The opening round of the FIA Formula Two Championship has seen British youngster Jolyon Palmer take pole for the first race of the season tomorrow.
The thirty minute qualifying session was a frantic one as a number of drivers took turns to lead the timings, Russian Ivan Samarin, French F2 debutant Benjamin Lariche, Palmer and Danish F2 graduate Johan Jokinen all took turns to lead the times inside the opening ten minutes.
While the majority of the field went in to the pits to switch tyres ahead of another run, Formula Renault UK Graduate Dean Stoneman took advantage of the clear track to set the fastest time of the session at the half way point.
With ten minutes of the session remaining, Jokinen hit the top of the times ahead of the British duo of Stoneman and Palmer with series returnee Philipp Eng in fourth. Straight after, Russian Sergey Afanasiev took second. This positional change signalled a raft of changes within the timings.
Austrian Eng soon set the fastest time in the first sector and backed this up with a personal best in sector two. A small mistake towards the end of his first flying lap meant he didn't improve but this didn't faze the twenty year old and soon after, he bettered his fastest time.
Palmer pipped Eng again and he was one of the final drivers to cross the line and claim the chequered flag and his first Formula Two pole position. Eng slipped back down to fourth as Jokinen and Stoneman improved their times with Afanasiev rounding out the top five.
Speaking after securing his first F2 pole, Palmer said: “I think the winter testing really helped me, from there I really haven’t looked back. Confidence has grown since then, and now every time I go in the car I’m looking to be right up at the sharp end – it’s completely different to how I started out last year.
“Tomorrow morning, going down to the first corner, will be crazy. I think tomorrow will certainly be hard, there’s a lot of quick guys around me, but hopefully I can keep my head down in front and hold on for the win.”
Behind the top five, former GP2 Asia racer Will Bratt secured a top six position on his F2 debut, while Kazim Vasiliauskas improved late in the session to break into the top ten. Jack Clarke made it four British drivers in the top eight, with Romanian Mihai Marinescu and Benjamin Lariche completed the top ten.
The first qualifying session of the season didn't see many problems, Indian debutant Ajith Kumar endured a spin during the session while another Brit, Tom Gladdis honed his rally cross skills with a trip across the gravel. He recovered to line up eleventh for the opening race.
Top Ten for Race One:
- Joylon Palmer 1:36.380
- Johan Jokinen +0.141s
- Dean Stoneman +0.327s
- Philipp Eng +0.676s
- Sergey Afanasiev +0.708s
- Will Bratt +1.010s
- Kazim Vasiliauskas +1.088s
- Jack Clarke +1.117s
- Mihai Marinescu +1.151s
- Benjamin Lariche +1.193s