Jehan Daruvala topped a strange opening FIA European Formula 3 Championship Qualifying session at Spa-Francorchamps, while Mick Schumacher and Guan Yu Zhou took the final two pole positions in the second session that was far more conventional.
The session was delayed by almost an hour after repairs to the barriers were needed after the conclusion of free practice for the Total 24 Hours of Spa, but even when it did get underway, it was a while before any cars took to the track.
Only two drivers, Schumacher and Julian Hanses ventured out to set times, and it was those two who sat at the top of the time sheets with five minutes to go. It was then when the field all piled out on to the circuit, and it was cat and mouse to get in a position so to be able to take advantage of the slipstream down the Kemmel Straight.
It was Carlin Motorsport’s Daruvala who got the best out of his lap, setting a time of 2:12.983s, just 0.010 seconds ahead of championship leader Marcus Armstrong from the Prema Theodore Racing stable.
Alex Palou secured third on the grid for Hitech Bullfrog GP, just over two-tenths shy of the pole time, with the Spaniard qualifying ahead of a trio of Prema drivers, Guan Yu Zhou in fourth ahead of Ralf Aron and Robert Shwartzman.
Hitech drivers will fill row four, Enaam Ahmed ahead of Ben Hingeley, while Motopark drivers round out the top ten, Jüri Vips ahead of Jonathan Aberdein.
The most recent race winner, Zandvoort racer three winner Nikita Troitskiy, just missed out on the top ten in eleventh, ahead of Carlin team-mate Sacha Fenestraz and Red Bull Junior Daniel Ticktum of Motopark, who will be disappointed to be down in thirteenth.
Schumacher fell from the very top to seventeenth as the times tumbled, while his own flying lap was compromised when he came up on Artem Petrov.
Prema Theodore Racing locked out the first two rows for race two, with Schumacher securing his maiden series pole position with a lap of 2:10.899s, 0.280 seconds ahead of team-mate Aron, while Zhou and Armstrong will share row two.
The session began with a threat of rain overhanging the Spa-Francorchamps circuit, so unlike in the first session, the drivers came out early to attack on their laps. The rain stayed away, ensuring the majority of the field were able to go out for two runs. The fact the session determined the grid for the final two races may also have had something to do with it…
Schumacher achieved a tow from Hanses down the Kemmel Straight to grab top spot ahead of his team-mates, despite Aron having a much better middle sector, while Zhou and Armstrong were forced to settle for the second row.
Ahmed was the best of the rest for Hitech in fifth, almost eight-tenths of a second off the pole time, with Motopark duo Vips and Fabio Scherer next up ahead of the fifth Prema entry of Shwartzman, Carlin’s Ferdinand Habsburg and Motopark’s Ticktum.
With the second fastest time setting the grid for the final race of the weekend, it was Zhou’s 2:11.658s that saw him take pole position, with Armstrong set to join the Chinese driver on the front row, while Shwartzman on row two alongside Daruvala.
Aberdein and Vips will share row three ahead of Schumacher and Ticktum, while Ahmed and Aron complete the top ten.