CLICK: full GP2 qualifying results from Hockenheim
Championship leader Jolyon Palmer once again made it look easy, as he captured pole position at the start of qualifying at Hockenheim with a time of 1:23.383s that no one was able to seriously challenge for the rest of the session.
ART's Stoffel Vandoorne came closest in the final set of runs but was still almost three tenths of a second off the benchmark set by the DAMS. Practice pacesetter Stefano Coletti was able to capture third place on the grid for Racing Engineering, putting him alongside series returnee Tom Dillmann who is in an impressive fourth for Caterham.
Temperatures had climbed even higher at a sun-baked Hockenheim since the end of the practice session, with the air reading at 33C and the track surface reporting in at a blistering 58C. Despite the searing sunshine, cars were still queueing at the end of pit road for several minutes before the start of the 30 minute qualifying session in order to secure themselves the best chance to get out and punch in an early flying lap.
First to post a representative time was Palmer in the DAMS with a lap of 1:23.383s, putting him four tenths ahead of the first runs from Felipe Nasr (Carlin) and Vandoorne ahead of an intriguing spat over fourth spot between former Caterham driver Alexander Rossi (now in the Campos Racing #27) and Dillmann, his late-notice replacement in the #19.
Raffaele Marciello's attempt to post a fast lap was thwarted by some particularly unhelpful traffic toward the end of his lap, but his Racing Engineering team mate Stefano Coletti followed up his practice-topping time with a fine effort of 1:23.722s to go into second place behind Palmer. Also posting good efforts in this spell were Johnny Cecotto Jr (Trident), Simon Trummer (Rapax) and Stephane Richelmi (DAMS) all of whom slotted in between Rossi and Dillmann which meant that the Frenchman had been pushed down into ninth place ahead of Arden's Rene Binder as the mid-session pit stops loomed.
MP Motorsport's Daniel de Jong squandered a chance to set a fast time as the only man out track during the lull, after which is was time for the drivers to get back out for the final runs of the day: Nasr was first out with a little under nine minutes remaining followed close behind by Trummer, and that fired the starting gun for most everyone to follow suit. The one prominent exception to the rule being Palmer who seemed content to watch and wait for a few minutes before joining the fray as a precautionary measure just in case his time should come under threat.
Marciello was finally able to find clear space and posted a decent lap, leaping into fifth place with a time of 1:23.918s but he was soon pushed down a spot by an improved run from Cecotto. Richelmi looked set to leap up the timesheets after a searing first sector, only to lose all that advantage again to the end of the lap, but there was good news for Vandoorne who improved his time to 1:23.655s to put him ahead of Coletti again and on the provisional front row alongside Palmer.
Marciello had another qualifier left in him and looked on target to challenge Palmer's pole time, only be lazily chopped by a heedless Takuya Izawa in the stadium section which meant an end to his hopes on improving his position. Instead, the Italian would subsequently be pushed down two more spots to eighth on the grid just ahead of Rossi, as Arthur Pic (Campos Racing) put in a late effort to claim sixth and Dillmann pulled off a stunning lap of 1:23.776s to put him into fourth on the grid for his first race back in GP2 since Barcelona.
Palmer was able to pull back into pit lane having secured pole without being required to better his earlier effort. He'll start just ahead of the two fastest men from practice (Vandoorne and Coletti) meaning that he should be expecting a strong challenge into turn 1 on Saturday when the lights go out for the 38-lap feature race; Dillmann could also prove an expectedly strong threat when the race gets underway.
There were no significant incidents during the session other than that moment between Marciello and ART's Izawa, which will be reviewed by the race stewards. The Japanese driver is already facing a five place grid drop for Saturday's race as a result of being deemed to have caused a collision with Pic in the sprint race at Silverstone two weeks ago; Izawa was 16th fastest in qualifying but will be starting the race from 21st as a result.
The feature race is scheduled for Saturday afternoon at 3.40pm (2.40pm BST) following qualifying for the F1 Grand Prix of Germany. The 27-lap sprint race 2 will be held on Sunday morning at 10.35am (9.35am BST) and all sessions will be shown live in the UK on Sky Sports F1
Practice for the GP3 field gets underway on Friday evening at 5.50pm local time (4.50pm BST) with qualifying on Saturday morning at 9.45am (8.45am BST). Race 1 is scheduled for 5.20pm (4.20pm BST) on Saturday afternoon and race 2 for 9.25am (8.25am BST) on Sunday morning.
See full GP2 qualifying results from Hockenheim