Pepe Oriola claims his first pole
In the closest Qualifying from the beginning of the season, Pepe Oriola claimed his first pole position of the year beating Gianni Morbidelli by only one thousandth of a second. It was also a very rewarding recognition for the Craft-Bamboo Lukoil team that had worked very hard since yesterday to rebuild James Nash’s car after the shunt in testing and to solve a technical issue on Sergey Afanasyev’s. On top of this, the five points awarded for the pole position enabled Oriola to re-take the championship lead by two points ahead of Stefano Comini. The Qualifying results proved that competition is very close on the track – with the six fastest drivers in Q2 covered by three tenths. Meaning that two exciting races should be expected for tomorrow. There will be an all-Russian front row on the reverse grid for Race 2, with Mikhail Grachev on pole and Afanasyev alongside him. The first race will start tomorrow at 12:30 local time (7:25am in Central Europe), over a distance of 14 laps.
Q1: Morbidelli and Comini very close
Gianni Morbidelli set the pace from the beginning with a provisional fastest time of 1:44.281 that he improved on the following lap to 1:44.109; a mark that was not to be beaten. Stefano Comini posted the second fastest lap of 1:44.180 in the final moments, demoting James Nash (1:44.340) and Pepe Oriola (1:44.393) to third and fourth. It was an extremely close Q1, with the first 13 drivers covered only by six tenths of a second. Kantadhee Kusiri was the only Thai driver to advance to Q2 (8th fastest – 1:44.488), while Petr Fulín provided the final thrill by posting the 10th fastest lap (1:44.532) and kicking Davit Kajaia (whose car suffered from a broken drive-shaft) off the top-twelve in the process. Kajaia’s teammate Munkong Sathienthirakul missed the whole session due to a gearbox failure. The following drivers made the cut for Q2: Morbidelli , Comini, Nash, Oriola, Borković, Vernay, Homola, Kusiri, Grachev, Fulín, Tassi and Afanasyev.
Q2: Oriola on pole for the first time
Pepe Oriola claimed his first pole of the season with a perfect lap of 1:43.634 that was only one thousandths of a second faster than Gianni Morbidelli’s 1:43.635. The first spell at the pole was from Stefano Comini (1:43.865), but the reigning champion was immediately demoted by Morbidelli (1:43.834) and the later was then beaten by Jean-Karl Vernay (1:43.767). On his second attempt, Morbidelli jumped on top again with a lap of 1:44.733, but Oriola managed to go faster (1:44.634) and Morbidelli’s last lap (1:44.635) was only 0.001 seconds slower. Kantadhee Kusiri continued in his impressive effort and qualified in eighth, while Petr Fulín could not post any lap time due to an electrical issue.