Juncadella tops eventful qualifying session at Spa-Francorchamps
Tech 1 Racing's Daniel Juncadella has claimed his first GP3 Series pole position today in one of the most unpredictable qualifying sessions of the season.
It was all about the tricky track conditions in this morning's qualifying session. When the lights went green half of the field went out on wets, and the other half went out on slicks due to the fact that part of the Belgian circuit were wet whilst other parts had dried out.
Rio Haryanto was the first man in action for Manor Racing and it looked like the team had made the right choice with wet weather tyres -- the Indonesian initially topped the timing sheet heading up an all wet weather tyre top ten.
Amongst the early pace setters were Haryanto's teammate Adrian Quaife-Hobbs, Status GP's Robert Wickens and MW Arden's Michael Christensen followed by Jenzer Motorsport's Simon Trummer. As RSC Mucke Motorsport's Nigel Melker then went top the session was red-flagged: Dean Smith went off track and into the tyre wall at turn 6, the Carlin driver struggling with grip on slick tyres.
On the restart Atech CRS Gp's Roberto Merhi and Oliver Oakes showed strong pace. The field were still split between wet weather tyres and slicks, and it was still to be decided which choice was the right one. The middle sector of the long track was still quite damp, and it was Carlin's Josef Newgarden who was the first driver to break into the top ten on slicks with just under ten minutes remaining. Newgarden's teammate Antonio Felix da Costa then went even quicker going third.
With six minutes left on the clock Jenzer Motorsport's Nico Muller spun in the gravel at turn 14 effectively making his championship contention all the more difficult.
In the dying minutes the top spots changed constantly as the track continued to dry. Juncadella eventually took the top spot followed by Felix da Costa. Addax Team's Mirko Bortolotti snatched third spot on the chequered flag. Series leader Esteban Gutierrez went for a last gasp attempt at pole but was hampered by yellow flags and was only able to manage fourth spot pushing Jenzer Motorsport's Pal Varhuag down into fifth.
Rio Haryanto switched to slicks at mid-session and eventually took sixth spot ahead of Stefano Coletti for Tech 1 Racing. Championship contender Wickens also disrupted by yellow flags finished the session in eighth spot. Quaife-Hobbs was ninth and rounding out the top ten was Nigel Melker.
Race 1 will start at 17:20 local time this afternoon.