Robert Wickens (Photo Credit: Renault Sport)

Robert Wickens (Photo Credit: Renault Sport)

Robert Wickens seized the championship initiative by taking a vital pole in qualifying for race one in Catalunya.

In an interrupted session which saw two red flags, Wickens avoided the chaos to take his seventh pole of the season ahead of Albert Costa and Alexander Rossi.

What's more, his title rival Jean-Eric Vergne could only manage ninth on the grid and will have it all to do if he is to remain in contention for the championship.

The Carlin driver said: “It was a very strange session. But from my own perspective we had good balance on the car from the start and I was able to put in a quick lap early, which as it turned out stood up for the whole session. I'm looking forward to the race this afternoon. The easiest way to stay out of trouble in the race is to be out in front, so that's my aim this afternoon.

“With my pole and Jean-Eric's ninth place I'm in a good position. But it's not over yet.”

The session got underway in much colder conditions than Yesterday in Catalunya and it was Vergne who set the early pace, although he was one of only two drivers to have produced a flying lap.

The session was halted after only a few minutes though as Adrien Tambay, deputising for Andre Negrao at Draco, crashed heavily at the SEAT Corner.

The Frenchman, in only his second Formula Renault 3.5 meeting, skated over the gravel trap and into the barriers.

Although he exited the car unaided, Tambay was sent to hospital as a precaution and if he is given the all clear will start the race from the back of the grid.

After Tambay's accident had been cleared, the race restarted and Wickens immediately set the pace ahead of Spaniards Costa and BVM Target’s Sergio Canamasas.

However, the session was once again stopped after Gravity-Charouz driver Brendon Hartley ran heavily over a kerb, puncturing a hole in his chassis.

The subsequent damage left oil spewing out of his car in the entry into the fast right-hander Campsa, leaving the track surface extremely slippery and potentially dangerous.

The second red flag remained for 30 minutes as marshals worked frantically to clear the oil.

After a length delay the session resumed but Vergne, who had slipped down the order between the two stoppages, could not improve as the track conditions grew warmer and dropped to ninth.

Costa was able to stay second on the grid for his home event, although was disappointed not to claim his first pole of the season.

He said: “I'm happy to be second but a bit disappointed not to have set pole. I improved in the first two sectors and then I ran into too much traffic at the end of the lap. It's good to be well placed on the grid but I need a result. I've got a new helmet this weekend and I hope it'll bring me luck.”

Rossi completed the top three and the Fortec Motorsports man, who is vying with Costa and Kevin Korjus for third in the championship, will be desperate to preserve his advantage over the Spaniard.

The American said: “The track was very slippery and tricky, but as I was seventh I had to take risks to improve. Being on the second row isn't too bad. Albert's quick here so the battle for third in the championship's going to be pretty hectic!”

Jake Rosenzweig took fourth for Mofaz, who will be closing their FR3.5 operation following the final round of the season, ahead of P1's Daniil Move and Canamasas.

Both Pons drivers occupy the fourth row of the grid, with Nick Yelloly heading Oliver Webb despite the former making a small mistake which cost him a potential third place.

 

Pos Driver Team Time Gap
 1.  Robert Wickens     Carlin           1m32.564s
 2.  Albert Costa       Epic             1m32.854s  + 0.290s
 3.  Alexander Rossi    Fortec           1m33.048s  + 0.484s
 4.  Jake Rosenzweig    Mofaz            1m33.065s  + 0.501s
 5.  Daniil Move        P1               1m33.097s  + 0.533s
 6.  Sergio Canamasas   BVM Target       1m33.123s  + 0.559s
 7.  Nick Yelloly       Pons             1m33.167s  + 0.603s
 8.  Oliver Webb        Pons             1m33.246s  + 0.682s
 9.  Jean-Eric Vergne   Carlin           1m33.368s  + 0.804s
10.  Nelson Panciatici  KMP              1m33.404s  + 0.840s
11.  Kevin Korjus       Tech 1           1m33.426s  + 0.862s
12.  Nathanael Berthon  ISR              1m33.437s  + 0.873s
13.  Anton Nebylitskiy  KMP              1m33.556s  + 0.992s
14.  Arthur Pic         Tech 1           1m33.613s  + 1.049s
15.  Stephane Richelmi  Draco            1m33.640s  + 1.076s
16.  Daniel Zampieri    BVM Target       1m33.781s  + 1.217s
17.  Sten Pentus        Epic             1m33.873s  + 1.309s
18.  Walter Grubmuller  P1               1m34.035s  + 1.471s
19.  Brendon Hartley    Gravity-Charouz  1m34.058s  + 1.494s
20.  Cesar Ramos        Fortec           1m34.238s  + 1.674s
21.  Daniel de Jong     Comtec           1m34.416s  + 1.852s
22.  Fairuz Fauzy       Mofaz            1m34.676s  + 2.112s
23.  Jan Charouz        Gravity-Charouz  1m34.771s  + 2.207s
24.  Lewis Williamson   ISR              1m34.809s  + 2.245s
25.  Daniel McKenzie    Comtec           1m35.610s  + 3.046s
26.  Adrien Tambay      Draco