Runaway FIA Formula 2 Championship leader has finally been beaten, on merit, in qualifying. The Monegasque driver has claimed pole position for every Feature Race in 2017 and started each bar Hungary (where his car was excluded for a minor technical infringement) from P1.
His record run was finally beaten by Honda protégé Nobuhara Matsushita, who secured his maiden pole position in the championship. The ART Grand Prix driver narrowly edged out Racing Engineering’s Nyck de Vries for top spot to the tune of just 0.089 seconds, while fellow series rookie Louis Delétraz – who has had a torrid season to-date – was third-quickest.
Leclerc, by contrast, will start Saturday’s Feature Race from an all-PREMA Racing fourth row of the grid after qualifying seventh-fastest ahead of teammate and local driver Antonio Fuoco.
Qualifying at the 5.7-kilometre Monza circuit proved to be a competitive affair, with the top seventeen runners in the 20-car field covered by less than one second.
Matsushita was able to clock his best time of 1:30.982 on is first attempt, while the rest of the field found it difficult to match his pace on the crowded track, as all drivers rushed out in fear of possible rainfall.
The field re-emerged to the track after taking on fresh tyres with 9 minutes to go but Nabil Jeffri’s spin into Turn 2 brought out the red flags and forced everyone back to the pits. As the session restarted, Deletraz and Leclerc were the first two driver out but they were overtaken by Artem Markelov on their first hotlap, with Leclerc setting his personal best lap before squeezing past again for a clear run but this too was interrupted by another red flag as Santino Ferruci stopped on track.
With not enough time to restart the session, Matsushita secured his maiden pole in the series, just 0.089s ahead of Nyck de Vries who continued to impress, and Louis Deletraz who starts 3rd.
Artem Markelov squeezed into P4 ahead of Roberto Merhi, who was able to make it 2 cars for Rapax in the top 5, and Jordan King in 6th.
Leclerc’s lack of a clear run leaves him starting 7th ahead of team mate Fuoco while Ferruci and Albon rounded up the top 10.
Saturday’s Feature Race, to be staged over 30 laps, will start at 16:00 local time (GMT +2).
|FIA FORMULA 2 CHAMPIONSHIP 2017 RACE OF ITALY – FEATURE RACE QUALIFYING RESULTS|
|Driver||Team / Entry||Time||Gap|
|1.||Nobuharu Matsushita||ART Grand Prix||1:30.982|
|2.||Nyck de Vries||Racing Engineering||1:31.071||+ 0.089|
|3.||Louis Delétraz||Rapax||1:31.239||+ 0.257|
|4.||Artem Markelov||Russian Time||1:31.266||+ 0.284|
|5.||Roberto Merhi||Rapax||1:31.323||+ 0.341|
|6.||Jordan King||MP Motorsport||1:31.355||+ 0.373|
|7.||Charles Leclerc||PREMA Racing||1:31.378||+ 0.396|
|8.||Antonio Fuoco||PREMA Racing||1:31.426||+ 0.444|
|9.||Santino Ferrucci||Trident||1:31.482||+ 0.500|
|10.||Alexander Albon||ART Grand Prix||1:31.511||+ 0.529|
|11.||Luca Ghiotto||Russian Time||1:31.529||+ 0.547|
|12.||Sergio Sette Câmara||MP Motorsport||1:31.653||+ 0.671|
|13.||Oliver Rowland||DAMS||1:31.711||+ 0.729|
|14.||Nicholas Latifi||DAMS||1:31.747||+ 0.765|
|15.||Norman Nato||Pertamina Arden||1:31.772||+ 0.790|
|16.||Ralph Boschung||Campos Racing||1:31.878||+ 0.896|
|17.||Gustav Malja||Racing Engineering||1:31.942||+ 0.960|
|18.||Sean Gelael||Pertamina Arden||1:32.171||+ 1.189|
|19.||Robert Vișoiu||Campos Racing||1:32.267||+ 1.285|
|20.||Nabil Jeffri||Trident||1:32.373||+ 1.391|
Image via FIA Formula 2 Championship