Mikhail Aleshin took a stunning pole position for Carlin today, as round two of the Formula Renault 3.5 season got underway at Spa-Francorchamps.
The Russian driver was quickest in yesterday's first practice session and confirmed his pace with a dominant performance to take pole this morning in a session littered with red flag periods.
As the FR3.5 drivers took to the track for the 30 minutes qualifying session, Aleshin was immediately on the pace and staked his claim for provisional pole early on. A red flag caused by Daniel Ricciardo soon halted proceedings though, with the field returning to the pits.
As qualifying recommenced, Aleshin rejoined the track and went quicker again, but a second red flag period once again forced the drivers back into the pits. Once the session got underway again, Aleshin was back on track with new rubber and on his first flying lap set a stunning time to improve his provisional pole. Aleshin put in another quick lap before a third red flag halted the session.
The session finally got underway again with 13 and half minutes remaining on the clock, but believing he had got the best from his new tyres, Aleshin took the decision to sit out the remainder of the session.
He eventually took P1 by 0.190 seconds, with Nathanael Berthon second for Draco and Fortec's Sten Pentus third. Brendon Harley, Stefano Coletti, Albert Costa, Jan Charouz and Anton Nebylitskiy were fourth through to eighth.
"It was quite a difficult pole position for me. I'm not feeling that well still and there were red flags every five minutes, so it was hard to find a space on track," Aleshin said. "I managed to find a good gap and put in a decent lap but after the third red flag I knew that I had got the best out of the car and we weren't going to go any faster so I didn't go back out again.
"The team did a great job, they gave me really good car for qualifying, so thanks to them. I'm really pleased with the progress we're making. We need to make the best of this pole in the race later today."
"I think that was one of the most unusual qualifying sessions I've seen for a long time!" added team boss, Trevor Carlin. "Mikhail did a fantastic job in the early stages, but was quite adamant that he had got the best out of the tyres and car by the third flag period. He ended the session with his feet up drinking a cup of tea! It's going to be a tough race, Mikhail needs to capitalise as much as possible on his pole position."