New season, same X44 for Sir Lewis Hamilton’s team as they finished top qualifiers yet again in Extreme E’s season two opener in Saudi Arabia.
Heavy rain overnight meant we would have to wait to witness Extreme E’s new qualifying format, which would have seen two five-car races. However, due to the track conditions, the organisers decided a return to the previous season’s format of individual team runs was required.
Jutta Kleinschmidt for ABT Cupra got the first competitive session of the season under way, putting in a strong lap time for her teammate and debutant Nasser Al-Attiyah to build upon.
His first lap in anger was going well too, until he missed the finish line. Rather than accepting a five-second time penalty, however, Al-Attiyah turned around and made sure he went through the finishing gate. It’s estimated this cost him thirty five seconds.
Chip Ganassi and Andretti United were the next teams to set a time. The Ganassi team initially went fastest, but were just beaten out by Andretti United. After their runs, both teams received a five second time penalty for various switch zone infringements.
Last year’s championship contenders, X44 and RXR hit the track with incredible speed and after their laps the teams went into second and first respectively.
JBXE followed RXR and they pushed hard. Perhaps too hard, as during Molly Taylor’s lap something broke on the car. She struggled to the end of the lap and finished one minute behind RXR’s benchmark time of 9:03.604.
Acciona Sainz and Xite Energy were next onto the track, with both teams completing their runs within twenty seconds of the leader.
Veloce became the penultimate team to try and set a time in Qualifying 1. Lance Woolridge was very quick around his lap and handed over to Christine GZ just marginally down on RXR’s time. GZ flew round the track but pushed just a little too hard and rolled the car. Thankfully, GZ was able to limp away from the crash but the team would not finish their run.
Newcomers McLaren finished off the qualifying session as Emma Gilmour took to the wheel. A steady run from both her and Tanner saw them finish in a respectable seventh position.
RXR were fastest in Qualifying 1, gaining ten intermediate points, with X44 just behind in second and Andretti United in third.
Qualifying 1 Classification:
- RXR 9:03.604 10 Points
- X44 +6.911 9 Points
- Andretti United +11.091 8 Points
- Chip Ganassi +12.238 7 Points
- Xite Energy +13.799 6 Points
- Acciona Sainz +17.751 5 Points
- McLaren +23.375 4 Points
- ABT Cupra +46.781 3 Points
- JBXE +1:00.763 2 Points
- Veloce +1 Lap 1 Point
Qualifying 2 saw Extreme E revert back to the intended qualifying format this season. The teams were divided into two heats (teams in even positions after Qualifying 1 in Heat 1, odd positions in Heat 2).
In Heat 1, X44, Chip Ganassi, Acciona Sainz, ABT Cupra, and Veloce were all due to race against each other for more intermediate points. Veloce, however, were not able to take part as they were not able to repair the car following GZ’s Qualifying 1 accident.
As the lights went green X44 got a good start and took the lead. After the first few markers they lined up X44, Acciona Sainz, ABT Cupra, and Chip Ganassi.
Towards the end of the first lap, ABT Cupra’s Nasser Al-Attiyah was chasing down Acciona Sainz’s Carlos Sainz. Al-Attiyah used all his experience to throw the car up Sainz’s inside but crucially missed a waypoint marker. In trying to get back on line, he cut across Sainz and both teams suffered damage. Sainz dropped to the back and ultimately wouldn’t leave the switch zone. ABT Cupra lost power steering.
Heat 1 in Qualifying 2 ended with X44 winning the race comfortably, ahead of Chip Ganassi and ABT Cupra, and took home ten more intermediate points.
Heat 1 Classification:
- X44 9:00.620 10 Points
- Chip Ganassi +19.580 8 Points
- ABT Cupra +3:13.972 6 Points
- Acciona Sainz +1 Lap 4 Points
- Veloce DNS 2 Points
Heat 2 saw the remaining five teams (RXR, Andretti United, Xite Energy, McLaren, and JBXE) all take to the track as they tried to get themselves into a semi-final.
Andretti United had the best start, propelling themselves into first position after the first few flags. Behind them, McLaren, RXR, Xite Energy, and JBXE followed in that order.
Tanner Foust in the McLaren was chasing Andretti United’s Timmy Hansen for much of the first lap, but was ultimately not able to overtake him before the switch. Further behind, RXR and Xite Energy jostled for third position.
Disaster struck for McLaren in the switch zone as a technical issue meant Emma Gilmour could not get the car started quickly. By the time she got moving, the Woking based team had dropped far to the back.
With Johan Kristofferson now behind the wheel, RXR hoped to claw back some time on the cars ahead. He managed to do just, providing us with a thrilling finish to pass Katie Munnings in the Andretti United just before the line. Sadly for the German team, they received a post-race seventeen-second time penalty for speeding in the switch zone, promoting Andretti United into first place.
Heat 2 Classification:
- Andretti United 9:10.693 10 Points
- Xite Energy +13.703 8 Points
- JBXE +15.371 6 Points
- RXR +16.079 4 Points
- McLaren +52.673 2 Points
With the intermediate points from Qualifying 1 and 2 added together and any tying teams separated by fastest Continental Traction Challenge time, X44 came out on top, leading Andretti United and Chip Ganassi.
The results of qualifying mean X44 will race against RXR and Xite Energy for two places in the final in Semi-Final 1, while Andretti United, Chip Ganassi, and ABT Cupra will do battle in Semi-Final 2. This leaves Acciona Sainz, JBXE, McLaren, and Veloce to fight for the fifth and final place in the final in the Crazy Race.
Overall Qualifying Classification:
- X44 19 Points
- Andretti United 18 Points
- Chip Ganassi 15 Points
- Xite Energy 14 Points
- RXR 14 Points
- ABT Cupra 9 Points
- Acciona Sainz 9 Points
- JNXE 8 Points
- McLaren 6 Points
- Veloce 3 Points
With the first qualifying day of the new season completed, attention turns to tomorrow, as we look to another exciting day of action.