Kazim Vasiliauskas continued his strong Formula Two season at Imola today, adding his first career F2 podium to his tally, to go with the three podium finishes he has already notched.
"I see that every time I am improving, and now this is my first pole, I am just so happy," Vasiliauskas smiled. "At the first race in Valencia my father told me if you are in the top ten I will be very happy. Now, at the end of the season, I have a pole! Tomorrow I will try to make progress and take my first win of the year."
The front-runners were evenly matched throughout much of the sessions, trading the top spot amongst them. But the 19-year-old Lithuanian slipped through the battle to take the prime grid position with a lap of 1:38.468, an impressive 0.313 seconds faster than Mirko Bortolotti.
Bortolotti, who considers the Imola round to be his home race, had looked very strong early on. Yet his eventual best effort was no match for Vasiliauskas, as the Italian complained of baulking by his Red Bull teammate Mikhail Aleshin.
"It was a bit frustrating because the pace was there to get pole," he grimaced. "But on my fastest lap Aleshin stopped me, so I don't know what to say. In the end I am happy because I got second position, but it could have been better for sure."
Aleshin, who scored third grid position at 0.088 seconds further back, saw things differently and complained of other drivers not slowing down for yellow flags.
"I think that many people were pushing under the yellows, and I think it will be a good decision if the FIA investigate this a little," the young Russian reflected. "In my opinion I was the only one slowing down."
Robert Wickens, in the third Red Bull car, took fourth on the grid, 0.032 seconds behind Aleshin. The Canadian's first flying lap had looked good, but he ran wide twice on his second lap, killing any chance that he might have had of improving his time. Wickens and Aleshin are locked in a battle for second place in the championship, with Aleshin holding a two-point edge coming to Imola.
Championship leader Andy Soucek took sixth on the grid, 0.860 seconds from pole and 0.322 seconds behind fifth-placed Philipp Eng. However, the Spaniard holds a solid 32-point lead in the championship fight and two fourth places would be sufficient for him to clinch the title, even if Aleshin were to win both races this weekend.
Overall, the field was far more spread out than it has been most of the season, with the top drivers able to extract greater performance from their Williams-Audi cars over the challenging road course. 2.734 seconds separated 24th-placed Pietro Gandolfi from Valiliauskas, and only seven drivers scored times within a second of the Lithuanian.