Sam Bird has picked up in Monza where he left off in Spa, claiming his second consecutive pole position in a dramatic qualifying session this afternoon where all of the championship contenders were in the mix right up to the end, as the Briton grabbed the top spot by just 0.034 seconds from Fabio Leimer and Jolyon Palmer.
In a session which saw temperatures soar from the already hot practice period, Bird set his best time of 1:31.788 with just five minutes remaining in a session which was already full of action, setting the cat among the pigeons as his rivals pushed up to, and in some cases over, the limit to steal a march on each other for tomorrow’s race.
Everyone was immediately on track as the lights went green, with series leader Stefano Coletti setting the early pace after picking up a great tow from rival James Calado, setting a target which was soon blasted down by Julian Leal, Stéphane Richelmi, Leimer and Palmer. But two big spins at the Parabolica by Sergio Canamasas and Vittorio Ghirelli left gravel all over the track, prompting a red flag period to clean up the mess.
If anyone thought that the timesheets were set, they were soon put to rights when the track went live again as Leimer cut a tenth out of the top time, with Bird soon cutting it even further. The number of championship contenders who cut the first chicane showed just how hard they were pushing, but Palmer was the only man to actually improve his time, albeit missing his target by a fraction.
Behind the top three are Marcus Ericsson, Tom Dillmann, Coletti, Dani Clos, Calado, Jake Rosenzweig and Simon Trummer, all of whom will be thinking ‘what if?’ after a session full of promise: with 22 drivers within a second, tomorrow’s feature race offers an excellent opportunity for them to move back up to where they feel they should be today.
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