Clarke and Palmer complete top three in tightest session of season
Benjamin Bailly captured his maiden Formula Two pole position in Zolder, Belgium, in what was the closest qualifying session of the season so far – the top six drivers being separated by just over two tenths of a second.
Times dropped as the session approached its climax and there were five changes at the top in a frantic sixty second period, with Bailly eventually emerging on pole – just 0.041s ahead of Jack Clarke in second.
Bailly joins Jolyon Palmer as one of only two drivers to score a pole position on home soil this season, and the young Belgian was clearly delighted: "I feel really, really great," he enthused. "Yesterday I was fast and I wished I could have got the pole position then! I worked a lot with my engineer however, and also the guy from the RACB who was with me for the set-up of the car, and we found something. Now I have a really great feeling at home, thanks to everybody and I’m very happy!"
Jack Clarke held top spot for much of the session, but the Briton was required to make a final flying lap attempt after dropping down the order in the last five minutes. He responded in magnificent style, recording his best performance of the season to clinch second.
Championship leader Jolyon Palmer completed the top three after what he simply called a ‚clean lap‘ towards the end of the running. The 19-year-old admitted that he was slightly disappointed not to be on the front row, but was equally pleased to see his main championship rivals behind him.
Will Bratt made it an all-British second row as the 22-year-old bounced back well after a challenging day yesterday. Bratt has been a consistent front-runner throughout the 2010 season so far, but his opening race at Zolder was ruined when he was cruelly taken out by both Philipp Eng and Mihai Marinescu in two separate incidents.
Sergey Afanasiev continues to show good speed at the Belgian venue, and the Russian briefly held the top spot before the late flurry of laps demoted him to fifth overall, fractions ahead of Nicola De Marco in sixth.
Championship challengers Dean Stoneman and Philipp Eng both endured challenging sessions and will line-up together on row four for this afternoon’s race. Eng briefly held pole position before firing his car off into the gravel at the tricky turn two and three complex with just four minutes of the session remaining. In a twist of irony, Eng’s incident had a major effect on his rival Stoneman’s session. The Briton had just set his fastest lap of the session, but Eng’s off immediately put paid to his push for pole as yellow flags prevented him from setting a quicker time on his next tour of the 2.4 mile circuit.
A number of drivers had in fact saved their three shots of overboost for a last minute dash, but were also unable to make use of them due to the yellow flag conditions in the final minutes. Mihai Marinescu and Kazim Vasiliauskas were among those left disappointed, as the duo could only manage ninth and tenth respectively at the finish.