Chilton qualifies seventh on Carlin's GP2 debut
Carlin's Max Chilton put in a strong performance in the team's first qualifying session in the GP2 Asia Series today, qualifying seventh on the grid for tomorrow's race. The 19 year-old's best ever GP2 qualifying performance also places him as the top Brit on the grid in Abu Dhabi. Team mate Mikhail Aleshin meanwhile suffered a torrid session, with traffic in the final sector pushing him down the order. The Russian was balked on two occasions and qualified 22nd, but will line up 25th due to an earlier grid penalty.
As the first qualifying session of the season got underway, Chilton showed his intent early on - going P10 in the first 10 minutes. Aleshin meanwhile set his two fastest first sectors, but was forced to abort his lap on the final sector, losing a full nine seconds.
As the field entered the pits to make the change to new tyres, both Chilton and Aleshin made tweaks to their set-up.
Heading back out onto track for the final minutes of the session, Chilton went fourth, with just five minutes left on the clock. Aleshin was also on the pace; the FR3.5 champion set his best first and second sector times, but was once again forced to back off due to slow traffic at the end of his lap.
Having been deemed to have passed the chequered flag twice in practice earlier today, Aleshin will also take a three pace grid penalty tomorrow afternoon - putting him 25th on the grid.
Chilton was also hampered by the traffic this afternoon; the young Brit was three tenths up on a final lap which could have put him second, but was held up on at the final corner.
Speaking about his qualifying performance, Chilton said, "I feel quite satisfied with seventh today as that's where our general pace has been in practice and I would have been disappointed if we'd been lower. Every one seems to have gained pace today, but we moved forward as well and the car felt really good. It's a shame that I lost three tenths on my last lap, but overall I'm really happy with the start we've made. It's great to see the team working so well too, I think they've done a great job."
A downcast Aleshin added, said, "I am really, really disappointed and very frustrated about today. I didn't get one free lap and had to back off massively at last twice in the final sector. What makes it worse is that my first two sectors were quick. I just have to make the most of the races now. There's still potential for a good result from this weekend, and I've nothing to lose so will be pushing to the maximum tomorrow."
Racing Director Trevor Carlin said, "Max has done a fantastic job, and we're delighted to be so high up the grid in our first ever qualifying session. He has been quick throughout testing and managed to continue that into qualifying, despite the added pressure. Mikhail was extremely unfortunate and his grid position does not reflect his pace. Traffic can be a problem here but I think Mikhail in particular was very unlucky today. I know we will see a great fight back through the field by him tomorrow. We have two very long races ahead of us, but I think we've proved already that we have a quick car and we look forward to the races ahead."