Maximilian Günther will start the tenth round of the 2022/23 ABB FIA Formula E World Championship from pole position for the first time, having defeated Jake Dennis in the Final of the duels at the Jakarta E-Prix. Elsewhere, it was a disappointing session for championship leader Nick Cassidy, who could only claim a fifth row start. With three of the top five in the championship starting in the top four, Cassidy will need a miracle to ensure his advantage doesn’t take a huge hit.
The start of qualifying as always saw Group A kick-off proceedings, with all the drivers in an odd position in the Drivers’ Championship having gone first. Hoping to make it into the top four from the opening group was championship leader Cassidy, Dennis, Jean-Éric Vergne, Sam Bird, Jake Hughes, Stoffel Vandoorne, Sacha Fenestraz, Dan Ticktum, Sérgio Sette Câmara, Robin Frijns and debutant Roberto Merhi.
Based on the opening two free practice sessions, Dennis was arguably the favourite to make the duels, something he illustrated by almost topping the group following the initial push laps. Reigning World Champion Vandoorne set the time to beat after the initial laps, with the top-four having been occupied by the Belgian, Dennis, Cassidy and Fenestraz ahead of the final push laps.
As the twelve drivers started their final push lap, it was clear that the track was continuing to evolve. Improvements were being made across the board, with Dennis having stormed to the top of the group, ahead of the DS Penske duo of Vandoorne and Vergne. It was frustration though, for the championship leader, as Cassidy was dumped out of the top four by Robin Frijns, who was by far the star of the group. It means Cassidy will start the tenth round from the fifth row of the grid, giving him plenty of work to do.
Into the duels: Dennis, Vandoorne, Vergne and Frijns.
With Cassidy having failed to progress to the duels, Pascal Wehrlein and Mitch Evans had a huge opportunity in Group B to capitalise on his woes. Joining the duo in the second group session were António Félix da Costa, Sébastian Buemi, René Rast, Günther, Lucas di Grassi, Norman Nato, Edoardo Mortara, Nico Müller and rookie David Beckmann.
Having topped Free Practice 1 and 2, Günther was the clear favourite to progress into the duels from Group B, with him having been many people’s favourite for pole position in general. To somewhat no surprise, it was the German who topped the group following the first couple of push laps, with Günther having set the benchmark in Group B ahead of Wehrlein, Evans and Da Costa.
As seen in Group A, further improvements were expected to be made on each drivers final lap, given that the circuit was continuing to evolve lap-by-lap. This was proven by Rast, who surprisingly jumped into the top four on his final lap. Mortara also promoted himself into the top places on his final lap, eliminating Evans from qualifying. The Kiwi suffered the same fate as team-mate Bird and failed to progress into the duels, with Evans set to start from the sixth row.
Into the duels: Günther, Wehrlein, Rast and Mortara.
The first of four Quarter-Finals saw an all-DS Penske affair, as Vandoorne went against Vergne. Through the first half of the lap and it was the reigning World Champion who narrowly had the edge; however, Vergne pulled back his deficit to defeat Vandoorne by 0.078s, to progress to the Semi-Finals.
Up next was Frijns against Dennis, with the ABT CUPRA Formula E Team driver having very much been the underdog. Dennis led by just over a tenth of a second halfway round the lap, with the championship contender having ultimately gone nearly five tenths quicker than the Dutch driver by the time they both completed their lap.
Quarter-Final three was an all-German affair, as Rast went against former championship leader Wehrlein. Wehrlein was clearly a man on a mission, with him having gone three tenths quicker than Rast through the first half of the lap. Wehrlein ultimately progressed into the Semi-Finals with ease, having gone five tenths quicker than Rast.
The final Quarter-Final saw an all-Maserati affair, with Mortara having gone up against team-mate Günther. Günther was electric through the first half of the lap and held a comfortable advantage, which he held for the remainder of the lap to advance to the Semi-Finals by three tenths. Günther’s 1:08.402 was also the quickest of the Quarter-Final stage.
Aiming for a place in the Final in the opening Semi-Final was Vergne and Dennis, with the two title contenders both targeting a front row start. It was Dennis though, who went three tenths quicker than Vergne through the first half of the lap, with the Briton having looked exceptional. Come the end of the lap and Dennis had found yet more time over Vergne, to progress to the Final by almost four tenths of a second.
The second Semi-Final was another all-German affair, as Wehrlein went up against Günther, in a bid to meet Dennis in the Final. It was Günther once again who set the timing sheets alight in the first half of the lap, with him having gone over a tenth quicker than his German counterpart. He ultimately progressed to the Final with ease, having gone nearly four tenths quicker than Wehrlein.
So, it was Günther against Dennis for pole position, with the Maserati MSG Racing driver arguably being the favourite having been the fastest driver in every session and every part of qualifying so far in the Indonesian capital. Both drivers were searching for their first pole position of the season, whilst Günther was also hunting for his first Formula E pole in general.
Somewhat unsurprisingly given how fast he’s been in Jakarta, Günther boasted an advantage of nearly four tenths halfway round the lap, with him having held that advantage with ease to claim his first ever Formula E pole position. He did so in some fashion, by setting the fastest lap of the weekend so far. Günther claimed pole after setting a sensational 1:08.1, which also saw him receive three championship points.
Defeat for Dennis certainly isn’t the end of the world, given that he’ll be starting from second, the same position he started in back in Mexico City, where he cruised to victory. Dennis, Wehrlein, and Vergne all have a great chance to cut Cassidy’s lead in the championship in the race, with the Kiwi to start from tenth.
Cassidy has just three hours to figure out how he’s going to approach the tenth round of the season, to ensure his lead remains as intact as possible.