Davide Valsecchi repeated his free practice trick to claim pole position for tomorrow’s feature race on the last lap of qualifying here in Istanbul, stealing the top spot from Pastor Maldonado and Oliver Turvey.
The Italian came out on top of a session long scrap with his Venezuelan rival, claiming the top spot as the clock rolled down to zero with a lap of 1:34.860, which was just one hundredth of a second faster than Maldonado’s best effort.
With the sweltering heat rising in the period between free practice and qualifying, the tension in the pitlane was thick enough to cut until the cars exploded into life and screamed out onto the circuit. Maldonado wasted no time in getting to the top of the timesheets, and although Sergio Perez, Racing Engineering pair Dani Clos and Christian Vietoris, and Valsecchi briefly put themselves ahead, it was the Venezuelan who was quickly dictating terms once again.
When the rest of his rivals came in for fresh tires Maldonado, already on top, stayed out for one last lap, improving his best time once again to set a benchmark of 1:34.875, and it looked as though the story was over, with no one else coming close when they returned to the track. But it turned out that everyone was waiting for that last lap, when the timing screens turned green once more.
The checkered flag waved Maldonado across the line just a fraction off his personal best, while Turvey snuck into P3 with his best qualifying effort in the series to date. But seconds later it was Valsecchi’s name on the top of the screen, with Perez, Sam Bird, Giedo van der Garde, Dani Clos and Charles Pic lining up right behind the top three, with the two rookies improving their times on their last tours to get into the top eight.
Once again the top fifteen drivers were within a second of pole, with the whole field easily within two seconds of the top spot: any mistakes were penalized heavily. Can they repeat the performance? Only time will tell, but tomorrow’s feature race is likely to see the field turn the heat up even further at this baking circuit.
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