DAMS confirmed their impressive pace on the Bahrain International Circuit, when lead driver Davide Valsecchi punched out a lap of 1:41.327s with his first serious effort and then shaved it to 1:41.200s after a brief rest lap to set a benchmark that no one else was able to reach.

"I'm really happy today," said Valsecchi, who also started from pole position in the season opener in Malaysia. "Today, we were the best. I'm really happy. Tomorrow is another day. We need to prove that we have what it takes to stay at the front."

Valsecchi's rookie team mate Felipe Nasr was also impressive, putting in a lap of 1:41.785s which was good enough for third place, but not quite enough to pip Lotus GP's Esteban Guti?rrez for the front row spot alongside Valsecchi. It's the best GP2 starting positions to date for both Guti?rrez and Nasr.

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"I have to say that I am really happy with this result today," said Nasr. "I had a great car: the team did a super job to put both cars in front," he added, saying that it made him feel "pretty confident for the rest of the weekend" and was aiming for a podium finish on Saturday.

Sandwiched between the two DAMS drivers, Esteban Guti?rrez felt he could have gone one better if only the track situation had fallen right for him, with his final lap before the mid-session interval frustrated when he came up on the back of his own team mate, rookie James Calado.

"We were improving in the second stint and then we were in traffic," he said. "It happens. We lost two tenths in the last sector. We were fighting for pole definitely, but in the end I am still happy with this result because this is where we belong."

In the end, Guti?rrez' best lap of 1:41.479s was just over a quarter of a second off the pole time, but comfortably ahead of Nasr who was just 0.013s ahead of Racing Engineering's Fabio Leimer with whom he will share the second row for the start of Saturday afternoon's feature race.

Leimer set his fast lap in the second half of the session after keeping his soft option tyres for the latter part of the 30 minute qualifying period, while the others ahead of him all opted to go for the faster compound in their first runs.

Nasr - after his flying lap early on - decided to not even try for a second bite at the apple and consequently has an extra set of unused tyres available to him for the remainder of the weekend.

"I think I was one of the only cars to not run on the second set of tyres today, so I have a brand new set of prime tyres for tomorrow," he confirmed. "I think we have all the cards in our hands and maybe we can take an advantage from having the new set of tyres on the pitstop."

Barwa Addax's Johnny Cecotto Jr. finished in fifth place in the timings, after an early on-track duel with Rapax's Tom Dillmann which looked for all the world as if they had already started the race and were tussling over position for real.

Cecotto will line up alongside Trident's Stephane Richelmi for the third row of the grid. Marcus Ericsson finished the session seventh fastest, but a ten-place grid penalty held over from Malaysia for his collision with Valsecchi in the sprint race means that the iSport driver will drop down to 16th place on the grid for tomorrow, leaving row four open for Guti?rrez' team mate Calado to line up alongside Arden's Luiz Razia.

There was a brief red flag mid-session when Ocean Racing Technology's Brendon Hartley lost his front wing in the last corner in a clash with Caterham Racing's Giedo van der Garde. The stewards determined Hartley to be at fault and handed him a five-place grid penalty for tomorrow's feature race, dropping him back to 26th place on the back row.

Ocean Racing team co-owner Tiago Monteiro confirmed on Friday that Hartley's last-minute call-up to active duty had been due to problems with Jon Lancaster's sponsorship backing, adding that he hoped the issues could be resolved in time for the 23-year-old Leeds-born driver to return to the cockpit for the second Bahrain race weekend.

The other driver substitution - Dani Clos taking over Josef Kral's seat at Barwa Addax - led to a 14th place on the timesheets that will be boosted to 13th place on tomorrow's grid because of Ericsson's penalty.

Full qualifying times and positions available.