Qualifying report – Rounds 32 and 33 (Races 2 and 3).
At the end of the second qualifying session of the day Tom Blomqvist (Jagonya Ayam with Carlin) was in possession of pole position for both of the final two races of the season. He will be joined on the front row for Race 2 by team-mate Antonio Giovinazzi, ahead of Lucas Auer (kfzteile24 Mücke Motorsport). For Race 3, Auer moves up a place to join Blomqvist on the front row, while another kfzteile24 Mücke Motorsport car, that of Felix Rosenqvist, starts from 3rd.
The session got underway on time, with everyone again keen to get out there and get moving as clouds began to build ominously on the skyline. It wasn’t long before there were 24 cars circulating, though the nature of the track and the positioning of the support race paddock means it’s around 5 minutes before any lap times start to show, which makes for a pretty tight schedule when you only have 20 minutes in total to make your mark. At this stage only half a dozen flying laps had been completed, and most of them were still a way off the expected pace.
As the first batch of flying laps was finally completed, Antonio Fuoco (Prema Powerteam) was fastest from Giovinazzi, so this time it was the turn of the Antonios to temporarily block out the front row. Meanwhile, Nick Cassidy (ThreeBond with T-Sport) appeared to have left the pits but not got any further. The New Zealander in fact would not set a time this session.
At the front things were picking up with Auer banging in an impressive time to go to the top of the table, while Max Verstappen (Van Amersfoort Racing) moved into 3rd. However, Blomqvist’s next lap put him at the front, with fellow-Carlin driver Jordan King in 2nd. At least he was before Giovinazzi slotted in beside the yellow car. Ocon, meanwhile, seemed to be somewhat off the pace, at least by his standards and was a mere 7th. However, a lap later he was back on it and as the session reached the halfway stage he was suddenly quickest of all. Or at least he was till Auer came blasting round again.
This was getting interesting. Giovinazzi was the next to set a target time, leading the order from Auer, King, Ocon, Blomqvist, Rosenqvist, Fuoco, Verstappen, Sean Gelael (Jagonya Ayam with Carlin) and Roy Nissany (kfzteile24 Mücke Motorsport). However, Nissany got into a bit of a tangle and managed to go off on the last corner. The officials, perhaps a little trigger happy after recent events in racing, threw the red flags at that point and stopped the session, but Nissany came back to the pits under his own steam apparently none the worse for his little excursion.
Behind top ten
Behind the top ten, Gustavo Menezes (Van Amersfoort Racing) was 11th at this stage, ahead of Dennis van de Laar (Prema Powerteam), Felix Serralles (Team West-Tec F3), Ed Jones (Carlin) who was looking a bit subdued after his fairly hefty off in Imola, Santino Ferrucci (Fortec Motorsport), Tatiana Calderon (Jo Zeller Racing), Jake Dennis (Carlin), Alexander Toril (ThreeBond with T-Sport), Richard “Spike” Goddard (ThreeBond with T-Sport) and Jules Szymkowiak (Van Amersfoort Racing). 21st was Stefano Coletti (Eurointernational), from his team-mare Michele Beretta, Wing Chung “Andy” Chang (Team West-Tec F3) and Sandro Zeller (Jo Zeller Racing).
Because there was nothing to clear away, the restart was very quickly achieved and again 24 cars went out to try and improve. Again it took some time before anything much in the way of activity was evident, with the tyres taking a while to warm up.
When the changes came they were not necessarily from the drivers you might expect, with Szymkowiak gaining several places to go 16th while somewhat more predictably Rosenqvist hauled his reluctant car up the order to 5th. With the runner up slot in the championship still at stake though, all eyes were on Blomqvist and Verstappen. It was Blomqvist who made the first move improving to 3rd. And he still had more to give. A lap later and with time running out Blomqvist claimed the first pole with a 1:31.987. A lap later and the second pole was also his, the only driver to get into the 1:31s this session.
