Nissan and Rowland go quickest in FP1 in Diriyah

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Nissan and Rowland go quickest in FP1 in Diriyah

The Yorkshireman set a lap time of 1m15.400s during the session that was interrupted by a red flag.

JL209416-min

Nissan’s Oliver Rowland went quickest in the Diriyan desert, as the grid prepared to take on the double-header of races this weekend. Track evolution meant that the times kept tumbling, although the session was brought to a brief halt as the Envision Racing of Sebastien Buemi stopped on track. 

Jean-Eric Vergne for DS PENSKE finished the session in second 0.165s behind Rowland, with his teammate Stoffel Vandoorne popping it into third. Reigning World Champion Jake Dennis of Andretti ended the session in fourth with a surprise appearance for ERT’s Sergio Sette Camara in fifth. 

The first free practice session of the Diriyah weekend got underway at 18:00 local time, with floodlights brightening up the 2.49km circuit in the desert. Track evolution on this track is always very quick, with the dirt and dust soon clearing away after laps have been thrown down by the 22 drivers. 

The Envision Racing duo of Sebastien Buemi and Robin Frijns were the first to set lap times, but quickly the rest of the grid followed. Reigning World Champion Jake Dennis (Andretti) was the last to get a time in, but it didn’t impact his session as he finished in the top five. 

WATCH: Schedule for the 2024 Diriyah E-Prix double-header

Just over half way through the session, double yellow flags were waved as Buemi came to a stop on the circuit between Turns 3 and 4. The Season 2 champ came to an abrupt stop when a fault message appeared on his dashboard and demanded he stopped the Envision immediately. He made his way back to the garage, but his car was in a red condition which meant extra precautions had to be taken to remove it from the track. 

As a result of the delay, the session was extended by 12 minutes by the FIA to make sure the drivers got as many laps on the board as possible ahead of race day tomorrow. 

Once the session went green again, both Jaguar TCS Racing cars of Mitch Evans and Nick Cassidy went quickest, but track evolution continued and meant that if you topped the timesheets you didn’t stay there for long!  

Drivers stressed how sandy and low grip the circuit was, however just under a second separated the top ten. Last year’s Julius Baer Pole Position holder Jake Hughes was down in 19th after a big lockup led to him flatspotting his Hankook tyres, with Buemi, another poleman at this race last season, finished down in last after failing to get out again after his car’s problems.

Although Rowland went quickest, the end of his session involved an odd moment with the TAG Heuer Porsche of Antonio Felix da Costa as they rubbed up against eachother with seconds left on the clock.