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Buemi bounces back with Marrakech pole

Buemi bounces back with Marrakech pole
By AutoSport

13/01/2018 at 13:58Updated 13/01/2018 at 15:13

Sebastien Buemi claimed his first pole position of the 2017/18 Formula E season as he bids to put his championship challenge back on track in Marrakech.

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The Renault e.dams driver scored just one point, for an inherited 10th place, across a dismal opening weekend in Hong Kong last month.

He hit back emphatically in Morocco with a stylish pole position ahead of championship leader Sam Bird.

Video - Formula E: Marrakesh ePrix qualifying highlights


Buemi's 1m20.355s in the superpole session defeated the DS Virgin Racing driver by more than a quarter of a second, and he then watched his most likely rivals' pole hopes slip away.

First Lucas di Grassi reported a motor problem as he slowed on his flying lap, then Felix Rosenqvist had a lurid slide that consigned him to third.

With di Grassi limited to fifth, Jose Maria Lopez stole in to earn a stunning fourth-place start.

Lopez was only confirmed at Dragon Racing just over a week before the race, after its original driver Neel Jani split with the team.

Though Lopez only had "a day and a half" in the team's simulator as preparation for his first experience of an FE car since last summer, he was sixth in practice and finished the group stage of qualifying an astonishing third.

He had a scruffy lap in the superpole but will start fourth, considerably better than he could have imagined pre-weekend - to put his performance into perspective, team-mate and regular Dragon driver Jerome d'Ambrosio was seven tenths slower and qualified 16th.

Bird's DS Virgin Racing team-mate Alex Lynn was first of a trio of drivers to miss out on the superpole by a tiny margin, while practice pacesetter Daniel Abt was four-hundredths slower than Bird but wound up eighth.

He was sandwiched by the two Jaguars: Nelson Piquet Jr bagged seventh while a mistake exiting the final corner meant Mitch Evans could not make it another superpole appearance for the Jaguar team.

Oliver Turvey completed the top 10 - he and Abt had to run their 200kW laps again in the group stage after a shunt from Antonio Felix da Costa caused a red flag.

It was the second group in a row that featured a crash, after Nick Heidfeld slid his Mahinda into the tyre wall just minutes before.

Da Costa's new Andretti team-mate Tom Blomqvist will start his FE debut 12th, one place ahead of Jean-Eric Vergne, who is second in the championship.

Heidfeld (18th) and da Costa (19th) were spared last place on the grid by their 180kW lap times, which were fractionally faster than Venturi's Edoardo Mortara whose practice problems continued with an on-track stoppage in his group.