Alexander Albon has claimed the first pole position of his Formula 2 Championship career in a red flag interrupted qualifying session at Baku City Circuit.
The first of two red flags occurred barely minutes into the session when Maximilian Günther’s BWT Arden car broke down after Turn 1 as the German driver started his first flying lap.
Once Günther’s car had been returned to the pits, the track action resumed and championship leader Lando Norris moved into provisional pole position with a time of 1:55.139 that was beaten by Albon and then Luca Ghiotto.
Ghiotto’s 1:54.980 effort remained the benchmark time at the midpoint of qualifying, with the fastest three drivers covered by less than two-tenths of a second.
Norris returned his Carlin to the top of the timesheets by going three-tenths quicker on his second run, before he was once again shaded by Albon’s time of 1:54.480.
The Anglo-Thai driver’s time would hold, thanks to teammate Nicholas Latifi bringing out the red flags in the final minute of the session when he spun off. The Canadian had thus far failed to post a time inside the 107% cut-off, but will be allowed to start at the back of the grid for the weekend’s two races due to setting a representative time in the day’s earlier practice session.
Norris will share the front row with Albon for Saturday’s Feature Race. A late flying lap by Mercedes F1 reserve driver George Russell put his ART Grand Prix entry third-fastest, demoting Campos Racing’s Ghiotto into fourth place after the Italian’s flying lap was ruined by Latifi’s spin.
Trident’s Santino Ferrucci claimed a superb fifth-fastest ahead of practice pace-setter Sergio Sette Câmara (Carlin) and Jack Aitken (ART), however the American was later excluded from the qualifying results for having lower tyre pressures than allowed.
Ferrucci’s rookie teammate Arjun Maini qualified eighth-fastest ahead of Nyck de Vries (Prema) and Ralph Boschung (MP Motorsport).
Once his mechanical issues were fixed, Günther was able to return to the track and secure eleventh-fastest, however the German and his teammate Nirei Fukuzumi were both stripped of their qualifying times due to having “13 team personnel associated with the operation of the team’s cars, over the maximum allowable allocation of 12” working on their cars.
As was the case in Formula 1’s opening practice session, the dusty low-grip conditions caught out a number of drivers. Maini and Aitken both ventured off-track, along with Tadasuke Makino (Russian Time) and Roy Nissany (Campos Racing) – Nissany was unable to recover from his incident and his car was pushed away to safety by the marshals.
The opening Feature Race will be held over 29 laps, starting at 12:00 local time (GMT +4) on Saturday.
|2018 FIA Formula 2 Championship Race of Azerbaijan – Qualifying Results|
|Driver||Team / Entry||Time||Gap|
|2.||Lando Norris||Carlin Motorsport||1:54.694||+ 0.214|
|3.||George Russell||ART Grand Prix||1:54.842||+ 0.362|
|4.||Luca Ghiotto||Campos Vexatec Racing||1:54.980||+ 0.500|
|5.||Santino Ferrucci*||Trident Racing||1:55.200||+ 0.720|
|6.||Sergio Sette Câmara||Carlin Motorsport||1:55.212||+ 0.732|
|7.||Jack Aitken||ART Grand Prix||1:55.236||+ 0.756|
|8.||Arjun Maini||Trident Racing||1:55.474||+ 0.994|
|9.||Nyck de Vries||Pertamina Prema Theodore Racing||1:55.728||+ 1.248|
|10.||Ralph Boschung||MP Motorsport||1:55.761||+ 1.281|
|11.||Maximilian Günther*||BWT Arden International||1:55.970||+ 1.490|
|12.||Tadasuke Makino||Russian Time||1:56.139||+ 1.659|
|13.||Roberto Merhi||MP Motorsport||1:56.532||+ 2.052|
|14.||Antonio Fuoco||Charouz Racing System||1:57.090||+ 2.610|
|15.||Louis Delétraz||Charouz Racing System||1:57.105||+ 2.625|
|16.||Nirei Fukuzumi*||BWT Arden International||1:57.351||+ 2.871|
|17.||Sean Gelael||Pertamina Prema Theodore Racing||1:57.508||+ 3.028|
|18.||Artem Markelov||Russian Time||1:57.604||+ 3.124|
|19.||Roy Nissany||Campos Vexatec Racing||2:01.902||+ 7.422|
|DNQ.||Nicholas Latifi||DAMS||2:02.970||+ 8.490|
- Santino Ferrucci – who provisionally qualified 5th-fastest – was excluded from qualifying for failing to comply with the minimum tyre pressure as specified by the Formula 2 Technical Regulations. He will start the Feature and Sprint races from 19th on the grid.
- Maximilian Günther and Nirei Fukuzumi – who provisionally qualified 11th and 16th fastest respectively – were excluded from qualifying due to the BWT Arden team exceeded the maximum allowable allocation of 12 team personnel associated with the operation of the team’s cars. They will start the Feature and Sprint races from 17th and 18th on the grid.
- Nicholas Latifi – who failed to post a qualifying time inside 107% of pole position – has been granted permission to participate in the Feature and Sprint races from 20th on the grid on the grounds that he set a satisfactory time within the earlier free practice session.
Image via FIA Formula 2 Championship