Esteban Ocon secured a vital pole position in Abu Dhabi in his fight for this season’s GP3 Series title, with championship rival Luca Ghiotto only fourth.
Frenchman Ocon took his ART Grand Prix machine to top spot with a time of 1:55.491s, edging out Arden International‘s Italian racer Kevin Ceccon by just 0.016s.
Additionally, the four points for pole position mean that Ocon now leads the championship by two points, having arrived at the Yas Marina Circuit this weekend trailing by the same amount. Ocon’s team-mate Marvin Kirchhöfer will line up in third place alongside Trident Racing‘s Ghiotto.
Ocon set the early pace with Ceccon in P2, before Ghiotto, who was going quickly at this stage, became the first to lap in the 1m55s and held a four-tenths of a second advantage over his championship rival.
The drivers returned to the pits for new Pirelli tyres for their second runs, with Ceccon then moving to the top of the timing screens ahead of Ghiotto, while Carlin‘s Antonio Fuoco demoted Ocon to fourth. The Frenchman retaliated but was unable to get any higher than third at that point.
As the clocked ticked down, Ghiotto was doing as much as can to reclaim top spot, with the Italian lapping quickest of all in sector two but lost time through the final sector of the track. As the session came to a close Ocon lit the timing screens through sector one, with the ART Grand Prix driver claiming the best lap of the session to take pole and state his claim in this year’s title.
Ghiotto was one of the last cars to cross the line to take the chequered flag, but the lap from the Italian was not enough to challenge Ocon with the Trident Racing driver having to settle for a start on the second row for the Feature Race on Saturday.
Ocon lines up in first place for the third consecutive event, ahead of Ceccon, who secured his best qualifying performance of the season, Kirchhöfer, Ghiotto, Koiranen GP‘s Jimmy Eriksson, Arden‘s Emil Bernstorff, Fuoco, Alex Palou of Campos Racing, Matthew Parry and Artur Janosz.
Round one of the championship battle between Ocon and Ghiotto gets under way at 12:25 local time on Saturday.