Vergne on pole for Santiago ePrix in Chile

Jean-Eric Vergne, Techeetah
©, / @JeanEricVergne

Jean-Éric Vergne topped qualifying for the 2018 Antofagasta Minerals Santiago ePrix, and will start round 4 of the ABB Formula E all-electric championship from pole position.

The Techcheetah driver set a superpole time of 1:19.161s on the 12-turn, 1.53-mile Parque Forestal circuit. That put him 0.194s ahead of e.Dams' Sebastien Buemi who will start alongside him on the front row.

Buemi had to overcome the handicap of going out in the first qualifying group. He was half a second faster than anyone else in his cohort despite the dusty conditions. Even so, he ended up on the bubble for superpole as subsequent groups went faster.

There was frustration for António Félix da Costa in the Andretti, who could only manage 16th on the grid. Mitch Evans failed to set a fast time in the Jaguar when he locked up and took to the run-off.

In the second group, an on-the-limit lap from Sam Bird saw the DS Virgin leap to the top of the overall times with 1:19.076s. Even so, he was only half a tenth of a second faster than Vergne's effort. Earlier in the day, Bird had topped first practice while Vergne went fastest in FP2.

Current championship leader Felix Rosenqvist skimmed the wall during his lap in the Mahindra. He will start from 14th as a result. Venturi's Edoardo Mortara had a quick first sector but haemorrhaged time in the hairpin, and will start 17th.

Virgin's Alex Lynn flirted with disaster with his lap, but survived to set the fastest time of the third group ahead of NextEV NIO's Oliver Turvey. Nicolas Prost could only manage third fastest of the five cars, having crashed in dusty conditions at turn 9 during second practice. He will start the race from eighth.

José María López (Dragon) will start just behind him in ninth. Slowest in their group was Venturi's Maro Engel, who had earlier lost time in first practice with a heavy hit into the wall in turn 3. He will line up in 11th place for the race.

André Lotterer stole the show in the final group. He put Techeetah top with a lap of 1:18.796s, the best time of qualifying so far. Reigning Formula E champion Lucas di Grassi was a quarter of a second slower, but still second fastest overall. NextEV NIO's Luca Filippi failed to set a time, meaning that he joins Evans on the back row for the race.

The fast pace of the final group meant that Buemi's opening time proved enough by only a little over a tenth to put him through to the superpole. He was joined in the final shoot-out by Lotterer, di Grassi, Bird and Vergne.

Buemi was the first to go back out, setting an initial target time of 1:19.355s. That was immediately bettered by nearly two tenths by Vergne. However, Bird's bid to take pole ended up with the driver pushing too hard and lurching a backwards spin. The rear of the Virgin hit the tyre wall at turn 5, but escaped major damage.

The session was briefly red-flagged before the final two drivers were able to head out. Di Grassi nearly had a copycat accident to Bird's, but held it together to finish his lap albeit three tenths off Vergne. Lotterer had no such luck, crunching into the wall at the first corner. He limped around to complete the lap, ensuring he would be ahead of Bird on the grid.

Di Grassi's ten-place grid penalty for requiring a second inverter change on his Audi means he will start from 13th place. That leaves Lotterer and Bird picking up second row starts despite their superpole mishaps.

Jaguar's Nelson Piquet duly picks up fifth place on the grid, his best start of the season so far alongside Lynn in sixth. Turvey, Prost, Lopez and Audi's Daniel Abt will round out the top ten.

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