Mercedes junior driver George Russell claimed the first FIA Formula 2 Championship pole position of his career in the series’ maiden visit to Paul Ricard.
The Briton ended the pole-winning streak of Alexander Albon which has spanned the last three rounds of the championship, although the DAMS driver will start alongside the ART Grand Prix driver for Saturday’s Feature Race.
The high track temperatures that challenged the field in Friday’s earlier practice session – topped by championship leader Lando Norris – fell away in the late afternoon qualifying session. Maximilian Günther opened proceedings with the first timed lap in his BWT Arden entry, however the German was swiftly eclipsed by better efforts from Santino Ferrucci (Trident) and then Norris’ Carlin on their respective opening runs.
Russell – the winner of the Feature Race in Spain – and Albon set up their battle for pole position, with the opening runs giving them a 1-2 position on the timesheets before being split by de Vries, who lapped just two-hundredths of a second slower than provisional pole.
Russell’s second run saw him light up the timing screens with purple sectors across the 5.8-kilometre lap, smashing half a second off his previous effort to move ahead.
The field switched to fresh sets of Supersoft tyres for their final outings, with de Vries moving to the top of the timing screens but was unable to improve when his PREMA Theodore Racing car was hit with a mechanical drama on its next flying lap.
That opened the door once more for Russell, who returned to P1 with a pole-winning time of 1:44.469. Albon slotted into second place, narrowly missing out on claiming his fourth pole position on the trot by just 0.166 seconds.
Championship leader Norris claimed third-fastest, with teammate Sergio Sette Câmara – who missed out on the previous Monaco round with a hand injury – locking out the second row of the Feature Race grid.
Luca Ghiotto gave Campos Racing some joy by claiming fifth-fastest ahead of Russell’s teammate Jack Aitken, ahead of Monaco Feature Race winner Artem Markelov. De Vries’ mechanical dramas saw him fall to eighth in the final reckoning, while Louis Delétraz (Charouz Racing System) and Nicholas Latifi (DAMS) rounded out the top ten qualifiers.
The opening Feature Race will be held over 30 laps, starts at 17:45 local time (GMT +2) on Saturday.
|2018 FIA Formula 2 Championship Race of France – Qualifying Results|
|Driver||Team / Entry||Time||Gap|
|1.||George Russell||ART Grand Prix||1:44.469|
|2.||Alexander Albon||DAMS||1:44.635||+ 0.166|
|3.||Lando Norris||Carlin Motorsport||1:44.781||+ 0.312|
|4.||Sergio Sette Câmara||Carlin Motorsport||1:45.092||+ 0.623|
|5.||Luca Ghiotto||Campos Vexatec Racing||1:45.109||+ 0.640|
|6.||Jack Aitken||ART Grand Prix||1:45.143||+ 0.674|
|7.||Artem Markelov||Russian Time||1:45.250||+ 0.781|
|8.||Nyck de Vries||Pertamina Prema Theodore Racing||1:45.269||+ 0.800|
|9.||Louis Delétraz||Charouz Racing System||1:45.278||+ 0.809|
|10.||Nicholas Latifi||DAMS||1:45.482||+ 1.013|
|11.||Maximilian Günther||BWT Arden International||1:45.608||+ 1.139|
|12.||Sean Gelael||Pertamina Prema Theodore Racing||1:45.721||+ 1.252|
|13.||Santino Ferrucci||Trident Racing||1:45.739||+ 1.270|
|14.||Roberto Merhi||MP Motorsport||1:45.753||+ 1.284|
|15.||Antonio Fuoco||Charouz Racing System||1:45.919||+1.450|
|16.||Tadasuke Makino||Russian Time||1:45.945||+ 1.476|
|17.||Arjun Maini||Trident Racing||1:46.021||+ 1.552|
|18.||Nirei Fukuzumi||BWT Arden International||1:46.060||+ 1.591|
|19.||Roy Nissany||Campos Vexatec Racing||1:46.150||+ 1.681|
|20.||Ralph Boschung||MP Motorsport||1:46.500||+ 2.031|
Image via FIA Formula 2 Championship