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Valsecchi claims first pole of 2012

23 March 2012

DAMS' Davide Valsecchi's early flying lap proved to be so good that not only could he not improve on it for the rest of qualifying - no one else could, either.

The rain that had appeared imminent at the end of the Friday practice session dissipated and held off, leaving the day hot and humid but also overcast and gusty for qualifying.

Lotus GP's Esteban GutiƩrrez and Barwa Addax's Johnny Cecotto led the cars out at the start of the session, but the first genuinely competitive flying lap was set by Davide Valsecchi with a 1:45.494s on his third lap out, putting him ahead of Racing Engineering's Fabio Leimer and Lotus GP's James Calado.

After topping the timesheets in the practice session, iSport's Jolyon Palmer joined the qualifying fray with high hopes but ended up losing time behind Cecotto's team mate Josef Kral who was still warming up his tyres. Traffic proved to be a problem for many, with Caterham Racing's Rodolfo Gonzalez particularly annoyed with being held up by Coloni driver Fabio Onidi (for which Onidi was penalised three grid spots for Saturday's race.) The two of them also cost Max Chilton valuable seconds on one of his flying laps when the Carlin car came up on their squabble.

When Chilton finally got a clear run next time around, he popped up into second place just 0.064s behind Valsecchi. No one else managed to improve their times at the top before the usual mid-session break when drivers returned to the pits for fresh tyres.

There seemed to be little more pace to be found in the final part of the 30 minute qualifying session, with Fabio Leimer's attempt to steal pole thwarted when he locked up badly into the final turn and totally missed the apex. Coloni's Stefano Coletti was one of the few to improve, popping up into a third place that might have been even better if not for a late lockup.

Going faster still, Luiz Razia's final flying lap of the day for Arden might have been enough to depose Valsecchi from the top of the timesheets, but he came up on the back of Venezuela GP Lazarus's Fabrizio Crestani into the final turn and ended up six hundredths of a second too slow to topple Valsecchi from pole position, but at least it was enough to put him alongside the Italian on the front row for Saturday's feature race.

Before Razia's arrival, Crestani had been about to start his own final fast lap: Razia got some payback when he slowed after crossing the timing line and left Crestani to have to dodge past him down the main straight now that he was on his own flying lap. Crestani went on to set the 12th fastest time, but then stopped out on track in the final sector as the chequered flag came out, making it impossible for anyone to set any last gasp improvements because of the local waved yellows.

James Calado's early time was good enough to see him through to sixth place in the final standings, making him the best of the newcomers to GP2. Fellow rookies Coloni's Fabio Onidi and DAMS' Felipe Nasr also impressed, just slipping into the bottom of the top ten.

The good news was that all 26 drivers met the 107 per cent requirements to start Saturday's race, meaning that there will be a full starting grid when the race starts at 11am local time (3am GMT).

Full qualifying times available.

Live coverage of all GP2 race sessions is being shown on the new Sky Sports F1 channel this weekend.


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