Oliver Rowland was in a class of his own as he took pole for the second race of the Diriyah E-Prix Formula E doubleheader, Nissan’s first since Cape Town last year.
Rowland topped his group in the first part of qualifying, before setting three consecutive fastest laps of the day in the head-to-head duels to lock in the top result. He first of all disposed of Maserati MSG’s Jehan Daruvala, who was appearing in the duels for the first time in his short Formula E career. The gap of 0.637s between the pair was the biggest gap of any of the duels.
Rowland then beat Jaguar TCS’s Nick Cassidy, before taking down Robin Frijns of Envision Racing in the final with a lap of 1m10.055s, 0.274s quicker than the Dutchman. The result was Rowland’s first pole of the season, with his previous best qualifying result in the first two rounds of the season being 14th.
Friijn’s quest to the final had him beat Friday polesitter Jean-Eric Vergne and his DS Penske teammate Stoffel Vandoorne.
As well as taking pole, Nissan also topped both group rounds at the start of the session. Sacha Fenestraz led Group A, ahead of Frijns, Vergne, and Vandoorne — who went on to knock out Fenestraz in the first round of the duels – with TAG Heuer Porsche’s Pascal Wehrlein, Jaguar’s Mitch Evans, Dan Ticktum (ERT0, Nyck de Vries (Mahindra), Norman Nato (Andretti), and Antonio Felix da Costa (Porsche) all failing to advance.
Group B was halted after a late crash for Sebastien Buemi. The Envision driver misjudged his braking into Turn 1 after receiving a radio communication on the approach. He locked his rear wheels and went straight on into the wall.
The red flag caught out NEOM McLaren’s Sam Bird, who was on course for a top-three result that would have got him into the duels. Instead, he finished down in seventh, one spot ahead of dominant Friday winner Jake Dennis who struggled after overnight setup changes, describing his Andretti Porsche as the “worst car” he’d ever driven in Formula E.
Cassidy finished Group B second to Rowland with Jake Hughes (McLaren) and Daruvala also advancing at the expense of Buemi, Sergio Sette Camara (ERT), and Nico Mueller (Abt Cupra), Edoardo Mortara (Mahindra) and Lucas di Grassi (Abt Cupra), the final trio finishing behind the aforementioned Bird and Dennis.
Cassidy will start third behind Rowland and Frijns, with Vandoorne alongside him in fourth. Daruvala will line up a career-best fifth, ahead of Hughes, Fenestraz, and Vergne, with Sette Camara and Wehrlein completing the top 10. Buemi was on course to start from 11th after his crash but the the car was judged beyond immediate repair and he will have to sit out the race, putting Maximilian Guenther 11th, Bird 12th, Evans 13th and Dennis 14th. Ticktum, Mueller, de Vries, Mortara, Nato, di Grassi, and da Costa complete the grid.