McLaren reserve driver Stoffel Vandoorne continued his astonishing run of pole positions by claiming the top spot under lights this evening at the Yas Marina, snuffing out his rivals’ best efforts with a stunning lap late in qualifying to take the points ahead of GP2 Series champion Jolyon Palmer and DAMS teammate Stéphane Richelmi.
The Belgian’s best lap of 1:48.088, set with just three minutes remaining in the session, gave him pole by less than a tenth, his fourth in a row as he has closed in on second-placed Felipe Nasr: with the Sauber-bound driver unable to match Vandoorne’s speed, he closed the gap between them in the battle for vice-champion status to just four points.
The entire field were straight out on track when the lights turned green, with Nasr setting the first competitive time but soon overtaken by Richelmi, Vandoorne and then Palmer: it looked as though the super softs were done until Vandoorne snuck inside the Briton’s time just on the ten minute mark as the teams were calling their charges home, giving the entire pitlane something to think about.
And think they did: all of the front runners were soon out and setting identical first sector times, but with so many cars on track something had to give. Most of the drivers struggled in the second sector as Palmer improved and took provisional pole, but he held it for less than 30 seconds as Vandoorne sliced by for the top spot.
Behind the top three there were stories to tell: Mitch Evans improved late to take P4, with Nasr also improving but unable to fight for pole. Pierre Gasly brought home his best qualifying result, while Arthur Pic struggled with traffic for P7, ahead of Raffaele Marciello (who will lose five grid positions following a penalty picked in Sochi last month), Stefano Coletti and Rio Haryanto. With plenty left to fight for, tomorrow’s race should be as hot as the conditions.
Yas Marina – Qualifying Session
Driver Team Laptime Laps
1. Stoffel Vandoorne ART Grand Prix 1:48.088 11
2. Jolyon Palmer DAMS 1:48.187 10
3. Stéphane Richelmi DAMS 1:48.374 11
4. Mitch Evans RT RUSSIAN TIME 1:48.709 11
5. Felipe Nasr Carlin 1:48.873 11
6. Pierre Gasly Caterham Racing 1:48.973 12
7. Arthur Pic Campos Racing 1:48.985 10
8. Raffaele Marciello Racing Engineering 1:49.023 11
9. Stefano Coletti Racing Engineering 1:49.326 11
10. Rio Haryanto Caterham Racing 1:49.338 11
11. Julian Leal Carlin 1:49.395 11
12. Johnny Cecotto Trident 1:49.430 12
13. Takuya Izawa ART Grand Prix 1:49.500 11
14. Sergio Canamasas Trident 1:49.505 12
15. Nathanaël Berthon Venezuela GP Lazarus 1:49.518 11
16. Kimiya Sato Campos Racing 1:49.618 10
17. Daniel De Jong MP Motorsport 1:49.667 10
18. Nicholas Latifi Hilmer Motorsport 1:49.676 11
19 André Negrao Arden International 1:49.677 11
20. Conor Daly Venezuela GP Lazarus 1:49.721 11
21. Rene Binder Arden International 1:49.721 11
22. Marco Sorensen MP Motorsport 1:49.736 11
23. Simon Trummer Rapax 1:49.794 12
24. Jon Lancaster Hilmer Motorsport 1:49.885 11
25. Kevin Giovesi Rapax 1:50.012 14
26. Artem Markelov RT RUSSIAN TIME 1:50.414 10