Jean–Eric Vergne will start Race One at Paul Ricard from pole position as he edged out Epic‘s Albert Costa by 0.022 seconds in a tense qualifying session.
Costa, looking for his first win in the series, look set for pole until the Frenchman stormed to pole on his final flying lap to wow the home crowd.
Vergne said: “It was a tough session. I had a very good car as we did a lot of setup work during the collective test. On my first flyer on new tyres I hit traffic. I did a good last lap but it wasn't perfect. I didn't know my position when I got out of the car. Pole's perfect. I'm looking after myself this weekend and I'll race without thinking of Robert. We'll see what happens!”
A closely-fought session was typified by the fact that the top eight runners were covered by less than half a second.
New Zealander Brendon Hartley, who recently ran for Ocean Racing Technology was third for Gravity–Charouz, just 0.083 seconds down on Vergne’s fastest run.
Hartley said: ”We've made quite a few changes in the team. We weren't on the pace at Silverstone. We've worked hard here and put things in order. I'm not in the running for the championship so I've got nothing to lose. I want to win, I want results, but I'm not going to interfere in the battle for the title. I know the drivers, we're all competitors!”
Championship leader Robert Wickens ended the session fourth after having to abort his final run due to attempting to avoid a spinner in front of him.
He said: “The car felt a little bit different this morning. Maybe because the weather was quite different to how it was yesterday, but the car didn't feel quite as consistent. I was still confident of being at the top though, and was second with only a few seconds to go. I was pushing hard for my last lap but then a car spun in front of me – I think it was Ramos – spun and I had to back out of it. It's a shame but I know we will have a quick car in the race.”
Alexander Rossi was fifth for Fortec Motorsport while Daniel Ricciardo, competing in his final Formula Renault 3.5 meeting of the season, completed the top six.
Pos Driver Team Time Gap 1. Jean-Eric Vergne Carlin 1m51.423s 2. Albert Costa Epic 1m51.446s + 0.023s 3. Brendon Hartley Gravity-Charouz 1m51.506s + 0.083s 4. Robert Wickens Carlin 1m51.545s + 0.122s 5. Alexander Rossi Fortec 1m51.586s + 0.163s 6. Daniel Ricciardo ISR 1m51.745s + 0.322s 7. Jake Rosenzweig Mofaz 1m51.888s + 0.465s 8. Sten Pentus Epic 1m51.892s + 0.469s 9. Daniil Move P1 1m52.045s + 0.622s 10. Kevin Korjus Tech 1 1m52.108s + 0.685s 11. Nathanael Berthon ISR 1m52.137s + 0.714s 12. Daniel Zampieri BVM Target 1m52.178s + 0.755s 13. Cesar Ramos Fortec 1m52.202s + 0.779s 14. Oliver Webb Pons 1m52.207s + 0.784s 15. Jan Charouz Gravity-Charouz 1m52.247s + 0.824s 16. Sergio Canamasas BVM Target 1m52.346s + 0.923s 17. Walter Grubmuller P1 1m52.357s + 0.934s 18. Nick Yelloly Pons 1m52.358s + 0.935s 19. Andre Negrao Draco 1m52.391s + 0.968s 20. Stephane Richelmi Draco 1m52.509s + 1.086s 21. Nelson Panciatici KMP 1m52.548s + 1.125s 22. Fairuz Fauzy Mofaz 1m52.657s + 1.234s 23. Arthur Pic Tech 1 1m52.865s + 1.442s 24. Anton Nebylitskiy KMP 1m52.930s + 1.507s 25. Daniel de Jong Comtec 1m53.113s + 1.690s 26. Daniel McKenzie Comtec 1m53.253s + 1.830s