toward the slower. Neat around the hairpin, carrying good momentum through T11 and across the line with a 1:09:729 a high bar to clear for the remaining competitors.
Bird was next to go, slightly up after the first sector and then a huge lockup into T9 and again into T10, losing a quarter second and even with a fastest final sector he was unable to undo the damage, going P2 a tenth slower than Beumi as his teammate was getting ready to take his turn.
A bit slower through the first sector, Frijns was much neater through T9, still trailing by a tenth. A clean exit from T11 saw him able to carry momentum to the end, despite swiping the wall on the way into T13 and he was just able to clear Buemi, by 0.017 seconds, ending the championship possibilities for the Nissan e.Dams driver as without the points for pole position he was mathematically eliminated from winning.
Abt was next up, and having lost a quarter second through the first two sectors, he lost another tenth and half through the final sector, slotting P4 behind Bird. On replay, you could see he clouted a kerb that unsettled the rear and that cost him dearly.
Vandoorne, who was quite rapid in his group qualifying, continued the trend going up by 0.001 seconds. It began to slip away in the second sector, going down by a quarter second and he was third fastest in the final sector, leaving him P4 with just Sims to go.
Sims was clearly in a big mood, practically drifting it round T14 as he crossed the line and banged it down over the start line to begin his hot lap. Up a tenth through sector 1 he was down to half a tenth margin with the third sector looming large. The BMW Andretti driver gave it everything he had, and as he crossed the line he was a decisive, if not very large, 0.095 seconds up on Frijns taking pole position and moving Buemi down to P3, not as much of a disadvantage given how dirty the offline grid slots were.....
Further down, di Grassi and Vergne, locked in their own private duel, would be starting side by side, P11 and P12 respectively and Abt's performance also put a great deal of pressure on Techeetah, with Lotterer starting P20 versus Abt in P6 and just 24 points in between them...