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Max Gunther Dominates Qualifying to Take Pole Position at Jakarta

Written by Vyas Ponnuri

Max Gunther took pole position for Maserati MSG Racing for round 10 of the season at Jakarta, in a show of dominance across the weekend. The German, who had a best start of second coming into the weekend, went one better to take his maiden Formula E pole position.

Credit - FIA Formula E

This certainly comes as a boost to Gunther’s season, the German having scored all of 25 points before the Formula E caravan reached Jakarta. His best result came at his home race at Berlin, when a last-gasp pass on Sebastian Buemi fetched him a podium finish.

And Gunther certainly looked the driver to beat, come qualifying. Having topped both Free Practice sessions, he came into qualifying high on confidence, and had settled into a good rhythm over the course of the weekend.

Qualifying Groups

Qualifying certainly caused some big shocks. With only eight drivers making it through from a field of 24, it would be certain for one of the big teams to exit qualifying. And this time it would be championship leaders Envision Racing being the ones to make way, neither driver making it through to the duels stage.

Nick Cassidy, the winner last time out at Monaco, missed out on making the duels stage by a mere 0.002 of a second. He was knocked out by Robin Frijns, who put in a sensational lap at the death to make it through by a whisker.

His teammate Sebastian Buemi too failed to make it through to the duels stage later in the session, which consigned both drivers to the lower reaches of the grid. However, Cassidy won at Monaco from ninth on the grid, and shouldn’t be ruled out in the race for victory. Cassidy has shown remarkable pace coming through the field, and can be expected to do the same in today’s race.

Elsewhere, neither Jaguar made it through either, with Mitch Evans missing out on the duels stage by six hundredths of a second, sixth in group B. Sam Bird too had a tough session, qualifying only eighth.

The debutants for this race weekend, David Beckmann and Roberto Merhi got their eye in during qualifying. Merhi will start last on the grid, alongside his teammate Lucas Di Grassi, while Beckmann will start on the penultimate row of the grid.

The DS Penske drivers Jean-Eric Vergne and Stoffel Vandoorne made it through to the duels stage from Group A, along with Jake Dennis and Frijns. From Group B, both Maserati drivers Gunther and Edoardo Mortara made it through, the latter doing enough to get through despite minimal running during the day. Pascal Wehrlein showed the pace of the Porsche powertrain, making it through too, along with McLaren driver Rene Rast.

The duels stage - One driver in red hot form

Vandoorne and Vergne kicked off the duels stage in qualifying with an exciting battle, the experienced pair never separated by more than seven hundredths during the entire lap. Vergne got the better of his teammate though, making it into the semi finals.

Frijns’ qualifying session came to an end in the second duel of the session, as he proved to be no match for Jake Dennis in the Avalanche Andretti machinery. The difference between both drivers was quite large, but considering the machinery beneath them, Frijns drove excellently to get this far up the grid. He will start in the top eight for the race, and has a shot at more points to add to his tally of three for the season.

The same proved to be the case for Wehrlein in his duel against fellow German Rast, as the Porsche driver comfortably made it to the semi finals. Gunther put in yet another sensational lap around the streets of Jakarta to knock his teammate Mortara out, in the final quarter final.

Gunther had his task cut out in the semi finals though, as he was up against Wehrlein. The Porsche powertrain had looked strong all weekend, but this wouldn’t stop Gunther either. He booked a spot in the finals, smashing Wehrlein’s lap time by almost four tenths of a second, a huge margin for Formula E’s standards. Dennis brushed aside Vergne by a similar margin to make it to the final.

Come the final, and Gunther put in yet another controlled lap, outpacing Dennis to take his maiden pole position. Despite being two-hundredths down in the first sector, he made up the time on the Andretti driver during the rest of the lap, taking pole position by over three tenths of a second.

This was his team’s first pole position in Formula E, and their first in a single-seater race car since the great Juan Manuel Fangio at the 1968 Argentine Grand Prix. A proud moment to savour for the Italian team, indeed.

Gunther, however, faces the tough task of winning a race from pole position, a feat not achieved at all this season. Can he break this trend and win from pole, or will the chasing pack have an answer to his dominance across the season? We shall wait and see. Do catch the race live later in the day, at 1500 local time (9 a.m. BST)


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