With the shift in weather conditions there was a chance that the second qualifying session for the BP Ultimate Masters of F3 might produce faster times, though you wondered if anyone could get close to the pole time Giedo van der Garde (ASM F3)...
With the shift in weather conditions there was a chance that the second qualifying session for the BP Ultimate Masters of F3 might produce faster times, though you wondered if anyone could get close to the pole time Giedo van der Garde (ASM F3) had set in the first session. 1:32.920 is very close to Lewis Hamilton's lap record from last year, so it seemed likely that that would stand. No one else had got below 1:33.000 though, so perhaps it could be done.
Someone who wouldn't be doing it was Christian Bakkerud (Carlin Motorsport), the Dane's truly abysmal luck striking once again, when he got nudged into a spin on his out lap and had to sit the session out. All he could do was hope that the session didn't prove quicker. The way things are going for this most personable of drivers there was no one else such a thing could have happened to.
In contrast, someone who was bound to improve was James Jakes (Hitech Racing). His car was now complete with a fully functional fuel pump, and he had 30 minutes to do something towards getting a respectable grid slot. At least he could now set some sort of time. The early progress came from Romain Grosjean (Signature Plus) and Kohei Hirate (Manor Motorsport), but they were still in the 1;34s, a long way off van der Garde's pace. Jakes first flying lap was 1:35.792, which didn't get him very high up the order but did at least mean he had qualified!
The first actual improvement on the earlier session times came from Alex Khateeb (Promatecme F3), and that was 15 minutes into the session. It didn't stop him being last and likely to not qualify, but it was an improvement on what he'd done before. Interestingly, the Kumho control tyres for this event don't seem to come into their own until about lap 7, and the Lebanese's experience was proving no different to anyone else's.
Again, as we hit the halfway stage, pretty much everyone was in the pits, and a lot of them weren't showing much inclination to go out again. The next signs of life came from Stephen Jelley (Raikkonen Robertson Racing), and at that stage there were only 12 minutes left of the session. He was faster than he had been, but it wasn't enough to move him up a row. His team-mate Mike Conway then set the fastest time of the session, but it also wouldn't make any difference to his overall position. Continuing this trend, Ho-Pin Tung (JB Motorsport) also went faster but failed to move up.
The trend to stay put was finally bucked by Filip Salaquarda (Team ISR), though he only gained a place. It seemed to open the floodgates though; Conway promptly made a large time improvement and went up a place only to have Kamui Kobayashi (ASM F3) take it right back again, and then Maro Engel (Carlin Motorsport) moved up, as did Jelley. Paolo Nocera (Prema Powerteam) improved, but then went off quite heavily, causing a red flag with 6 minutes 14 seconds left.
At this stage, the session order was Grosjean, from Hirate, Kobayashi, Conway, Engel, Jonathan Summerton (ASL Team Mucke Motorsport), Charlie Kimball (Signature Plus), Jelley, Alejandro Nunez (Prema Powerteam) and Nocera. Tung was 11th, Peter Elkmann (Jo Zeller Racing), Jakes, Salaquarda, Paul di Resta (ASM Motorsport), Dominick Muermans (Van Amersfoort Racing), Max Nilsson (Swiss Racing Team) and Stian Sorlie (Fortec Motorsport) who was still a long way down a very steep learning curve!
After the restart, there was very little time left, and with less than a minute to run, Kimball got himself a good improvement, but that was about it.
Kimball gets a good improvement with less than a minute left.
The combined order now was di Resta, Hirate, Grosjean, Summerton, Kobayashi, Conway, Engel, Kimball, Nunez and Bakkerud (who'd sort of got away with missing the session). 11th (and starting from 22nd) was Jelley, from Tung, Jakes, Nocera, Elkmann, Salaquarda, Sorlie, Muermans and Nilsson. Khateeb had not qualified.
