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Jake Boxall-Legge

Diriyah E-Prix: Rowland tops first practice of 2022, de Vries crashes

Rowland logged a 1m10.559s at the death of FP1, preceded by a 15-minute shakedown earlier in the day, dispatching Antonio Felix da Costa from the top of the times to draw first blood for the 2021-22 season.

Da Costa had originally been able to hold on from a late onslaught by DS Techeetah teammate Jean-Eric Vergne to cement the fastest time, but Rowland's last-minute effort left the Portuguese driver second - 0.158s off the best time.

Sam Bird set the first time unaffected by an early, performatory full-course yellow, a 1m18.635, but the times quickly tumbled as his Jaguar teammate Mitch Evans immediately sent the British driver down a spot and went six-tenths faster.

Bird had earlier labelled the track "horrendous", owing to a huge concentration of dust all over the road surface owing to desert sand and local construction work.

As the dust began to clear, the laptimes dropped into the 1m15s, with Pascal Wehrlein posting a 1m15.867s before the Porsche driver was dispatched by Sebastien Buemi's 1m15.622s.

De Vries then punctuated the opening 10 minutes with another full-course yellow, sliding on the dust at Turn 3 and clouting the barrier with his left-rear wheel for a dose of suspension damage.

Once running resumed after the Dutchman had retreated to an exit road, Buemi continued to wind down the times with a 1m14.023s, until two-time Formula E champion Jean-Eric Vergne set a 1m13.716s.

Evans and Wehrlein then nudged past Vergne, until Robin Frijns clocked a 1m13.411s to sit top of the times at the half-way stage.

Frijns' minute-long reign at the top of the timesheets was ended by Evans diving into the 1m12s, but the circuit continued to evolve as Stoffel Vandoorne broke into the 1m11s - although was overhauled in short order by Techeetah duo Antonio Felix da Costa and Vergne - the latter posting a 1m11.019s.

Da Costa hit back with a 1m10.717s and looked to end Thursday's running with bragging rights after Vergne's purple opening pair of sectors came to nothing with a late slide, but Rowland's final lap then deposed the 2019-20 champion.

Jake Dennis was third with his own late effort, setting the quickest finals sector to best Vergne, as Evans was fifth fastest.

2020-21 runner-up Edoardo Mortara was sixth fastest, with Wehrlein seventh - but under investigation for speeding under the full-course yellow.

Buemi was eighth ahead of Venturi's new charger Lucas di Grassi, as Nick Cassidy completed the top 10.

Dan Ticktum was the best of the rookies, finishing 13th fastest - nearly a full second ahead of NIO 333 teammate Oliver Turvey. 

Diriyah E-Prix - First practice results:

Cla # Driver Team Time Gap
1 30 United Kingdom Oliver Rowland India Mahindra Racing 1'10.559  
2 13 Portugal Antonio Felix da Costa China Techeetah 1'10.717 0.158
3 27 United Kingdom Jake Dennis Avalanche Andretti Formula E 1'10.739 0.180
4 25 France Jean-Eric Vergne China Techeetah 1'10.744 0.185
5 9 New Zealand Mitch Evans United Kingdom Jaguar Racing 1'11.064 0.505
6 48 Switzerland Edoardo Mortara Monaco Venturi 1'11.080 0.521
7 94 Germany Pascal Wehrlein Germany Porsche Team 1'11.139 0.580
8 23 Switzerland Sébastien Buemi France DAMS 1'11.199 0.640
9 11 Brazil Lucas di Grassi Monaco Venturi 1'11.233 0.674
10 37 New Zealand Nick Cassidy United Kingdom Virgin Racing 1'11.329 0.770
11 36 Germany Andre Lotterer Germany Porsche Team 1'11.400 0.841
12 29 United Kingdom Alexander Sims India Mahindra Racing 1'11.461 0.902
13 33 United Kingdom Dan Ticktum United Kingdom NIO Formula E Team 1'11.478 0.919
14 5 Belgium Stoffel Vandoorne Germany Mercedes 1'11.610 1.051
15 4 Netherlands Robin Frijns United Kingdom Virgin Racing 1'11.640 1.081
16 10 United Kingdom Sam Bird United Kingdom Jaguar Racing 1'11.751 1.192
17 22 Germany Maximilian Gunther France DAMS 1'11.921 1.362
18 7 Brazil Sergio Sette Camara United States Dragon Racing 1'11.955 1.396
19 3 United Kingdom Oliver Turvey United Kingdom NIO Formula E Team 1'12.361 1.802
20 99 Italy Antonio Giovinazzi United States Dragon Racing 1'12.442 1.883
21 28 United States Oliver Askew Avalanche Andretti Formula E 1'12.668 2.109
22 17 Netherlands Nyck de Vries Germany Mercedes 1'40.153 29.594


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