Callum Ilott has claimed his maiden pole position in the GP3 series at his third attempt and he will lead an all-British front row for tomorrow’s feature race with team-mate Jake Hughes alongside.
The Ferrari Academy driver ran in the top spot for the majority of the session and the confidence showed from his first win in the series (in France last weekend) as Ilott defended against any of the different challengers he faced during the 30-minute qualifying.
Ilott ran the most ‘fast’ laps in the first half of the session and kept improving by less than a tenth of a second on each lap to stretch the gap to seventy-seven hundredths of a second at the mid-way point of the session from Leonardo Pulcini. As the whole field pitted for new tyres at the half way point, Ilott was first out the pits and, after a couple of warm-up laps, banged in a qualifying time of 1:19.209 to take pole away from ART Grand Prix team-mate Jake Hughes by just under four hundredths of a second.
It was a moral boosting session for Hughes. The British driver from Birmingham has had a disappointing season so far, being outperformed by his three ART team-mates and only scoring eleven points out of the two rounds so far, and the session initially looked like it was heading the same way. The new set of tyres for the second half of the session seemed to the do the trick and Hughes will be looking for two strong results from this weekend to get his championship back on track.
Meanwhile, it was a disastrous session for championship leader Anthoine Hubert. The ART driver had been challenging for a top six place on the grid but he made a mistake on his first flying lap on the new tyres, running too wide on the exit of the final corner and being lucky not to spin the car. This put the Frenchman on the back foot and as he set the car up for one final run at pole position, the car rolled to a halt out of the Rauch corner, with signals from the pit wall indicating the team asked him to stop the car, which brought out the red flag and a premature end to the session. Hubert will start from the back row with debutant Devlin DeFrancesco for company.
Close behind both ART drivers will be the Trident of Alessio Lorandi. The Italian, who’s season best qualifying was eighth last time out, was competitive throughout the session and might be a thorn in the side of the front row pair during tomorrow’s race after finishing just six hundredths shy of pole position. It will be an all-Italian second row as Lorandi will be joined by Barcelona’s poleman Leonardo Pulcini in his Campos Racing entry. Pulcini, currently sitting fifth in the championship, will be looking to continue his good results this season from the Saturday races but will have to improve on a Sunday as well to challenge for the championship.
Second in the points Nikita Mazepin will start from fifth on the grid alongside another strong qualifying showing and the Russian will want to take advantage of Hubert’s issues to close the points gap on him tomorrow. Trident’s Pedro Piquet was a late signing to the team on the eve of the championship but has been more than a match for his more experienced team-mates in the Italian squad and will start tomorrow’s race from sixth.
MP Motorsport’s Dorian Boccolacci starts from seventh on the grid after his pole position in Le Castellet seven days ago. The Frenchman is looking to rebuild his points total after being disqualified from his Saturday Feature race win in France. American Ryan Tveter expected more from the start of his 2018 season after being one of only four full-time drivers to fail to score a point so far this year but it looks like his fastest time in practice (even with mixed conditions) was no fluke and Tveter will want a clean race tomorrow.
Another driver who has had a slow start to the season is Gabriel Aubry. The Arden International driver has not shown much speed in the opening couple of the rounds, even though all the Arden cars struggled at Barcelona, but it looks like the squad and drivers have got on top of the car and ninth place on the grid is a good reward for Aubry, especially out-qualifying team-mate Joey Mawson, who looked a contender for pole early on but will have to start from 13th.
Third in the standings going into this round, Giuliano Alesi would have expected better than tenth on the grid but it is good news overall for the Trident squad who have all four of their drivers in the top ten.
A difficult session from MP Motorsport’s debutant Devlin DeFrancesco. The Canadian-licenced driver sat in seventeenth after the first runs but the squad had issues getting the car back on track meaning DeFrancesco was compromised going into the second runs. Due to Hubert’s issue near the end of the session, it means DeFrancesco will start his first GP3 race from last on the grid.