Wickens takes fourth pole of season
Robert Wickens clinched his fourth pole of the season in the first qualifying session at Barcelona, edging out Andy Soucek by just over two tenths of a second.
Nicola De Marco continued his impressive start to the weekend by taking third, and will be joined on the second row by Russia's Mikhail Aleshin.
Soucek led the way in the early stages, ahead of another eye-catching display from Tristan Vautier. The Frenchman was again immediately on the pace as both he and Soucek set their best times in the opening moments of the session.
With the circuit getting continually faster as the session progressed, Wickens took full advantage to set a 1:39.215s time and claim the top spot as the session moved into the final ten minutes. Philipp Eng followed suit, setting the fourth fastest time, only to be instantly bettered by Julien Jousse.
Wickens improved again on his penultimate lap while Soucek and Aleshin seemed to be scrapping for the same space on the circuit. Aleshin was able to improve to take fourth, but Soucek blamed the Russian for spoiling his final few laps. In the meantime, De Marco had sneaked through to take third - his first top three qualifying position since taking pole position in Brno.
Vautier was unable to improve and had to settle for fifth at the finish - a fantastic result in his maiden F2 qualifying session. Interestingly, the 20-year-old's best three sectors were actually the second fastest behind Wickens. Unfortunately he was unable to complete the perfect three sectors on the same lap but his pace continues to impress.
Jousse and Eng dropped to sixth and seventh late on while Mirko Bortolotti rounded out the top eight. In another extremely close F2 qualifying session, just one tenth of a second separated third to seventh on the grid.
Natacha Gachnang equaled her best qualifying result of the season as she outpaced Kazim Vasiliauskas to take ninth place away from the Lithuanian racer.
Wickens was congratulated during the F2 press conference after the Canadian secured his fourth pole position of the season - the best results of any driver this season.
"From my side the qualifying was pretty interesting," Wickens admitted. "My second best lap was actually on old tires - all things considered I only went two tenths faster on new tires, which was probably due to the yellow flags. I'm very happy - the goal here is to beat Aleshin and Bortolotti, and starting on pole position gives me the best opportunity to do that. Obviously I want to do it in race one to get rid of the pressure in race two. The Superlicense is very key to my future and I think starting from pole gives me the best opportunity to get it."
Second place Andy Soucek said: "I don't know why but I had the feeling before the session that we would not have the perfect strategy. I think I waited a bit too long to go onto new tires, and then someone spun with four minutes to go and I knew I wouldn't be able to improve. I'm really looking forward to winning another race; I want to score as many victories as possible, but my pace is very similar to Robert's so it will all be about the start."
De Marco was delighted with his return to a top three press conference, and the Italian clearly enjoys driving at the Circuit de Catalunya: "I am happy with this qualifying because it is important for me in this last part of the season to get a good result," concluded Nicola. "It's really fun to drive here in Formula Two, it’s beautiful and I like the circuit very much."
FIA Formula Two Championship – First Qualifying - Barcelona:
1. Robert Wickens, 1:39.020s
2. Andy Soucek, +0.248s
3. Nicola De Marco, +0.396s
4. Mikhail Aleshin, +0.406s
5. Tristan Vautier, +0.426s
6. Julien Jousse, +0.482s
7. Philipp Eng, +0.491s
8. Mirko Bortolotti, +0.634s
9. Natacha Gachnang, +0.640s
10. Kazim Vasiliauskas, +0.687s