Bianchi powers to pole in Barcelona
Frenchman heads ART 1-3 in qualifying
Jules Bianchi has taken an early lead in this year's GP2 championship with a storming drive to pole position in today's qualifying session in Barcelona, claiming the top spot ahead of Sergio Perez and this morning's fastest man Sam Bird.
The Frenchman stunned his rivals with a laptime of 1:27.727 in warm, sunny conditions to claim the first pole position of the season, three tenths ahead of Perez and half a second in front of his teammate.
The session opened to warmer temperatures than this morning's free practice, with Christian Vietoris leading the way on the first lap before Bianchi asserted his authority and set the target for his rivals. Bird, Perez and Pic opened a five way fight for the top spot early in the session, and when Bianchi broke the 27 second barrier a third of the way through the fight was on.
The field headed back to the pits at half time for fresh tyres and a rethink, everyone casting around for a new advantage on the only testing circuit of the race season, but with the track so well known it was going to take an almighty effort to knock the Frenchman off his perch in the closing stages of qualifying.
With minutes remaining Bird pushed hard to repeat his morning's result but lost time in the final sector and was two tenths off, with Bianchi pushing to cover but actually running slower. When Perez's first sector time went purple it looked as though the Mexican was going to break through, but instead he came into the pits without crossing the line, clearly unhappy with something.
And when Bianchi spun to a stop at the chicane in the final sector was no chance of anyone else improving, putting the rookie at the front of the grid for tomorrow afternoon's race one. Slotting in behind the top three will be Vietoris, Oliver Turvey, Pic, Dani Clos and Marcus Ericsson: with six rookies in the top eight tomorrow's start promises to be unmissable entertainment.