Brendon Hartley left the rest of the British F3 International Series field trailing in his wake in the first qualifying session of the weekend, posting a pole lap almost a second ahead of his closest rival.
Hartley's time of 1min 11.960secs - posted as the chequered flag came out – was 1.6 seconds inside Marko Asmer's lap record and 0.8secs faster than his nearest rival, championship leader Oliver Turvey. It was also a 1-2-3 for Carlin as Jaime Alguersuari heads up row two, just ahead of the returning Esteban Guerrieri. Jay Bridger pipped Steven Guerrero to the National Class pole on his final lap of the 30-minute session.
With an air temperature of 35 degrees and the sun beating down on the Romanian capital city, the first 30-minute qualifying session of the weekend got underway with championship contender Sergio Perez making the early running while his main rivals all stayed in the pits. The Mexican set a time of 1min 16.137secs on his first flying lap before retiring to the pits after completing just four laps. Perez's T-Sport team-mate Salman Al Khalifa held the provisional pole position for the National Class with a 1min 17.184secs lap.
Marcus Ericsson clipped the wall in turn twelve on his first flying lap, buckling his left front suspension. The Swede failed to set a time as a result and will have to start at the back of the grid in this afternoons race.
It was a full ten minutes into the session before Turvey, Alguersuari, Atte Mustonen, John Martin, Stefan Wilson and Jay Bridger came out to set a time. Perez and Brendon Hartley also came out a few minutes making the 3-kilometre Bucharest circuit a difficult place to get a clear road to set a decent time.
Meanwhile Max Chilton was enjoying his best qualifying session for a while, posting the provisional pole position time on his fifth lap and then improving this twice more to 1min 14.139secs, just ahead of Perez and Turvey. However the Championship leader was soon into his stride and a lap later pushed Chilton off the top spot wit a 1min 13.951secs but Turvey was deposed in turn by Perez and then Hartley as the times continued to fall.
After Ericsson's demise, things didn't get much better for Fortec when Philip Major's Dallara ground to a halt after clipping the wall at almost the same point as his team-mates.
As the session entered the final ten minutes, Alguersuari went quickest with a 1min 13.902secs, just ahead of Turvey, with Chilton improving again to claim third place. Two laps later the places changed again as Oliver Turvey bounced back with a 1min 13.252secs, 0.1 ahead of Alguersuari who had also improved but not as much as the British driver.
In the National Class Steven Guerrero was in provisional pole position ahead of Hywel Lloyd and Salman Al Khalifa. However the Bahraini driver had to make an unscheduled trip to the pit-lane with a broken wheel rim and a flat tyre after clipping the wall. Stefan Wilson also span out and stalled at turn 13, the Silverstone race winner bringing out the yellows as the marshals removed his Fluid Motorsport Dallara from the circuit. The yellows spoilt a fast lap by Hartley as the New Zealander set the fastest times of the session in sector one and sector two but had to back out in sector three because of the warning flags.
However in the dying minutes Hartley posted a 1min 12.736secs, just 0.131 ahead of the improving Turvey but put his fifth pole of the season beyond doubt on his last lap with a 1min 11.960secs as he took the chequered flag. Jay Bridger mirrored this achievement claiming the National Class pole on his very last lap to take his sixth class pole of the year.