Abu Dhabi F2: Markelov secures maiden pole

Russian Time driver Artem Markelov claimed pole position in qualifying for the 2017 Formula 2 season finale in Abu Dhabi ahead of McLaren Formula 1 junior Nyck de Vries.

Abu Dhabi F2: Markelov secures maiden pole

Prema Racing’s Antonio Fuoco qualified third as his teammate – already-crowned F2 champion Charles Leclerc – missed out on claiming the outright GP2/F2 pole position record as he finished sixth.

Markelov moved to the top of the times at the end of the first set of runs one-third of the way through the 30-minute session, while ART Grand Prix drivers Alexander Albon and Nobuharu Matsushita, and DAMS duo Oliver Rowland and Nicholas Latifi, opted to wait for the mid-session lull before setting a competitive time.

Ferrari F1 junior Leclerc – who wrapped up the drivers’ title last time out at Jerez – could only get within 0.6s of Markelov’s early best as he struggled with oversteer in his Prema-run car.

When Albon, Matsushita, Rowland and Latifi eventually came out to set their first laps, it was Albon who got closest to Markelov.

He took a second effort when he had the track all to himself and was still 0.2s behind.

Disaster then struck the 2016 GP3 runner-up – who took pole in the third-tier category at Yas Marina last year – as his car “just stopped” and he ground to a halt at the exit of Turn 14.

His ART team told him to switch off the car and attempt to restart it, but he was left stranded and could not get back to the pits, eventually ending up with the 10th-fastest time as the rest of the runners went for a second set of flying laps.

Markelov led from the front and improved his best time to a 1m47.181s, which was not beaten, and he therefore claimed the first pole of his 84-race GP2/F2 career.

De Vries finished 0.206s adrift in second, a further 0.1s in front of Fuoco, with Rowland slotting into fourth ahead of Arden International driver Norman Nato.

Leclerc was able to improve on his final run but was again sliding on the super-soft rubber as he approached the end of the final sector, and ended up 0.511s slower than Markelov.

The result means Leclerc, who is hotly tipped to graduate to F1 in 2018 with the Sauber squad, remains on eight F2 poles – the same total achieved by Stoffel Vandoorne and Pierre Gasly during their time competing in GP2.

Luca Ghiotto qualified seventh in the second Russian Time-run car, just ahead of Matsushita and Sergio Sette Camara, while Albon was 10th.

Nicholas Latifi complained of brake problems on his final effort and wound up 12th, just ahead of Rapax’s Louis Deletraz and 2017 European F3 champion Lando Norris, who is making his F2 debut in a one-off appearance for the Campos Racing squad.

UPDATE: Albon was later disqualified for failing to provide a minimum fuel sample post-qualifying. He will start the feature race from the back of the grid.

Qualifying results:

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