Guanyu Zhou got his title challenge off to the perfect start in Spielberg, sealing his second pole position in FIA Formula 2 with a stunning qualifying performance around the Red Bull Ring.

Behind the Renault junior, there will be a surprise front-row start for rookie Felipe Drugovich, who has enjoyed a superb start to life with MP Motorsport, already qualifying higher in F2 than he did in Formula 3 last season. British outfit UNI-Virtuosi appears to be the team to beat in Austria, with Zhou’s teammate Callum Ilott completing the top three.

Free Practice pacesetter Yuki Tsunoda picked up from where he left off at the start of this afternoon’s session, setting the early pace around the Red Bull Ring. The Carlin driver’s position at the top was short-lived though, as he was soon pipped by his teammate, Jehan Daruvala, and Zhou.

Further back, Giuliano Alesi pushed the limits of the circuit too far and spun off the track, which forced him back to the pits and put his Qualifying session on hold, although he would later return. Zhou had no such issues, taking the time under 1m 15s to climb above Daruvala and into P1.

The field dived into the pits for fresh soft tyres, but their subsequent return to the track was only fleeting, as Marino Sato spun onto the gravel for the second time today and brought out a red flag.

Speaking ahead of the season, Drugovich had talked up his chances in F2, explaining why he believed he was better suited to the Dallara machines in the top tier of junior motorsport, than those in F3. He had shown potential in Free Practice with a P6 finish, but improved even more in Qualifying to squeeze in a fast lap just ahead of the red flag, which fired him to third.

Just five minutes remained when the lights went green and Christian Lundgaard saw a challenge on Zhou fall just short, with the ART man’s time only good enough for P2. Despite holding onto first, the Chinese racer raised his game, setting two purple sectors to improve his lap time and further cement P1.

Drugovich continued to surprise in the MP Motorsport machine and fired ahead of Lundgaard for second, followed closely by Zhou’s teammate Ilott, whose own tour of the Red Bull Ring took him third.

Time remained for one more lap, and each of Louis Delétraz, Jack Aitken and Tsunoda had all posted purple first sectors, only to be thwarted by a yellow flag when Nikita Mazepin spun out.

That left Zhou to ease his way back to the pits and claim the first pole of 2020 ahead of Drugovich and Ilott. Lundgaard and Mick Schumacher took fourth and fifth, ahead of Daruvala, Luca Ghiotto, Robert Shwartzman, Dan Ticktum and Delétraz.

Zhou will be looking for his maiden victory in F2 when the lights go out in the Feature Race tomorrow, at 4.45pm local time.

2020 FIA Formula 2 Championship – Austria 1 Qualifying Results
Driver Team / Entry Time Gap
1. Guan Yu Zhou UNI Virtuosi Racing UNI-Virtuosi Logo 1:14.416
2. Felipe Drugovich MP Motorsport 1:14.880 + 0.464
3. Callum Ilott UNI Virtuosi Racing UNI-Virtuosi Logo 1:14.884 + 0.468
4. Christian Lundgaard ART Grand Prix 1:14.922 + 0.506
5. Mick Schumacher Prema Racing 1:14.952 + 0.536
6. Jehan Daruvala Carlin Motorsport 1:15.028 + 0.612
7. Luca Ghiotto Hitech Grand Prix 1:15.044 + 0.628
8. Robert Shwartzman Prema Racing 1:15.051 + 0.635
9. Dan Ticktum DAMS 1:15.128 + 0.712
10. Louis Delétraz Charouz Racing System 1:15.151 + 0.735
11. Nikita Mazepin Hitech Grand Prix 1:15.152 + 0.736
12. Yuki Tsunoda Carlin Motorsport 1:15.157 + 0.741
13. Marcus Armstrong ART Grand Prix 1:15.208 + 0.792
14. Jack Aitken Campos Racing 1:15.264 + 0.848
15. Pedro Piquet Charouz Racing System 1:15.376 + 0.960
16. Roy Nissany Trident Racing 1:15.457 + 1.041
17. Sean Gelael DAMS 1:15.604 + 1.188
18. Giuliano Alesi BWT HWA Racelab 1:15.688 + 1.272
19. Guilherme Samaia Campos Racing 1:15.703 + 1.287
20. Artem Markelov BWT HWA Racelab 1:15.746 + 1.330
21. Nobuhara Matsushita MP Motorsport 1:15.897 + 1.481
22. Marino Sato Trident Racing 1:16.011 + 1.595

Post-Qualifying Penalties:

  • None.

Article text and image via FIA Formula 2 Championship

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Geoff Burke

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