Jolyon Palmer's late effort in today's qualifying session clinched the Englishman the pole for tomorrow's Formula Two race at Monza, the first of two races this weekend.
Palmer has been on pace in all the sessions so far, and clocked the second-fastest time in this afternoon's practice session. In the qualifying, though, he didn't look liek the favourite for the pole position, running just behind the fastest cars for much of the session.
With three minutes to go, though, Palmer put it all together, combining a clean flying lap with a tow from Benjamin Bailly down the long straightaway to stop the clock at 1:41.722. That bettered the erstwhile session leader, Johan Jokinen, by 0.074 seconds and held up through the dying minutes of the session to give Palmer his second career F2 pole position.
"It's good for the championship," Palmer mused. "I didn't have such a great points scoring round in Marrakech and (Philipp Eng and Dean Stoneman) were really on form, so it's nice that they're not here and I'm on pole."
Indeed, championship leaders Eng and Stoneman struggled to match Palmer's and Jokinen's pace. Eng finished the session eleventh, 0.660 seconds behind Palmer, and Stoneman didn't do much better, finishing eighth, 0.553 off the pace.
Instead it will be Palmer and Jokinen on the front row. The latter beat Mihai Marinescu by 0.108 seconds to secure the second front-row starting position, but Palmer's draft-assisted lap was just too much for the Dane.
Kazim vasiliauskas will start fourth, next to Marinescu, having been bettered by the Romanian by a marin of just 0.044 seconds. Nicola DeMarco and Ricardo Teixeira make up the third row.
Palmer has a 27-point gap in the championship standings to Eng, but he now has an opportunity to make up some ground, as both Eng and Stoneman have their work cut out for them to score any substantial points from the first race.
Tomorrow morning's first race will be followed in the afternoon by a second qualifying session; the second race, on Sunday afternoon, will conclude the weekend's program for the series.