Charles Pic posted his notice of serious intent by being the first man out of pit lane for the thirty minute Friday afternoon qualifying session for the German feature race at the Nurburgring.
Pic duly set the first fast time of the session with a 1:40.987s but this was bumped from the top spot seconds later by iSport's Sam Bird. Next time around and Dams' Romain Grosjean had got his tyres up to temperature and found the space on track to claim the provisional pole with a time of 1:40.431s despite running wide onto the gravel at the chicane. Even so, the time was four-tenths faster than Bird and a slight improvement on his own morning benchmark that had been the fastest time in the practice session.
Pic responded and improved his own time to go second, but traffic then affected another fast run by Grosjean who made a mistake under braking into turn 4 and ended up aborting the lap, heading into pit lane instead as most of the cars did likewise to regroup and reset at the midway mark.
Luca Filippi - in his first weekend for Scuderia Coloni, and for what will be his 100th GP2 race appearance - had also found a potentially fastest lap thwarted by traffic. He opted to stay out longer while others came in, and he made the comparatively deserted track work for him by going top with a lap of 1:40.420s, 0.011s ahead of Grosjean. Max Chilton also used the mid-session lull to finally set a fast time to put him into the race, after technical problems saw him stuck in the garage surrounded by mechanics for most of qualifying.
When the field returned to do battle in the final ten minutes, few were able to make any significant improvement to their earlier time despite a rare appearance from the sun heating the track up, until Charles Pic finally got a clear run and posted a 1:40.317s to claim pole with less than five minutes to go.
His Barwa Addax team mate Giedo van der Garde - held back by technical gremlins in morning practice - momentarily looked like equalling Pic's performance but instead fell foul of traffic in the final sector and could do no better than the fifth fastest time. When Filippi finally came back out on track after his later pit stop, he was able to improve his earlier time in the final minute and get within 0.076s of Pic's time but he couldn't shave off that last fraction and instead had to settle for second place as the chequered flag came out.
Unable to improve in the second half of the session despite pushing right to the edge, Grosjean will start from third place alongside Lotus ART's Jules Bianchi. Afterwards, Grosjean was particularly vocal about Racing Engineering's Christian Vietoris seemingly blocking him on a critical fast lap.
"I'm very unhappy about Christian Vietoris's behaviour on track because we lost I would say five tenths in the last sector because of him on one of my fastest laps," he said. "Christian saw me all the way along the straight, so he had full time to let me pass but I had to overtake him at the chicane: this is not fair, this is not normal, and all the drivers are complaining about traffic ... If a driver doesn't want to move out of the way when he's on a slow lap then there's nothing you can do about it."
Adam Carroll - in his first weekend of GP2 action in three years after taking over Luca Filippi's old seat at Super Nova Racing - will start from 14th position on the grid, while Filippi's new team mate Michael Herck, who set the 13th-fastest time, will start from 16th after incurring a three-place grid penalty for blocking Sam Bird during qualifying
Full times and positions