After his first pole position of the season this morning, Marcus Ericsson (Fortec Motorsport) was clearly very keen to repeat the feat for the second race of the weekend. He duly brought the car home 0.132 seconds faster than series leader...
After his first pole position of the season this morning, Marcus Ericsson (Fortec Motorsport) was clearly very keen to repeat the feat for the second race of the weekend. He duly brought the car home 0.132 seconds faster than series leader Sergio Perez (T-Sport) could manage, while third on the grid went to Atte Mustonen (Double R Racing). In the National Class, Steven Guerrero (T-Sport) made up for his morning's disappointment by qualifying ahead of Jay Bridger (Fluid Motorsport) and Salman Al Khalifa in the other T-Sport car to claim his first class pole in the category.
As with the morning session, most of the drivers seemed very keen to get out there, probably because the skies were darkening ominously and it looked as if rain was in the offing. Mustonen was the first to make an impact, grabbing an early pole, while Max Chilton (Hitech Racing) slotted in to 4th but then it all shifted. The first flying lap sent the timing screens nuts, with Perez going 2nd and John Martin (Double R Racing) snatching 3rd from Sam Abay (Carlin Motorsport). A further round of changes saw Sebastian Hohenthal (Fortec Motorsport), who won here last year, go 3rd, while Guerrero was again leading the National Class, at least for now. Someone else pressing on was Mick Devaney (Ultimate Motorsport), who was not hanging about now that his morning's problems had been traced to battery issues.
In fact, everyone was now out apart from Carlin Motorsport's front- running trio of Jaime Alguersuari, Oliver Turvey and Brendon Hartley, and Fortec were holding Ericsson back as well.
While the quartet in the pits sand-bagged (or whatever you wanted to call it) Mustonen shot back up to 3rd before temporarily getting to pole, only to have Hohenthal take it off him. This was a very long way from over, with almost everyone pitting early for new rubber. Mustonen again edged back onto pole, only to be bounced down again, this time by Abay. Hohenthal improved to 2nd just as Ericsson finally blinked and decided it was time to head out onto the track. The Carlin boys stayed their hands although Alguersuari finally wandered out. Hartley was the next to crack with Turvey waiting a little longer before joining his team-mates. Finally everyone was out.
The next driver to trouble the order was not one of the latecomers, but rather was Walter Grubmuller (Hitech Racing) who seemed to be on a flyer, at least if the sector times were anything to go by. The question was could he complete the lap: As it turned out he couldn't quite make it stick and he ended up 4th. Now it was Ericsson who was on the move, finishing his first flying lap in 6th. It was a lot better than Alguersuari's first effort, which only netted him 21st. The Swede's next lap was even better and put him on provisional pole; Hohenthal likes this place, it seems.
Nick Tandy (John Tandy Racing) was the next to progress and went 3rd, which wasn't surprising either; Tandy is quick but seems to have a propensity to wildness that tends to mean he throws it all away in the heat of the moment. Alguersuari was steadily making his way up the order and his next lap put him in 11th, but Ericsson was on blistering form and now headed Hohenthal by half a second for an all-Swedish, all-Fortec front row, at least for the time being. Hartley was also still pressing on, and was now 8th, while the Swedish idyll at the front was shattered by Alguersuari, who demoted Hohenthal for 2nd, and then Tandy edged the Swede down another place.
Of the other late starters, Turvey was still getting up to speed and was thus only 13th, though he and Hartley obviously both had a lot of life left in their tyres compared to the rest of the field. Hartley pressed on for 4th which pushed Hohenthal down yet another place, and then just for good measure Turvey snatched 2nd from Alguersuari. 2nd became 3rd when Martin put in another very good time. 2nd was something of a surprise, given how low down the order the Australian has been for most of the year.
Meanwhile, series leader Perez had plummeted to 13th, though whether he was done or not was a moot point. Technically, there couldn't be much left in his tyres, but that didn't stop him putting in a last ditch effort which saw him move into 2nd, only to lose ground again when Alguersuari nabbed pole. The reshuffling continued though, like some sophisticated representation of Brownian motion. Ericsson reclaimed pole, while a further flying lap from Perez put him back up to 2nd, with Alguersuari and Hartley in 3rd and 4th. With less than half the session left the remaining top ten places went to Tandy, Martin, Turvey, Hohenthal, Abay and Chilton.
In the National Class, Guerrero continued to head the pack from Al Khalifa and Bridger, though in the closing stages Bridger managed to get ahead of Al Khalifa. Apart from that, the National boys appeared to be settled now. The International Class emphatically wasn't. Turvey was still able to extract more pace from his tyres, which was proved when he edged back into 4th, and that suggested that Hartley, Alguersuari and Ericsson probably had more running left as well. It seemed that no one had explained the tyre situation to Mustonen however. The Finn, running on what must have been pretty worn rubber, set a time that was enough to put him 3rd.
And then it seemed to go very quiet. Grubmuller threw himself off at Clearways and threw dust everywhere but was able to rejoin, while Turvey went faster but stayed 5th, Clearways, which was now very messy after Grubmuller's excursion, promptly claimed another victim as Alistair Jackson (Ultimate Motorsport) went a long way off into the scenery. Pitting was starting to look like a sensible option, especially if you were confident that you could extract no more speed from your Avons. Certainly Guerrero though that was the way to go, especially as this time there were four International Class runners between him and Bridger.
Hardly anyone seemed able to go any faster apart from Ericsson, who improved his time. However, you can't move up from pole so there was no change there. Most of the drivers were still out there but really there was nothing much happening and people seemed to be wasting rubber and fuel to very little effect.
And then there were red flags. Ericsson had thrown it off and was stranded in a dangerous position. With 2 minutes and 48 seconds left to run there was little point in anyone going out again, so the Clerk of the Course rapidly took the decision to end the session slightly early. The chequered flag was hung out to let everyone know, and the debris was cleared. There is some discussion going on at present about what happened, so the results are only provisional at present. However, it seems that Ericsson has his second pole of the year from Perez, Mustonen, Alguersuari, Turvey, Tandy, Hartley, Hohenthal, Martin and Abay. Chilton was 11th from Grubmuller, Henry Arundel (Double R Racing), Devaney, National Class poleman Guerrero, Philip Major (Fortec Motorsport), Ricardo Teixeira (Ultimate Motorsport), Jackson, Viktor Jensen (Nexa Racing) and Bridger. Al Khalifa was 21st overall and 3rd in class, from Stefan Wilson (Fluid Motorsport), Martin O'Connell (Carlin Motorsport), Jordan Williams (Team Loctite), Hywel Lloyd (CF Motorsport), Kristjan Einar (Carlin Motorsport) and Jonathan Legris (Litespeed F3).
Weather: Cool, cloudy.