Red Bull Junior driver Pierre Gasly claimed the first pole position of the 2016 GP2 Series championship, around the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya on Friday. The PREMA Racing driver took the top spot ahead of fellow Frenchman Norman Nato and Britain’s Alex Lynn, when he set a time of 1:27.807s.
The session got underway in warm temperatures, but under darkening clouds, and all drivers took to the circuit as spots of rain began to hit the track surface. Before anyone could begin to set any lap times, numerous drivers were sliding around the circuit, but held off in order to begin setting times. The first driver to cross the line was Nato with Sergey Sirotkin and Oliver Rowland close behind him.
Gasly went quickest before the second set of qualifying runs, before he was briefly pushed down the pecking order by Sirotkin and Lynn before the Frenchman went back to the top of the pecking order. Racing Engineering’s Nato went into second, making it an all French front row for the first race of the season on Saturday.
“I’m really happy, and especially for the team,” admitted Gasly. “They have worked so hard during the winter and it’s been quite difficult, coming into GP2 and there are many things to learn, but they have the right people to do it.
Today the car was great from the beginning and we are competitive, so we just had to make a few fine tunings for qualifying. I have to say when I saw the rain I didn’t know how it was going to be so I just pushed but we were not in the right sequence, but finally it worked out okay for us.”
Lynn was forced to settle for third ahead of his DAMS teammate, Nicolas Latifi. Lynn appeared to be running comfortable despite locking up at the first turn on his first attempt, and was running at the top of the time sheets before he was demoted by Gasly and Nato.
Sirotkin settled for fifth ahead of Sweden’s Gustav Malja. The Swede managed to out-qualify his more experienced Rapax teammate, Arthur Pic by eight positions.
Oliver Rowland ended up seventh, with Nobuharu Matsushita, Artem Markelov, Luca Ghiotto and Antonio Giovinazzi completing the top ten ahead of Saturday’s Feature Race.
Although his Racing Engineering teammate lined up on the front row, Jordan King struggled to get into Top Ten. Suspected favourite, Mitch Evans also struggled to get in with the Top Ten finishers, as he qualified down in 18th position.