BERLIN, Germany – Lucas di Grassi swept to his second pole position of the 2016/17 FIA Formula E season on Saturday in Berlin, edging out Jose Maria Lopez by one-thousandth of a second at the front of the pack.
Fighting back from a disastrous Paris ePrix that saw his deficit at the top of the drivers’ championship swell to 43 points, di Grassi was able to squeeze through to final stage of qualifying before turning in a best lap of 1:08.312 to score his second pole of the season for ABT Schaeffler Audi Sport.
Lopez was left to settle for an agonizing second place, while Felix Rosenqvist – the original leader from the first heats – was third-fastest, less than a tenth off pole. Mahindra Racing teammate Nick Heidfeld was fourth, while Sam Bird rounded out the top five after a scruffy lap in Super Pole.
While di Grassi was able to secure pole, title rival Sebastien Buemi endured his worst qualifying in almost 18 months after a sloppy lap that left him 14th for the start in Berlin.
Jean-Eric Vergne was left disappointed after narrowly missing out on a place in the Super Pole shootout, finishing sixth ahead of Oliver Turvey and Daniel Abt. Following Buemi’s slow lap, Nicolas Prost was left to lead Renault e.dams’ charge in ninth, while Jerome d’Ambrosio rounded out the top 10 for Dragon.
The Red Bull Racing pit crew may have already made headlines last weekend when it completed the fastest pit stop in Formula One history, changing Max Verstappen’s tires in 1.82 seconds, but the team’s most recent stunt took their skills to new heights – quite literally.
With the help of the Russian Space agency Roscomos, a group of the team’s mechanics completed the world’s first zero-gravity pit stop, on-board a IIyushin II-76K cosmonaut training plane.
Using a 2005 BR1, the team filmed the viral video over the course of a week, enduring seven flights and about 80 parabolas – periods in which the plane climbs 45 degrees before falling again at a ballistic arch of 45 degrees, creating a period of weightlessness for approximately 22 seconds.
With such a short time frame between weightlessness periods, the car and equipment had to be both quickly and safely secured before gravity once again took effect. Each filming lasted roughly 15 seconds, and the stunt was the most physically and technically demanding activity the live demo team had ever undertaken.
“It pushed us harder than I thought it would,” said Red Bull Support Team Mechanic Joe Robinson. “You realize how much you rely on gravity when you don’t have any!
“It challenges you to think and operate in a different way – and that was brilliant. It was a once in a lifetime opportunity and honestly, I could have stayed and done it all month. It was amazing. I think it’s the coolest, most fun thing the Live Demo team has ever done with a show car.”
Though Red Bull was the first team to perform a pit stop in zero gravity, surprisingly Red Bull was not the first team to put a car through zero gravity. In 1999, McLaren driver David Coulthard and his car experienced zero gravity as part of a promotion for then-sponsor West Cigarettes.
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