Jolyon Palmer stormed to pole position for the GP2 Feature Race in Bahrain
Stoffel Vandoorne lines up second just 0.03s behind
By William Esler. Last Updated: 04/04/14 7:27pm
Jolyon Palmer stormed to pole position for the GP2 Feature Race under the floodlights in Bahrain in the first qualifying session of the 2014 season.
The British who was making his debut for DAMS set a time of 1:38.865 in a frantic finale to the session following a red flag which was enough to pip McLaren protégé Stoffel Vandoorne by just 0.030 seconds.
That red flag had been caused by Russian Time rookie Artem Markelov who spun at Turn One with eight minutes remaining in the session and he will line-up last for the reigning Teams' Champions.
Another rookie to encounter problems was Axcil Jefferies in the Trident as he spun on his warm-up lap at the start of session. The Zimbabwean was only announced as racing this weekend on Wednesday and lines up 25th, completing the back-row with Markelov.
As ever in GP2 qualifying the session boiled down to two runs on new option tyres and Felipe Nasr set the pace after the first runs with a 1:39.416 - proving just how much the track evolved throughout the session. Behind him Vandoorne had been on a flyer in the ART, but ran wide at the final corner, dropping four tenths, and only just edging ahead before Mitch Evans put Russian Time top.
After a lap to cool their tyres Nasr and Alexander Rossi both attempted a second flyer and after improving in both the first and second sectors, both fell away dramatically in the third sector as the Pirellis appeared to drop off.
Daniel Abt in the Force India-coloured Hilmer car was on the pace, though, and he went top at the mid-session point with a 1:39.073. That time would prove to be good enough for third on the grid as the chequered flag fell.
Markelov's spin meant a frantic final three minutes as the driver started their flying laps having warmed their tyres again and it Palmer who made the Pirellis work best with a stunning middle sector to set up his pole time.
And to underline how the pace gap between GP2 and F1 has closed since the latter's winter switch to smaller turbo engines and reductions in downforce, Markelov aside, all GP2 cars qualified at least three tenths quicker than the 107% time from F1's Practice Two session.
GP2 Qualifying - Bahrain
1) Jolyon Palmer (GBR) - DAMS - 1:38.865
2) Stoffel Vandoorne (BEL) - ART Grand Prix - +0.030
3) Daniel Abt (GER) - Hilmer Motorsport - +0.208
4) Stephane Richelmi (MON) - DAMS - +0.216
5) Rio Haryanto (INA) - Caterham Racing - +0.363
6) Stefano Coletti (MON) - Racing Engineering - +0.406
7) Mitch Evans (NZL) - Russian Time - +0.409
8) Felipe Nasr (BRA) - Carlin - +0.436
9) Raffaele Marciello (ITA) - Racing Engineering - +0.584
10) Arthur Pic (FRA) - Campos Racing - +0.597
11) Jon Lancaster (GBR) - MP Motorsport - +0.642
24) Adrian Quaife-Hobbs (GBR) - Rapax - +1.543