Japanese driver grabs top spot at the flag

 

Nirei Fukuzumi has stolen pole with a last gasp lap in this afternoon’s qualifying session at the Circuito de Jerez, grabbing the top spot and stopping the clock at 1:30.678 after the flag dropped to claim his second pole position of the season ahead of teammates and title rivals Jack Aitken and George Russell.

 

The session opened under gloriously sunny conditions, with everyone running straight out on track to get the fight underway. Dorian Boccolacci set the pace straight out of the box before running wide and tagging the barriers at turn 10 before returning to the pitlane to check for damage, with a string of drivers sharing the top spot: Raoul Hyman, Marcos Siebert, Giuliano Alesi, Arjun Maini, Tatiana Calderon, Alessio Lorandi and Dan Ticktum all spent time in P1 before the ART machine got underway.

 

Aitken annexed the top of the timesheets just before halfway through the session, with Russell, Anthoine Hubert and Fukuzumi slotting in behind the Briton, and as everyone returned to the pits the question was would anyone be able to improve on their second set of tyres.

 

Everyone returned to the track with 5 minutes remaining, and Russell set the target, grabbing P1 as everyone tried to pry it from his grip. As the flag dropped it looked as though the Series leader had done enough for pole, but first Aitken and then Fukuzumi put in a pair of astonishing laps on an emptying circuit to push their teammate back to the second row.

 

Behind him Ticktum had done enough to break up an all-ART top 4, pushing Hubert back to P5 ahead of Lorandi, Boccolacci, Kari, Calderon and Steijn Schothorst in another tight session which saw the top 12 separated by just one second. The fight for tomorrow’s Race 1, already so important for the shape of the championship, looks set to be a scorcher.

 

Provisional Qualifying Classification

 

         
      Driver Team Time Gap Laps  
  1   Nirei FUKUZUMI ART Grand Prix 1:30.678 13  
  2   Jack AITKEN ART Grand Prix 1:30.847 0.169 13  
  3   George RUSSELL ART Grand Prix 1:30.889 0.211 13  
  4   Daniel TICKTUM DAMS 1:31.031 0.353 11  
  5   Anthoine HUBERT ART Grand Prix 1:31.140 0.463 13  
  6   Alessio LORANDI Jenzer Motorsport 1:31.334 0.656 13  
  7   Dorian BOCCOLACCI Trident 1:31.389 0.711 14  
  8   Niko KARI Arden International 1:31.404 0.727 13  
  9   Tatiana CALDERON DAMS 1:31.478 0.800 12  
  10   Steijn SCHOTHORST Arden International 1:31.507 0.829 14  
  11   Giuliano ALESI Trident 1:31.593 0.915 16  
  12   Kevin JOERG Trident 1:31.661 0.983 13  
  13   Ryan TVETER Trident 1:31.689 1.011 13  
  14   Julien FALCHERO Campos Racing 1:31.707 1.029 12  
  15   Marcos SIEBERT Campos Racing 1:31.707 1.029 13  
  16   Leonardo PULCINI Arden International 1:31.726 1.048 13  
  17   Raoul HYMAN Campos Racing 1:31.984 1.306 14  
  18   Juan Manuel CORREA Jenzer Motorsport 1:32.019 1.341 13  
  19   Arjun MAINI Jenzer Motorsport 1:32.139 1.461 15  
  20   Bruno BAPTISTA DAMS 1:32.161 1.483 11