Oscar Piastri will start from pole for Formula 2’s Jeddah feature race on Sunday, while Liam Lawson will start from the front row for the first race on Saturday.
Qualifying took place under the floodlights, and every driver went out on Pirelli’s supersoft tyre for the half-hour session. At first there was a timid approach from all due to the limited running during practice in the daytime, and there was an additional incentive to go slow at first to find space on track to go for a flying lap without encountering traffic.
Campos’s Ralph Boschung was the first to break that trend, as he had in practice too, but it was Prema’s drivers who made the most of their first runs. Practice pacesetter Robert Shwartzman led team mate Piastri by 0.064 seconds, but that advantage was flipped on the second runs at the end of session – where again drivers started off by queuing up at as slow a pace as possible to put themselves in a favourable track position – as Piastri took pole by 0.165s.
ART driver Theo Pourchaire, who took pole on the streets of Monaco, looked most likely to stop another Prema pole and he went second fastest at the start of the second runs before moving into provisional pole position with his penultimate effort with a minute to go.
Zhou jumped up to third at that point too, but 11 of the drivers in the top 12 improved their times with Shwartzman pinching pole back from Pourchaire as the chequered flag waved. Piastri was still to come though, and ultimately topped qualifying for the fourth time this year.
Pourchaire and his team mate Christian Lundgaard will share the second row of the grid, and then the Virtuosi drivers Felipe Drugovich and Zhou will be on row three for Sunday.
Boschung, the only driver to not improve at the end when the track was at its cleanest, ended up qualifying down in seventh place ahead of Juri Vips (Hitech), Marcus Armstrong (DAMS) and Lawson (Hitech).
Because of this year’s weekend format, Red Bull junior Lawson will be on pole for the reversed-grid sprint race that begins on Saturday, and will share the front row with Ferrari junior and fellow New Zealander Armstrong.
After reporting a right-rear puncture during the session, future Formula E racer Dan Ticktum missed out on a chance at pole at the end of qualifying and was 13th fastest, behind MP Motorsport’s debutant Clement Novalak.
Jack Doohan, son of motorcycling legend Mick, was the next debutant in 16th place in the second of MP’s cars. Fellow Formula 3 graduates Olli Caldwell (Campos) and Logan Sargeant (HWA) qualified 19th and 21st respectively, while Sargeant’s team mate Alessio Deledda missed qualifying and will require permission fromt he stewards to race this weekend.
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