In what will go down in history as one of the most thrilling GP2 qualifying sessions ever, Frenchman Jules Bianchi snatched his first GP2 pole position in an extremely close battle with Series leader Davide Valsecchi today at Sakhir in the third round of the season. Bianchi placed his car on the top spot by just 0.003 seconds on his very last lap.
On a much cleaner track compared to this morning's practice session, the ART man made a statement very early into the qualifying session, topping the timing sheet ahead of returnee Alvaro Parente and Javier Villa.
On a different tyre strategy and leaving the pits later than most, Valsecchi waited for a clear lap in the middle of the session to push back Bianchi in second place, while the Italian's team-mate Oliver Turvey moved up to third place.
With ten minutes left on the clock, Luca Filippi moved to provisional pole, but not for long though as Bianchi, clearly on a mission and on a flyer, improved in the first and third sectors while setting an impressive second sector. Meanwhile, Villa moved up to second place, pushing Valsecchi back to fourth.
In the last sixty seconds of the session, Valsecchi improved his best lap time and looked set to claim his second pole position of the season. By then, the top 4 was within six hundredths. In his last effort and ten seconds before the chequered flag, Bianchi found it in him to improve even more earning his first GP2 pole position.
“To be on pole on my second race in GP2 is a fantastic result for me,” said Bianchi. “But, the most important thing will be to make everything good for tomorrow because it's going to be very difficult. Davide is really fast.
“So, I will try to my best and make a good start because last time it was not so good in Abu Dhabi. Then, we will see what will happen.”
Behind Bianchi and Valsecchi, Villa and Filippi remained respectively third and fourth while Parente finished a strong fifth for Coloni ahead of Turvey, Giacomo Ricci, GP2 Asia race winner Christian Vietoris, Round 2 poleman Charles Pic and Sergio Perez. Tomorrow's feature race will start at 1pm local time.