Antonio Giovinazzi is on top of the grid for races 23 and 24.
At the RedBull Ring this afternoon it was not that man Esteban Ocon (Prema Powerteam) on pole for once, but rather Antonio Giovinazzi (Jagonya Ayam with Carlin), the Italian on top of the grid for both races, alongside team-mate Tom Blomqvist, winner of this morning’s race. Third for race two is local hero Lucas Auer (kfzteile24 Mücke Motorsport) while for race three it will be Antonio Fuoco (Prema Powerteam) after another rollercoaster of a qualifying session.
At the beginning of the session as ever it was the T-Sport and Fortec Motorsport boys who went out first. As this never seems to work out for them, it does beg the question “Why?” but this time at least the rest of the horde was not far behind. A couple of laps later and it was Felix Rosenqvist (kfzteile24 Mücke Motorsport) who led the charge, only to be supplanted almost immediately by Jordan King (Carlin), but we had a way to go yet before anything could be considered significant.
Next to the top of the tree was Dennis van de Laar (Prema Powerteam) but he also didn’t stay there for long, with Giovinazzi going even faster. However, the times were still in the 1:27s so it was highly unlikely that this would be where it ended. There was a brief moment when Tatiana Calderon (Jo Zeller Racing) was fastest of all, shortly to be pushed out by Roy Nissany (kfzteile24 Mücke Motorsport) with Fuoco back in 3rd. And then normality reasserted itself and Verstappen hit the 1:26s, ahead of Nicholas Latifi (Prema Powerteam). Things seemed even more “business as usual” when Ocon broke the 1 minutes 25 second barrier to set the bar for everyone else. King moved into 2nd and Verstappen was now 3rd but as ever times were being disallowed almost before they could register as people were penalized for not respecting track limits. It was hard to keep track.
Suddenly Blomqvist was on it, going 2nd a mere 0.20 seconds off Ocon, while the rest of the top ten consisted of Fuoco, King, Verstappen, Giovinazzi, Jake Dennis (Carlin), Latifi, Nissany and Felix Serralles (Team West-TecF3) as the session reached the halfway point. It was a long way from over. Rosenqvist was next to the top of the times, just ahead of Gustavo Menezes (Van Amersfoort Racing), at least until the later promptly plummeted back down the order again, another victim of the dreaded track limits transgressions.
Another batch of times and Blomqvist was 2nd while Ocon had slipped down to 5th, behind Fuoco and Rosenqvist. Verstappen crossed the line next to go 2nd and Ocon improved to 3rd but through it all Giovinazzi hung onto his top spot, and then the red flags came out. Hector Hurst had gone off somewhere out in the scenery and needed moving to a place of safety. The top ten was Giovinazzi from Blomqvist, Fuoco, Rosenqvist, Ocon, Menezes, Verstappen, Auer, Dennis and Calderon.
Everyone trundled back to the pits and waited but it wasn’t long before the track was clear and they could all go back out. The question now was had the momentum gone out of the session. Not a bit of it, as it turned out. At the wrong end of the grid Richard “Spike” Goddard (ThreeBond with T-Sport) improved to 23rd but it was at the front that the real interest was. Ocon improved to go 4th while Auer was also pushing on and was rewarded with 6th.
At the very front though, Giovinazzi was pushing hard as could be seem from his sector times. Fuoco set a fastest Sector 2 time, but Giovinazzi went even quicker to cement his hold on pole position. Ocon was briefly able to wrest it from him though, and Auer improved but stayed 4th. Fuoco promptly went even faster, while Dennis shot up to 5th. A further change saw Verstappen in 3rd while Calderon dropped to 14th but was just as rapidly back in 12th. However, Giovinazzi was having none of it and went even faster, the sector times lighting up purple as the Italian pushed for pole. It was enough to get him into the 1:24s, well ahead of anyone else and for a brief moment it seemed as if the front row would belong to the Antonios, Giovinazzi and Fuoco.
But still the improvements came, with Auer leaping into 2nd and Rosenqvist to 4th, pushing Ocon down the order again. A further improvement from Blomqvist put him 4th, while Calderon was battling Ed Jones (Carlin) for 10th. Menezes again appeared near the top, this time in 2nd, and again just as promptly had his lap time disallowed, just as Blomqvist was finally rewarded for persistence with a front row slot.
And then we ran out of time. Giovinazzi would start both races from pole after a superb effort, aided perhaps by being in a brand new car this weekend. Blomqvist would be alongside him. For Race 2, Auer was 3rd, from Fuoco, Rosenqvist, Ocon, Verstappen, King, Dennis and Jones. Latifi would start 11th again were it not for a five grid place penalty from Race 1, ahead of Calderon, Menezes, van de Laar, Sean Gelael (Jagonya Ayam with Carlin), Nissany, Serralles, Alexander Toril (ThreeBond with T-Sport), John Bryant-Meisner (Fortec Motorsport) and Goddard. In 21st would be Santino Ferrucci (Eurointernational), from Jules Szymkowiak (Van Amersfoort Racing), Alfonso Celis (Fortec Motorsport), Sandro Zeller (Jo Zeller Racing), Michele Beretta (Eurointernational) and Hurst.
For Race 3, Fuoco starts 3rd, with Ocon behind him, then Auer, Verstappen, Dennis, Rosenqvist, King and Jones making up the top ten. 11th is Latifi yet again, ahead of Calderon, van de Laar, Menezes, Gelael, Nissany, Serralles, Bryant-Meisner, Goddard, and Toril. Ferrucci ended up 21st, from Szymkowiak, Celis, Zeller, Beretta and the unfortunate Hurst.
This time only Calderon, Szymkowiak and Celis were the only drivers not to have times disallowed.