FIA Formula 2 championship leader Nyck de Vries extends his lead to 34 points by claiming pole position at Spa-Francorchamps for the feature race as title rival Nicholas Latifi struggled in a red-flag affected session,
The ART Grand Prix driver delivered a strong session to claim pole in qualifying, setting a 1:58.304 at the end of the session, beating DAMS‘ Sérgio Sette Câmara and Campos Racing‘s Jack Aitken. Nobuharhu Matsushita for Carlin was fourth and was in prime position to challenge de Vries for pole, but a lock-up at the end of his final run cost him time.
Latifi throughout the session struggled to produce similar pace to his competitors, suffering understeer issues at several points of the track. The Canadian was on course to improve his time at the end of the session, but a red flag caused by Sean Gelael prevented him from completing the lap.
Qualifying began with Sette Câmara leading out the train of cars to the track to commence their first runs in the session. But as the drivers began their first run in qualifying, Callum Ilott in the Sauber Junior Team stopped at the start of the pit straight after the Bus Stop Chicane.
The British driver’s stop on the track was due to a throttle issue and resulted in a red flag with less than 23 minutes remaining. Ilott was pushed back into the pits by the marshals – where his Sauber team picked up his car, but couldn’t return in the session as permitted by the regulations.
The session resumed after the Sauber returned to the pits, as the rest of the field headed back on track to attempt their first runs. Aitken set the initial pace with his first lap but was quickly beaten by the likes of de Vries, Matsushita, Louis Delétraz, and Luca Ghiotto. The Trident pair of Giuliano Alesi and Ralph Boschung impressed with their opening runs by going ninth and eleventh place, being split by Anthoine Hubert in tenth.
de Vries’ first lap of 1:59.357 was enough to put him on provisional pole ahead of Matsushita, who was only short by 0.017 seconds with his first hot lap. Guanyu Zhou managed to jump up to third overall with his first outing as the session reached the halfway point.
With eight minutes remaining, the drivers returned to the track to attempt one final run in the session in a bid to improve their grid slot. Matsushita set the best first sector, but de Vries managed to place the best second sector and improved his time with a 1:58.304. Matsushita improved but lost out when he locked up heavily at the final chicane, allowing Sette Câmara and Aitken to leapfrog him to second and third overall.
During the final runs and with a few minutes left on the clock, Sean Gelael went off and lost control of his PREMA car at Pouhon, crashing out as a result. The yellow flags were brought out, affecting the likes of Zhou and Latifi, who were setting personal best sectors. Zhou for UNI-Virtuosi Racing ended qualifying in ninth whilst Latifi was left to settle with eleventh place.
The session was later red-flagged and didn’t restart, leaving de Vries to claim four points for pole position, extending his lead to Latifi to 34 points and breaking the 200 point barrier ahead of the first race on Saturday.
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