Frenchman Théo Pourchaire took the first FIA Formula 2 pole position of the 2023 season by three-quarters of a second, as ART Grand Prix completed a front-row lockout.
Pourchaire’s closest challenger was his teammate, 2022 F3 champ Victor Martins, with VAR’s Richard Verschoor almost a second slower in third.
It was a stunning performance from the 2022 F2 runner-up, giving the Alfa Romeo reserve two points to open his 2023 account.
2022 champion Felipe Drugovich took five poles on his way to the title and Pourchaire will hope that his second pole at this level is a springboard for his own similar success.
Expected championship contenders Ayumu Iwasa and Jack Doohan had disappointing sessions, with Iwasa seventh in his DAMS, Doohan way down the order in 17th.
Alpine reserve driver Doohan ran in the gap between most other drivers’ first and second runs but was half a second off Pourchaire’s first lap of a 1m 41.5.
As Pourchaire laid down the gauntlet, Doohan found himself unable to respond.
There were surprise performances from rookies Kush Maini, who was sixth fastest, and Arthur Leclerc, younger brother of F1 driver Charles, who took P8.
Campos’ Ralph Boschung will start his 96th F2 race from pole position after qualifying 10th, which means he will be at the front for Saturday’s Sprint Race.
The champion team from 2022, MP Motorsport, qualified fourth with Dennis Hauger, the Norwegian returning to form with the Dutch team.
Saturday’s Sprint Race starts at 19:40 AST and the Feature Race on Sunday begins at 13:40 AST.
Image: Formula Motorsport Limited