Pantano on pole in Istanbul
Giorgio Pantano maintains blistering pace in qualifying
Giorgio Pantano stepped up another gear in qualifying from his already astonishing turn of speed this morning to put himself on pole for tomorrow's race one in Istanbul, easily claiming the top spot from Andreas Zuber and Series returnee Adam Carroll.
The Italian's pace was untouchable as he smashed the 1:33 barrier to set a laptime of 1:32.659 on his final lap, beating his own time to put himself even further ahead of the competition, with Zuber more than two tenths off the pace and the Ulsterman another two tenths further back.
As usual the pace improved throughout the session, with the final two minutes running at a fever pitch. Unfortunately for Davide Valsecchi the pace was too much: the Italian lost his car at the end of the back straight and he ploughed straight into the tyre barrier in a nasty looking crash, although thankfully he appeared to have escaped serious damage as he was taken to the medical centre for a compulsory check.
The session took place under large, ominous looking clouds, with the teams receiving a forecast of rain to come: given this every driver was immediately out on track, as they looked for banker laps just in case the rain came early. Pantano was immediately on the pace, setting a 1:37.757 on his first full lap and then chipped away at it each time around, with Andy Soucek, Romain Grosjean and Carroll keeping him honest.
Kamui Kobayashi was pushing hard to make up for the 5 place grid penalty he picked up this morning for cross the finish line twice after the session: a little too hard it turned out, and the Japanese driver spun off before turn one and stalled in the run off area. He will line up at the back of the grid tomorrow along with Alberto Valerio, who has the same penalty, while Ben Hanley will be just ahead of them in 22nd place as a result of a 10 place penalty for causing an avoidable crash in Barcelona.
Alvaro Parente is another driver who seems unlikely to repeat his Barcelona form: after stopping on track this morning he lost the rear going into turn three and spun to a stop in the middle of the next corner, although thankfully the marshals were able to remove the stricken vehicle without stopping the session.
As time ran down the stress was starting to show: Pastor Maldonado lost the rear of his car at turn one, Luca Filippi almost lost it coming out of the pits after losing time on the weigh bridge, while Zuber almost collected a slower Bruno Senna as he tried in vain to catch Pantano's time. But with the session at an end Valsecchi hit the wall at the end of the rear straight: a following Pantano stated that he didn't appear to have slowed at all before running deep into the tyre wall, but thankfully Dallara's good work did its job and the car seems to have taken the brunt of the impact.
Unfortunately, however, he will be unable to take advantage of his strong ninth position on the grid as the doctors have recommended that he gets some rest, despite any major physical maladies. Behind the top three Grosjean, Senna, Maldonado, Karun Chandhok, and Javier Villa will line up on the grid tomorrow: if the race pace is as good as that shown today it promises to be a classic event at the always exciting Turkish circuit.