Wickens doubles up in Barcelona
Canadian takes fifth pole of season ahead of Soucek and Eng
Robert Wickens clinched his fifth pole of the year in Barcelona, setting a benchmark time of 1:38.096s in the final few minutes of the session.
He will again be joined on the front row by Andy Soucek, who held top spot until Wickens' late effort. Philipp Eng and Nicola De Marco will start from the second row after impressive late runs.
A brief shower in the morning meant the track continued to dry and improve as the session wore on. Mikhail Aleshin made the most of the early conditions, dominating the opening ten minutes and bettering his own provisional pole time on three occasions.
Tobias Hegewald, Robert Wickens and Philipp Eng remained in close proximity to Aleshin, whilst De Marco and Jack Clarke both recovered from spins during an early flying lap.
Almost every car pitted for new tyres with a little over ten minutes remaining and the session would develop into a dramatic final dash for pole. Aleshin was the first to complete a flying lap on fresh rubber and the 22-year-old immediately improved to set a 1:38.470s lap time - the quickest of the weekend so far. The decision to come out early seemed to have cost Aleshin, however, as Soucek bettered the Red Bull-backed driver just a few moments later.
De Marco, Hegewald and Kazim Vasiliauskas all improved after changing tyres, the trio moving into fourth, fifth and sixth respectively. Wickens was the last man to bolt on new tyres and make a final attempt for pole, and the Canadian timed it perfectly to set a phenomenal time of 1:38.096s and clinch his fifth pole of the season.
Several drivers made another attempt on their second lap but none of the notable front-runners improved, as Soucek and Eng held on to take second and third.
Aleshin had been bumped down to seventh at the finish, ahead of further impressive runs from debutant Tristan Vautier and Indian pilot Armaan Ebrahim.
Julien Jousse rounded out the top ten, whilst Jason Moore and Jolyon Palmer again showed well, taking 11th and 12th respectively.
"I am delighted," said Wickens. "It goes to show that the championship wasn't lost through my lack of speed. Since Donington Park the championship has been out of reach and since then I have just been trying to maintain second. It's good coming into the weekend with a nine point advantage and a win this afternoon will clinch it for me. I went for an aggressive strategy in qualifying and took my third pole position in a row, which is pretty good!"
Andy Soucek said: "It reminds me a lot of Valencia when Robert took two pole positions and I couldn't get him. This time it is a lot closer however, I have much better pace and I'm sure I can challenge for the win."
Philipp Eng said: "It was quite a crazy session actually. I had a lot of traffic on my second lap which would have been even quicker, but to finish just behind Robert and Andy is a good result."