In the even numbered session, the first improvements came from Oliver Jarvis (Carlin Motorsport), who had taken a major gamble by hanging onto both sets of new tyres. It might prove to be an inspirational move. It might be a major disaster. Only the next 30 minutes would tell. Thus far, it seemed to be working as he was straight into a 1:33.875, the first of the major improvements. And then there was one who wasn't going to improve. Bruno Senna (Raikkonen Robertson Racing) was off in the Scheivlak gravel trap, having been caught out by what he thought was water (but was more likely sand blown there by the gusting wind). Brazilians and sand are not a good combination sometimes, perhaps because it makes them think they need to be on the beach. Whatever the reason, his sister and manager Bianca didn't look at all impressed.
To continue the trend, Sebastien Buemi (ASL Team Mucke Motorsport) managed to spin at the Audi-S corner, though he was able to get going again. Jarvis was still pressing on too, staying out while what seemed to be the rest of the field pitted. He had now made up 6 places, and it was looking as if he might have made the right choice. He then joined the mob in the pits, though he didn't stay there long.
Mario Moraes (Carlin Motorsport) was also able to improve on his morning time, but it didn't shift him from the back of the grid. With a little over 8 minutes left to run, Kazuki Nakajima (Manor Motorsport) managed a substantial improvement, while Salvador Duran (Hitech Racing) managed a minuscule improvement, getting a time 0.003 seconds faster than in the first session. Jarvis, meanwhile, improved again. Another one speeding up was Sebastian Vettel (ASM F3), the German performing impressively considering how heavily strapped his broken fingers were (and the glee with which he informed us that, yes, the accident had actually severed the bone, was worrying frankly). Nakajima managed another improvement, as did Duran, and Buemi too. Just for good measure, van der Garde went quicker in the session, but he couldn't move up of course. And then it all fell apart, with Moraes having a gravel-filled moment, and Ronayne O'Mahony (Prema Powerteam) getting stuck on the kerbs on the apex of Audi-S. That really was not a good place to be and so the red flags were hauled out again, with 4 minutes and 19 seconds left to run.
The order in the session was Buemi, from Vettel, van der Garde, Jarvis, Nakajima, Michael Herck (Bas Leinders Racing), Yelmer Buurman (Fortec Motorsport), Duran, Tim Sandtler (Signature Plus) and James Walker (Hitech Racing). 11th was Guillaume Moreau (Signature Plus), Richard Antinucci (HBR Motorsport), O'Mahony, Senna, Ferdinand Kool (JB Motorsport), Esteban Guerrieri (Manor Motorsport), Moraes and Recardo Bruins (Van Amersfoort Racing). O'Mahony was quickly moved from the gravel and the session restarted.
At the restart, there was about enough time for a flying lap each, so the fact that no one but Buemi improved should not have surprised anyone. It was no surprise then that van der Garde was still on pole at the end of qualifying. This meant the even numbered cars would be inline astern behind him, with di Resta heading up the other side of the grid, with the odd numbers behind him.
The combined even numbers lined up with van der Garde at the head, from Buemi, Vettel, Senna, Jarvis, Herck, Nakajima, Moreau, Antinucci and Buurman. 11th was Walker, Sandtler, Duran, O'Mahony, Guerrieri, Kool, Bruins and Moraes.
Afterwards, van der Garde was very happy to be the first Dutch driver since Jos Verstappen in 1993 to take pole position for this meeting. "The team did a fantastic job! I struggled at the beginning of the season, but I've learned a lot and I'm very happy now. I got a really good lap too. We struggled this morning with quite a lot of understeer, and I think I could have gone faster but there were yellow flags in the last sector of that lap. And then I went off myself. My sidepods were full of sand after that so I couldn't drive any more!"
Di Resta was fairly sanguine. "I don't think he had any particular advantage. We had two laps with new tyres and then got red-flagged. It's just your luck which group you're in, so we were unlucky. We came in after two laps because it wasn't possible to drive any faster and I wanted to save the tyres. Second is just the first loser so I'll be disappointed if I don't win."