Ramon Pineiro put in a fine effort in the closing stages of qualifying to deny F2 championship leader Mirko Bortolotti pole position for today's first race at the Red Bull Ring in Austria.

Austro-Italian Bortolotti had been the man to beat in free practice yesterday, and looked set for pole position until Pineiro stole top spot with a late effort. The Spaniard's pole position follows on from his maiden victory at Brands Hatch last time out.

“My good weekend at Brands Hatch has given me a big boost for the rest of the rounds and here is the proof,” he explained. “In qualifying for the last six races, I have been on the front row four times, so pole had to come and it’s come here. It’s good because the car performs very well and I have very good pace for the race.

“There were two laps to go and I was faster than my 22.1s lap. I had a massive queue of cars in Turn 7 though and I had to slow down and back off and do the same lap again which I could manage and I could take pole.”

Bortolotti was satisfied with a place on the front row.

“Obviously it’s very close but I’m very happy,” he said. “I think that the first row was very important on this track so I’m very happy to be on the front row even if it’s second position and not pole. I think it’s a good result for us. Obviously the points are given in the race and not for qualifying so I will be looking forward to the race and trying to do the best we can and then we will see.

“The session itself was quite chaotic I would say because of a lot of stuff going on with traffic and unfortunately I had to overtake three cars on my fastest lap and maybe that was not the best thing that could happen for me but anyway second position is good enough for us and I think we can be very happy and I’m looking forward to the race.”

Bortolotti's nearest title rival, Christopher Zanella, qualified just behind him in third.

“It’s a really good feeling again to be in the top three in qualifying, you know that qualifying is not the best for me,” said the Swiss driver. “I had one lap which the split time was not bad but then I did a fault, but in the end I’m very happy and anything can happen now in the race.”

Mihai Marinescu was fourth, ahead of Miki Monras and debutant Luciano Bacheta, who will line up sixth for his first race after his switch from GP3. Mikkel Mac was seventh, ahead of Alex Brundle. The Briton had set a time good enough for fifth on the grid but had that erased for exceeding track limits.

The session was red-flagged after Tobias Hegewald came to a halt. The German will start from the back of the grid alongside Plamen Kralev who was black-flagged for exceeding track limits, something many drivers have been guilty of doing with the run-off areas around the revamped circuit.

Qualifying 1 results:

1. Ramon Pineiro, 1:21.946s
2. Mirko Bortolotti, +0.134s
3. Christopher Zanella, +0.212s
4. Mihai Marinescu, +0.572s
5. Miki Monras, +0.802s
6. Luciano Bacheta, +0.835s
7. Mikkel Mac, +0.878s
8. Alex Brundle, +0.881s
9. Benjamin Lariche, +0.977s
10. Julian Theobald, +1.004s