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Roberto Merhi was the surprise addition to the Formula Renault 3.5 front row after claiming pole for race two at the Moscow Raceway.

The Spanish rookie led most of the session in a commanding performance, leaving many more experienced drivers in his wake. The twenty-three-year-old snatched pole in a time of 1:20.773, two tenths faster than Sergey Sirotkin's pole lap on Saturday.

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Lotus' Richie Stanaway will join Merhi on the front row. The returning racer, who is replacing an injured Matthieu Vaxiviere at the Czech outfit, was just one one-thousandth-of-a-second behind, the smallest margin seen in any FR3.5 qualifying session this year.

Pierre Gasly and Oliver Rowland returned to form at this crucial championship stage to fill the second row of the grid. Both series rookies struggled in race one after a gear-box fault left them out of the points. Rowland was also able to outpace race one pole sitter and eventual winner, Sergey Sirotkin who will start fifth in the second Fortec Motorsports challenger.

Marlon Stockinger completed a strong Lotus qualifying in sixth, one tenth faster than race one podium finisher, Zoel Amberg. Matias Laine was the highest-placed Strakka Racing driver in eighth, just one tenth faster than his team mate, Will Stevens who starts tenth.

The Strakka pairing were separated by an ever-improving Beitske Visser who scored a career best ninth for AV Formula.

Carlos Sainz improved on his disappointing race one pace but was still out of position, lapping in ninth place. The championship leader faces a two place grid penalty for a collision with Rowland on Saturday so will start race two in eleventh.

Meanwhile Norman Nato, in the second DAMS model, will start fifteenth. The Frenchman will need to rely on strategy as the mandatory pit stops come in to play for race two.

After greeting the gravel, Pietro Fantin fell to the bottom of the grid, six seconds behind the leader. The Brazilian is still expected to start the race this afternoon.