Mitch Evans beat his chief rival Antonio Felix da Costa by 0.02 seconds to claim pole position at Monza, extend his GP3 championship lead by four points and set himself up to secure the title in this afternoon’s race.

A number of drivers held top spot during the first ten minutes, before a battle emerged between Tio Ellinas and Felix da Costa, with the latter gradually lowering his time to hold top spot at the halfway stage.

As the session neared its completion, Felix da Costa was knocked off top spot by his Carlin teammate William Buller, before Evans pulled out a blinder of a lap to go a massive seven tenths of a second clear of the field. Felix da Costa nearly matched him, falling just two hundredths of a second short.

Neither driver managed to improve with their final efforts, allowing Evans to score his fourth pole position of the season and collect the four bonus points that come with it. That has extended his advantage over Felix da Costa to 25.5 points, and with only 17 up for grabs in Sunday’s race the New Zealander will win the title in this afternoon’s opening race if Felix da Costa doesn’t outscore him by more than eight points. That means second place would be enough as long as Felix da Costa doesn’t record a fifth straight fastest lap.

Evans could have help in the race with his MW Arden teammates David Fumanelli and Matias Laine finishing up third and fourth. Ellinas ended up fifth, ahead of Tamas Pal Kiss who will take a ten-place grid penalty for a collision in practice on Friday. Buller wound up seventh fastest ahead of title outside Daniel Abt and the German’s Lotus GP teammate Conor Daly. Patric Niederhauser completed the top ten, while Aaro Vainio has work to do after the Finn, third in the standings, managed only 13th in qualifying.

Saturday’s race takes place at 16:20 BST.