Italy and the Netherlands will start the two Vodafone A1GP Algarve races from pole position after Vitantonio Liuzzi and Robert Doornbos led the way in qualifying at the new Portimao circuit.
Liuzzi, making his debut in the series, was able to make the moist of his powerboost to take pole for the sprint race despite both segments of qualifying being hit by red flags – the first when Ho Pin Tung suffered a spin and became stuck on the circuit and the second after Neel Jani stopped on track in the Swiss entry.
“We got a bit warm after the red flag because the time was passing by in the first qualifying session,” Force India F1 test driver Liuzzi said. “After we saw the green flag, we were just trying to get the right spot and it worked out really well I think.”
Liuzzi's best time of 1min 30.875secs saw him finish half a second clear of Doornbos, ending the Dutchman's run at the head of the times, while Adam Carroll took third for Team Ireland – despite failing to set a time during the first segment of qualifying after being caught out by Tung's red flag.
Daniel Morad was another driver to make the most of his powerboost to secure fourth on the grid for Team Lebanon while Portugal's Filipe Albuquerque and Kiwi Earl Bamber rounded out the top six.
Further down the order, Nicolas Prost could manage only 18th for France, while Jani ended the session bottom of the times after failing to set a time. Like Carroll, he was one of the drivers unable to set a time in the first segment of qualifying due to the red flag before running into his own problems in the second segment.
Doorbos then went one better during qualifying for the feature race, posting a quickest time of 1min 30.415secs to secure his place at the head of the field.
The IndyCar ace was able to outpace Carroll by just under three-tenths of a second, despite making contact with Lebanese driver Morad while chasing his quickest time.
“It was an exciting day,” he said. “In the Sprint qualifying we were aiming for the P1 spot. We were P1 and I thought that was quite easy because I didn't use PowerBoost, but then we heard that Liuzzi was on PowerBoost. I thought he would pass me but still second was a good result. Then we went all out for the Feature race, because that is a race the Netherlands hasn't won yet this season so is the target for this weekend. I wanted to be sure that I would get a lap in so I kept asking my engineer if there was traffic.
“He said no but then Lebanon came out into turn one, and we touched wheels. I passed him on the outside, and I was four tenths off in the first sector so I was shouting on the radio, but my engineer did a good job in calming me down and I tried to finish the lap. The car has been really good and I still managed to put in a good time and it was the longest ten seconds of my life waiting in the pit lane for Adam (Carroll) to finish but luckily we held onto pole.”
Behind Carroll, Jani was third quickest for Switzerland in the one segment of qualifying he was able to complete, while Adrian Zaugg was an impressive fourth for South Africa. Felipe Guimaraes for Brazil and Malaysia's Fairuz Fauzy completed the top six.
Race one pole man Liuzzi posted the tenth quickest time.