Elsewhere in the order, Calderon had snatched 7th, with Fuoco improving to 8th, though the two would later change places. And that was it really. So Race 2 sees Blomqvist on pole, from Giovinazzi, Auer, King, Rosenqvist, Ocon, Fuoco, Calderon, Verstappen and Gelael. Nissany starts 11th, from Menezes, van de Laar, Jones, Serralles, Ferrucci, Szymkowiak, Dennis (who will be sent to the back of the grid on account of this morning’s engine change), Goddard and Toril. Coletti lines up 21st from Beretta, Zeller and Chang.
For Race 3, it’s Blomqvist again, this time from Auer, Rosenqvist, Giovinazzi, King, Ocon, Fuoco, Verstappen, Gelael and Menezes. Jones is 11th from Nissany, Serralles, van de Laar, Szymkowiak, Calderon, Ferrucci, Dennis, Goddard and Toril. Coletti is again 21st from Chang, Beretta and Zeller. Cassidy set no times at all.
Blomqvist has done his chances of claiming second a power of good with these two poles, and Verstappen will have his work cut out to stop him now. There will have to be quite a bit of overtaking from the Dutchman. On the other hand, given Verstappen’s performances at Imola and at the Hungaroring, you may not want to bet against him.
Race 2 Provisional Grid
Fastest Qualifying Laps of Qualifying Session 2:
1st –Tom Blomqvist, GBR, Jagonya Ayam with Carlin, Dallara F312, Volkswagen, 1:31.817
2nd – Antonio Giovinazzi, ITA, Jagonya Ayam with Carlin, Dallara F312, Volkswagen, 1:32.152
3rd – Lucas Auer, AUT, kfzteile24 Mücke Motorsport, Dallara F312, Mercedes-Benz, 1:32.245
4th – Jordan King, GBR, Carlin, Dallara F312, Volkswagen, 1:32.403
5th – Felix Rosenqvist, SWE, kfzteile24 Mücke Motorsport, Dallara F312, Mercedes-Benz, 1:32.414
6th – Esteban Ocon*, FRA, Prema Powerteam, Dallara F312, Mercedes-Benz, 1:32.422
7th – Antonio Fuoco*, ITA, Prema Powerteam, Dallara F312, Mercedes-Benz, 1:32.433
8th – Tatiana Calderon, COL, Jo Zeller Racing, Dallara F312, Mercedes-Benz, 1:32.754
9th – Max Verstappen*, NED, Van Amersfoort Racing, Dallara F312, Volkswagen, 1:32.832
10th – Sean Gelael, IDN, Jagonya Ayam with Carlin, Dallara F312, Volkswagen, 1:32.840
Race 3 Provisional Grid
Second Fastest Qualifying Laps of Qualifying Session 2:
1st – Tom Blomqvist, GBR, Jagonya Ayam with Carlin, Dallara F312, Volkswagen, 1:31.987
2nd – Lucas Auer, AUT, kfzteile24 Mücke Motorsport, Dallara F312, Mercedes-Benz, 1:32.286
3rd – Felix Rosenqvist, SWE, kfzteile24 Mücke Motorsport, Dallara F312, Mercedes-Benz, 1:32.429
4th – Antonio Giovinazzi, ITA, Jagonya Ayam with Carlin, Dallara F312, Volkswagen, 1:32.545
5th – Jordan King, GBR, Carlin, Dallara F312, Volkswagen, 1:32.669
6th – Esteban Ocon*, FRA, Prema Powerteam, Dallara F312, Mercedes-Benz, 1:32.710
7th – Antonio Fuoco*, ITA, Prema Powerteam, Dallara F312, Mercedes-Benz, 1:32.763
8th – Max Verstappen*, NED, Van Amersfoort Racing, Dallara F312, Volkswagen, 1:32.846
9th – Sean Gelael, IDN, Jagonya Ayam with Carlin, Dallara F312, Volkswagen, 1:32.848
10th – Gustavo Menezes, USA, Van Amersfoort Racing, Dallara F312, Volkswagem