Nissan’s Oliver Rowland was fastest in opening practice for the Diriyah E-Prix in Saudi Arabia.
Track evolution and a red flag caused by Envision Racing’s Sebastien Buemi brought about a flurry of table-topping times late in the session.
The surge in fastest times came after the session was extended by 10 minutes following a red flag period brought about by Envision Racing’s Sebastien Buemi, who ground to a halt with 14 minutes to go due to a battery issue. After his stoppage, Buemi was classified 22nd and last.
Rowland set a 1:15.400 to end the session fastest for Nissan. The lap times were five seconds slower than last year, which was caused by nearby construction work around the street circuit in Diriyah outside the capital city of Riyadh left the racing surface with a coating of dust.
Therefore, track evolution was crucial. TAG Heuer Porsche’s Pascal Wehrlein was first to cross the line after the checkered flag, when track conditions were at their peak, setting a 1m16.164s.
He was usurped by Mitch Evans moments later, who lowered the benchmark by 0.098s. The Jaguar TCS Racing driver’s time at the top was equally as short-lived, with Sergio Sette Camara 1m15.867s and then Rowland locked in first place after everyone had crossed the finish line.
DS Penske’s Jean-Eric Vergne and Stoffel Vandoorne and Andretti Global’s Jake Dennis followed, taking positions second through fourth.
Maserati MSG’s Maximillian Guenther crossed the line after Rowland, but could only manage ninth overall, behind Wehrlein, despite setting the session-best final sector.
Envision Racing’s Robin Frijns completed the top 10 ahead of Nick Cassidy, Edoardo Mortara, Norman Nato, and Sacha Fenestraz.
Sam Bird was 15th, the first driver outside the 1m16s. He was ahead of Nico Mueller, Dan Ticktum, Lucas Di Grassi, Jake Hughes — who secured his first Formula E pole position in Saudi Arabia a year ago — Jehan Daruvala, and Nyck de Vries.