Briton edges De Marco by just 0.045s; Sergey Afanasiev takes third
Britain’s Dean Stoneman sealed his fourth pole position of the season today at Brno, edging out 2009 polesitter Nicola De Marco by just 0.045s.
Stoneman left it late in the session, eventually moving to the top of the timesheets in a frantic last five minutes that also saw Nicola De Marco, Jolyon Palmer and Sergey Afanasiev take spells at the top.
It was Afanasiev who made the best start to the session, topping the timesheets for nearly all of the opening ten minutes before the field pitted for fresh rubber. The Russian resumed his spell at the top with around ten minutes to go, only to be displaced by Jolyon Palmer as the times began to tumble.
Stoneman was next to hold provisional pole, only for Nicola De Marco to capture the position by dipping into the 1m45s bracket for the first time. The response was immediate, Stoneman shaving half a second off his previous best to sit fastest with a 1:45.597s. De Marco tried to respond, but fell agonisingly short – missing out by just over four hundredths of a second.
Stoneman, who has never raced at Brno before, enthused: "I went out there to get pole but I didn’t expect to get that lap out there on a difficult track. Overall I was just chipping away at the session trying to get a quick lap – it’s obviously another new track for me and I only did 19 laps yesterday so it’s been pretty good. I’m fairly confident, hopefully I’ve got the start sussed and the aim is to win – but also to finish in front of Jolyon and Philipp."
Behind the lead duo, Sergey Afanasiev improved late on to capture third, with Benjamin Bailly also rising up through the order in the final minutes to claim fourth, just over one tenth of a second behind the Russian.
That meant championship leader Jolyon Palmer had to settle for fifth, although a late yellow flag period – brought about as Natalia Kowalska spun into the gravel and out of the session at turn seven – prevented him from mustering a final challenge. He will share the third row with fellow title contender Philipp Eng, the Austrian finishing just seven hundredths of a second behind Palmer.
Kelvin Snoeks, making his return to F2 after missing the last round at Brands Hatch with a broken ankle, was an impressive seventh, edging out Tom Gladdis – a points finisher here last year – by less than 0.03s.
The closest margin in the field was reserved for the fifth row, however, with Ricardo Teixeira and Will Bratt separated by just one thousandth of a second – Angola’s Teixeira ultimately claiming ninth, with Bratt rounding out the top ten.
In another typically close F2 qualifying session, Romania’s Mihai Marinescu missed out on a top ten starting berth by less than two hundredths of a second, while the top 17 drivers were covered by less than 1.4s.