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Palmer on pole after shining under the lights

4 April 2014

See full qualifying session results

DAMS' Jolyon Palmer will start from pole position for Saturday's season opener to the 2014 GP2 Series, after he succeeded in clinching his second career GP2 pole by just three hundredths of a second from ART's Stoffel Vandoorne in qualifying, the only GP2 track session of the opening weekend to be held under the floodlights at the Bahrain International Circuit in Sakhir.

Alexander Rossi led the field out in the #19 Caterham Racing car, and it wasn't until their third laps out of pit road that the first flying laps were posted in the half-hour session, with Carlin's Felipe Nasr going top with a time of 1:39.416s an eighth of a second ahead of DAMS' Jolyon Palmer and Racing Engineering's Raffaele Marciello.

They were quickly demoted by Stoffel Vandoorne going top by almost a tenth for ART, but the Belgian's time stood for just a few seconds before the Friday morning practice pacesetter Mitch Evans once again took control of the timesheets for Hilmer Motorsports with a new benchmark of 1:39.315s. Evans time also didn't last long before it too was improved upon, by Daniel Abt in the Sahara Force India-associated Hilmer Motorsports car who went 1:39.073s.

Vandoorne also improved his time to jump ahead of the pit-bound Evans into second place a tenth shy of Abt, albeit with a lap that was marked for post-session examination by the race stewards for exceeding track limits at turn 14. Vandoorne then followed the rest of the field in returning to his pit boxes for mid-session tweaks, which left only his team mate Takuya Izawa circulating alone on track. Once the Japanese rookie came in for his own stop, a few minutes of strange calm settled over the 3.363-mile (5.412km), 15-turn circuit.

Alexander Rossi was once again the first to get back out on the track with a little over ten minutes of the session remaining, and over half the field was quick to stream out behind him with the rest of them biding their time for a minute or two longer before following suit. Unfortunately all this close strategy was immediately void as Artem Markelov promptly spun on cold tyres after going over the kerbing at turn 1. That forced a red flag to be shown while his Russian Time was retrieved from the racing line where it had stalled.

That left just seven and a half minutes for everyone to knuckle down once the session resumed, everyone once again needing two laps to get up to full temperature before embarking upon their flying laps. The DAMS duo sprang to life, Stephane Richelmi slipping in just eighth thousandths behind Abt while his team mate Jolyon Palmer shot to the top with an impressive 1:38.865s, which proved only just good enough to hold off the latest renewed effort from Vandoorne who moved into second spot three hundredths behind the provisional polesitter and making the question mark over his earlier effort effectively moot.

Abt was unable to improve on his time and had to settle for third place on the grid alongside Richelmi, with Rio Haryanto moving into fifth place at the end of the session for Caterham putting him alongside Stefano Colletti's Racing Engineering car which will start from sixth place.

Other than Markelov, the only other significant incidents of note included a harmless early spin for rookie driver Axcil Jefferies, who lost the back end of the Trident while cars were still warming their tyres at the start of the session; and a late spin under braking into turn 1 for MP Motorsport's Daniel de Jong. An incident in which Carlin's Felipe Nasr expressed his displeasure with the driving of perennial series bad boy Johnny Cecotto Jr. was ear-marked for investigation by stewards and may still affect the Brazilian's provisional eighth place on the grid alongside Mitch Evans, while Cecotto himself is set to start from 13th.

The 32-lap feature race 1 is scheduled to start on Saturday at 1.10pm local time (11.10am BST), while the shorter 23-lap sprint race 2 is set for Sunday at 2.15pm local time (12.15pm BST). Live coverage of all sessions from Bahrain this weekend is available in the UK on the Sky Sports F1 subscription satellite channel.

See full qualifying session results


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