Current F3 Euroseries championship leader Roberto Merhi dominated Saturday morning qualifying at Spa Francorchamps, mastering drying conditions to claim both pole positions by over a second. The Spaniard will start Races 1 and 3 from the front of the grid for the special FIA International Trophy event in Belgium.

The Prema Powerteam driver already headed the field before the track was dry enough for slick tyres. After switching to dry rubber, Merhi was even more impressive, setting a string of hot laps with his fastest coming on his final effort. The session was interrupted early after Menasheh Idafar was left stranded off track, prompting various strategy calls, but Merhi never looked under threat.

 “These two pole positions for the two Trophy races are important for us. Qualifying went perfectly. After the red-flag because of an accident, I opted for slick tyres, which turned out to be the best choice. Moreover, my car was really great in these conditions, my team has done a fantastic job.” Merhi said afterwards.

Returning 2007 British F3 champion Marko Asmer was Merhi’s closest rival, though 1.1s adrift. F3 Euroseries contender Marco Wittmann posted the 3rd fastest time ahead of Signature team-mate Carlos Munoz. William Buller was the leading British F3 qualifier in 5th with Fortec team-mate Lucas Foresti 0.3s away.

Even with 6 contenders, no Carlin drivers were present in the top 10 – something of a rare sight. Carlos Huertas managed only 11th ahead of Jack Harvey, with championship leader Felipe Nasr way down in 20th place after a mis-judged tyre call. “We went wrong with the tyres,” said Nasr. “I started on slicks and then switched to wets, but didn't switch back towards the end when the others started to go quicker. I will start 10th this afternoon, so it is not too bad for me.”

Cooper Tires British Formula 3 International Series

Provisional qualifying times, Spa-Francorchamps / 29/7/2011

International & Invitation classes

1  INV Robert MERHI / ESP,  Prema Dallara-Mercedes  2m 17.438s

2  INV Marko ASMER / EST, Double R Dallara-Mercedes  2m 18.502s

3  INV Marco WITTMANN / GER,  Signature Dallara-VW  2m 18.800s

4  INV Carlos MUNOZ / COL,  Signature Dallara-VW  2m 19.289s

5  INT William BULLER /GBR,  Fortec Dallara-Mercedes  2m 19.692s

6  INT Lucas FORESTI / BRA,  Fortec Dallara-Mercedes  2m 19.993s

7  INV Raffaele MARCIELLO / ITA,  Prema Dallara-Mercedes  2m 20.249s

8  INT Pipo DERANI / BRA,  Double R Dallara-Mercedes  2m 21.253s

9  INV Laurens VANTHOOR / BEL,  Signature Dallara-VW  2m 21.398s

10  INT Hywel LLOYD / GBR,  Sino Vision Dallara-Mercedes  2m 22.582s

11  INT Carlos HUERTAS / COL,  Carlin Dallara-VW  2m 22.741s

12  INT Jack HARVEY / GBR,  Carlin Dallara-VW  2m 25.510s

13  INT Adderly FONG / CHN,  Sino Vision Dallara-Mercedes  2m 26.398s

14  INT Bart HYLKEMA / NED,  T-Sport VW  2m 26.889s

15  INT Jazeman JAAFAR / MAS,  Carlin Dallara-VW  2m 27.133s etc

Rookie class

1  Kotaro SAKURAI / JPN,  Hitech Dallara-Mugen Honda  2m 30.009s

Full timesheets