The start of the qualifying session saw Championship leader Frederik Vesti asserting his dominance, immediately taking the top spot with a blistering lap time of 1:28.334. The PREMA Racing driver was two-tenths ahead of Doohan and four-tenths faster than Martins, which showcased a promising pace.
As the initial laps proved critical, Ayumu Iwasa reported spots of rain in Sector 2, adding an extra layer of complexity to the session. Meanwhile, ART Grand Prix driver Theo Pourchaire faced a setback, as lap time was deleted due to track limit violations.
Vesti continued to impress, responding to improvements elsewhere with an even faster lap time of 1:27.911. However, the ART drivers were closing in with Martins just over a tenth ahead of Pourchaire, who moved up to third.
The red flag emerged with 19 minutes left on the clock as Roman Stanek’s Trident car was found on the barriers at the exit of Turn 11.
After the track was cleared, the green light at the end of the pit lane signaled the drivers to rejoin the action, but neither PREMA, ART, nor Campos Racing’s car was seen on the track. Regardless, Vesti remained fastest.
Doohan made improvements to climb third with a personal best in the middle sector, as Pourchaire was behind him in fourth. Iwasa did his best to improve but only managed to move up one place to fifth as purple sectors flooded behind.
With less than seven minutes to go, Pourchaire briefly took the lead as Vesti snatched it back with a 1:27.767.
The battle for pole intensified. Pourchaire still eye for the lead, as he trailed Vesti closely, but soon Martins would take the provisional pole with 1:27.728. Unfortunately for the French, his reign was short-lived.
Martins tried to snatch pole back, but it was the Virtuosi driver who claimed the top spot to take first, just 0.052 ahead of Martins in second.
Despite his best efforts, Vesti had to settle for the third position for PREMA Racing. Pourchaire secured fourth ahead of Hitech’s Isack Hadjar in fifth. Ayumu Iwasa ended up in sixth despite his effort to finish inside the top five, as Oliver Bearman took seventh for PREMA Racing.
The MP Motorsport duo, Jehan Daruvala and Dennis Hauger claimed eighth and ninth, respectively. Lastly, Kush Maini rounded out the top ten for Campos Racing.
The Sprint Race will start at 14:15 local time tomorrow as Maini will look forward to starting from the reverse grid pole alongside Hauger on the front row.
Image: Formula Motorsport Ltd