Fenestraz fires to fastest ever Formula E lap for maiden pole in Cape Town

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Fenestraz fires to fastest ever Formula E lap for maiden pole in Cape Town

Nissan’s Sacha Fenestraz sealed his first Julius Baer Pole Position for the inaugural Cape Town E-Prix and set Formula E's fastest-ever lap in the process.

Fenestraz races to maiden pole in Cape Town E-Prix for Nissan

Nissan’s Sacha Fenestraz fired to his first Julius Baer Pole Position in Formula E ahead of the inaugural Cape Town E-Prix - beating the Maserati MSG Racing of Maximilian Guenther by over four tenths of-a-second to set a stunning time of 1m07.848s - the fastest lap of the day and with an average speed of 154.987km/h, the fastest lap in Formula E history.

CLASSIFICATION: The full qualifying results

Fenestraz had defeated Nick Cassidy (Envision Racing) and Hyderabad race winner Jean-Eric Vergne (DS PENSKE) on his way to pole position, and had topped Group A to find himself in the Final - a first Duels Final appearance for Nissan.

The action-packed qualifying session around a bumpy, ultra-quick and picturesque new circuit brought with it plenty of close calls, disappointment for all four Mahindra-powered cars as the quartet were withdrawn due to rear suspension safety concerns and a big shunt for Maserati’s Edoardo Mortara and Jaguar TCS Racing’s Sam Bird which brought out a red flag at the end of Group B. 

Looking fast all weekend, Fenestraz beat some tough competition on his way to becoming the second-youngest polesitter in the all-electric championship’s history at 23 years and 212 days old, pipped only by then-22-year-old Daniel Abt.

Final 

With neither Fenestraz or Guenther having ever secured Julius Baer Pole Position in their Formula E career, it was all to play for. Whatever the result, it would also be the eighth different driver on pole for the eighth consecutive race. 

However, in just his sixth Formula E event, it was Fenestraz who set the ultimate fastest lap time in Nissan’s first appearance in the final of the duels. As well as locking in the fastest time of the weekend, a 1m07.848s, the French-Argentine has also now collected the record for the fastest-ever Formula E lap with a speed of 154.987km/h - far, far higher than the previous 140km/h highest average speeds we'd seen back in the GEN2 era and Season 7 at Valencia. 

Fenestraz pole Cape Town

Although giving it his all, Guenther couldn’t match the pace of the Nissan driver and qualified second for the fifth time in Formula E. 

Semis

Fenestraz went up against the Envision's Cassidy for a place in the Final. Despite Cassidy being right on the limit and trying to catch the Nissan driver, it was Fenestraz who managed to secure himself a place on the front row of the grid and make it by the in-form New Zealander who would start third.

The next Semi-final battle was that of Guenther and and Jaguar TCS Racing's Mitch Evans. The Kiwi of Evans was ahead for most of his lap, but dropped back towards the end after making an error which saw him clip a wall as he raced right on the limit. That allowed Guenther to storm ahead and get the quickest time of the semi finals, a 1m08.212s and left Evans to settle for fourth on the grid.

Quarters

Current championship leader Pascal Wehrlein (TAG Heuer Porsche) couldn’t outdo Cassidy in their duel, as the first of the Quarters went to the recent Hyderabad runner-up. 

Next up, was the Nissan of Sacha Fenestraz who made it through into the semis against two-time Formula E champion, Jean-Eric Vergne. As well as topping Group A, Fenestraz was able to set a time of 1m08.467s despite wrestling his car throughout the lap and driving on the absolute limit.  

Sebastien Buemi in his Envision, who had made it through to every duel so far this season, crashed heavily in Free Practice 1 on Friday and managed to clip the walls of this Cape Town Street Circuit once again during his quarter final run. Although he could continue, the whack against the wall meant that Evans got the better time and made it through while Buemi wound up eighth.

"It felt like it clicked a bit in qualifying and I pushed a bit too much in the Duels and locked the wheels," said Buemi. "It was a shame as we were strong in the last sector up to the line but I’m still happy considering where we were overnight.

Screenshot 2024-06-17 at 16.09.24

"It’s an incredibly hard track that we don’t know. It’s very bumpy and it’s all about the confidence you can carry. You want to shortcut the learning process but you don’t want an accident."

Finally, Guenther went against fellow German Rene Rast (NEOM McLaren) for a spot in the Semis. Despite setting the slowest time from the winners in the Quarters, Guenther was able to get himself through to the next round and Rast would have to make do with seventh spot.

Group A

Fenestraz stormed to the top of the timesheets for the Group A, with the youngest driver on the Formula E grid setting a 1m08.994s. He also became the first driver from this Nissan team to lead a group qualifying since Sebastien Beumi at London in 2021. 

NEOM McLaren’s Jake Hughes, one of the best qualifiers on the grid, whacked his papaya machine into the wall but managed to avoid any significant damage. Despite picking up some of the advertising banner, he was able to get himself back to the pitlane and headed back out for the final moments of the Group A session. However, he could only manage eighth in Group A.

Cassidy, the man fastest in Free Practice 2 finished the Group session in second, with standings leader Wehrlein and Formula E’s most recent race winner, DS PENSKE's Vergne, both successfully through to the Duels. 

It might also be his birthday, but Nico Mueller didn’t get the gift he was hoping for as he spent all of the session out of his car and in the ABT CUPRA garage. As a result, he wasn’t able to set a lap time, in a problem that would later reveal itself as a rear suspension issue and would stop him starting the race, too.

In fact, all the Mahindra-powered cars, both Mahindra Racing and customer team ABT CUPRA were forced to sit out of qualifying, too. It was later revealed that due to an issue with the car’s rear suspension, that the four machines would be withdrawn from the event as a precaution. A disappointing reality for Kelvin van der Linde (ABT CUPRA) who will be forced to miss his home race. 

Group B

A red flag impacted the final results of Group B, as Maserati’s Edoardo Mortara made an impact with the wall at Turn 9. The high-speed shunt, which mirrored that of Sebastien Buemi’s Friday incident, brought an immediate end to the session and prevented any drivers from improving their time. Sam Bird of Jaguar TCS Racing then had an identical crash at the same location, with both drivers ok after their respective accidents. 

MORTARA_BIRD

Bird, who will serve a five-place grid penalty for causing a collision at the previous race, also made a small mistake at Turn 10 on an early lap, finding himself on a trip down an escape road. 

Rast set the fastest time of the Group B stage, until the red flag disrupted the running. The multiple DTM champion, who has also been slapped with a grid penalty - of three places this time - set a time of 1m08.844s. 

The other three drivers who joined Rast from Group B and went through to the duels, were Evans, who achieved his first GEN3 pole in Hyderabad, Buemi and Guenther.