George Russell needs to finish Saturday evening’s Feature Race in no lower than eighth place to guarantee himself the 2018 FIA Formula 2 Championship crown after claiming pole position in his final qualifying appearance before he becomes a Williams Formula 1 driver next year.
The ART Grand Prix driver won his fifth pole position of his rookie Formula 2 season, with the four championship points earned for it extending his margin over his sole title rival Alexander Albon – who could only manage eigith-fastest in the session – to 41 points. With a maximum of 44 points available over this weekend’s two races, only disaster could deny the Briton a richly deserved championship title.
McLaren junior driver Nyck de Vries held provisional pole position for PREMA Theodore Racing midway through the qualifying session ahead of Albon’s DAMS teammate Nicholas Latifi – both drivers ran an alternate strategy by posting their flying laps in the mid-session lull when the majority of the field pits for new tyres.
Russell returned to the track in the final minutes and posted a 1:49.251, eclipsing de Vries’ time by two-tenths of a second.
Artem Markelov showed vastly improved qualifying form and finished fourth-fastest in his Russian Time entry ahead of Russell’s teammate Jack Aitken, who had his best qualifying performance since July’s round at Budapest in what has been a largely a disappointing season.
Newly-appointed Haas F1 Team junior driver Louis Delétraz was sixth-fastest for Charouz Racing System ahead of McLaren-bound Lando Norris (Carlin). With Albon a frustrated eighth-fastest, the top ten was completed by Markelov and Norris’ respective teammates Tadasuke Makino and Sergio Sette Câmara.
Red Bull F1 junior driver Dan Ticktum qualified a solid 14th-fastest in his maiden Formula 2 Championship outing, outpacing BWT Arden teammate Nirei Fukuzumi by four-tenths of a second.
|2018 FIA Formula 2 Championship Race of Abu Dhabi – Qualifying Results|
|Driver||Team / Entry||Time||Gap|
|1.||George Russell||ART Grand Prix||1:49.251|
|2.||Nyck de Vries||Pertamina Prema Theodore Racing||1:49.541||+ 0.290|
|3.||Nicholas Latifi||DAMS||1:49.647||+ 0.396|
|4.||Artem Markelov||Russian Time||1:49.869||+ 0.618|
|5.||Jack Aitken||ART Grand Prix||1:49.946||+ 0.695|
|6.||Louis Delétraz||Charouz Racing System||1:50.038||+ 0.787|
|7.||Lando Norris||Carlin Motorsport||1:50.059||+ 0.808|
|8.||Alexander Albon||DAMS||1:50.155||+ 0.904|
|9.||Tadasuke Makino||Russian Time||1:50.180||+ 0.929|
|10.||Sergio Sette Câmara||Carlin Motorsport||1:50.187||+ 0.936|
|11.||Niko Kari||MP Motorsport||1:50.375||+ 1.124|
|12.||Roberto Merhi||Campos Vexatec Racing||1:50.513||+ 1.262|
|13.||Antonio Fuoco||Charouz Racing System||1:50.522||+1.271|
|14.||Dan Ticktum||BWT Arden International||1:50.580||+ 1.329|
|15.||Sean Gelael||Pertamina Prema Theodore Racing||1:50.812||+ 1.561|
|16.||Alessio Lorandi||Trident Racing||1:50.855||+ 1.604|
|17.||Luca Ghiotto||Campos Vexatec Racing||1:50.892||+ 1.641|
|18.||Dorian Boccolacci||MP Motorsport||1:51.037||+ 1.786|
|19.||Nirei Fukuzumi||BWT Arden International||1:51.048||+ 1.797|
|20.||Arjun Maini||Trident Racing||1:51.597||+ 2.346|
Image via FIA Formula 2 Championship