Oliver Rowland was fastest in opening practice for the Diriyah E-Prix in Saudi Arabia as track evolution and a red flag brought about a flurry of table-topping times late in the session.
Nearby construction work around the street circuit in Diriyah outside capital city Riyadh left the racing surface with a coating of dust, meaning track evolution was crucial. TAG Heuer Porsche’s Pascal Wehrlein was first to cross the line after the checkered flag, when track conditions were at their peak, setting a 1m16.164s.
He was usurped by Mitch Evans moments later, who lowered the benchmark by 0.098s. The Jaguar TCS Racing driver’s time at the top was equally as short-lived, with Sergio Sette Camara 1m15.867s and Nissan driver Rowland following, with his time of 1m15.400s locking in first place after everyone had crossed the finish line. DS Penske’s Jean-Eric Vergne and Stoffel Vandoorne and Andretti Global’s Jake Dennis followed, taking positions second through fourth.
Maserati MSG’s Maximillian Guenther crossed the line after Rowland, but could only manage ninth overall, behind Wehrlein, despite setting the session-best final sector.
Envision Racing’s Robin Frijns completed the top 10 ahead of Nick Cassidy, Eduardo Mortara, Norman Nato, and Sacha Fenestraz.
Sam Bird was 15th, the first drivers outside the 1m16s. He was ahead of Nico Mueller, Dan Ticktum, Lucas Di Grassi, Jake Hughes — who secured his first Formula E pole position in Saudi Arabia a year ago — Jehan Daruvala, and Nyck de Vries.
The surge in fastest times came after the session was extended by 10 minutes following a red flag period brought about by Envision Racing’s Sebastien Buemi, who gound to a halt with 14 minutues to go due to a battery issue. After his stoppage, Buemi was classified 22nd and last.