Whether it was a clever tactical call by DAMS or else simply a scorching performance by the driver himself, Alex Lynn was able to overcome a seemingly dominant Stoffel Vandoorne to clinch his first-ever pole position in the GP2 Series at Hungary.
DAMS were able to put the reigning GP3 champion out on track during a mid-session lull so that he didn't have any traffic problems at all during his flying lap on the tight and twisty 2.722-mile, 16-turn Hungaroring. Lynn took full advantage of the situation and duly delivered the best lap of the day, clocking in at 1:28.022s to beat the Belgian by just under two hundredths of a second.
See full GP2 Friday afternoon qualifying times from the Hungaroring.
Conditions on Friday afternoon for the 30-minute qualifying session were as sunny and even hotter that they had been for the earlier practice, which had been topped with some considerable ease by ART's Vandoorne, the current championship leader. As the cars streamed out of pit lane to lay down their first flying laps, it was Racing Engineering's Alexander Rossi at the head of a tightly-packed field leading to immediate traffic issues as the cars vied for enough clear track space to get down to work. Only MP Motorsports' Daniel de Jong decided to hold back on pit lane
Rossi's first true lap clocked in at 1:29.497s but he was soon tumbling down the places as car after car crossed the line with superior opening gambits. Predictably Vandoorne went straight to the top with the best lap of the day so far of 1:28.258s putting him 0.347s ahead of Trident's Raffaele Marciello. Vandoorne's team mate Nobuharu Matsushita wasn't so lucky on his first run, a bad lock-up leaving the Japanese driver struggling on flat-spotted tyres. Meanwhile Rio Haryanto (Campos Racing) took up third place with his initial effort, two tenths ahead of DAMS' Pierre Gasly with Sergey Sirotkin in sixth.
The positions remained in flux with the next flurry of flying laps, Vandoorne improving his provisional pole time to 1:28.041s but Marciello able to close the gap with his own next effort to get within 0.231s of the Belgian. Arthur Pic put in the third-fastest lap to nip ahead of his team mate Haryanto, while Gasly and Sirotkin held station in fifth and sixth ahead of a brace of Brits with Status Grand Prix's Nick Yelloly a couple of hundredths faster than Lynn's second effort of the session.
Two flying laps were as much as the Pirelli soft option compounds would give the drivers before degrading, and soon everyone was back on pit road for a new set of tyres leaving the track almost completely clear for de Jong to come out and play at last. It was an intelligent strategy but the car was still only fast enough for 20th place and was a disconcerting 1.766s of Vandoorne's pole target time. An improvement of four and a half tenths on his second effort was still only good enough to boost him up to 16th on the provisional grid.
Even so, DAMS decided to follow MP's example and sent both their drivers back out while the rest of the field still slumbered on pit road. Gasly was duly able to pick up a place by leapfrogging Haryanto, but it was Lynn who really delivered by going top, two hundredths ahead of Vandoorne. Not surprisingly given this sort of display, ART and the rest of the teams wasted no further time tarrying on pit lane and soon the track was once more congested with race cars - with the exception of the DAMS pair who returned to pit lane only able to watch on and await their fates, their work for the day now done.
Vandoorne put everything he could into bettering his time, but despite throwing the car into the corners with gusto he found purple sectors elusive and could not improve on second place as the clock counted down the remaining few minutes. Marciello was finding no more joy and remained third, while Pic went fastest in the final sector but the earlier part of the lap simply hadn't been up to the same standard and so he stayed fourth ahead of Gasly and Haryanto, with Russian Time's Mitch Evans now up in seventh ahead of Racing Engineering's Jordan King which meant that Sirotkin was demoted to ninth and Yelloly to tenth.
Vandoorne had one final attempt at recapturing the pole spot but his last flying lap failed to improve in any sector. Marciello seemed a potential threat after going fastest through the middle sector but then lost pace in the final corners and failed to improve his overall time, leaving him wide open to a spirited final qualifying attempt from Pic who was duly able to capture third place on the grid from the Trident man.
Crucially none of these final runs had been good enough to threaten Lynn's time, and the Briton was able to celebrate with his team on pit wall even before the chequered flag came out to declare the session over. Gasly too was able to savour holding on to fifth place ahead of King whose final effort had been just enough to put him ahead of Haryanto. The Indonesian will start from seventh place alongside Evans, with Sirotkin and Yelloly taking up residence on the row behind.
Rossi failed to find the sort of pace he needed to crack the top ten and will instead start from 11th place alongside a strong performance from Nicholas Latifi, the Formula Renault 3.5 Series regular making his first appearance in the 2015 season this weekend for MP Motorsport.
The other new face in the GP2 paddock this weekend, 18-year-old Indonesian ace Sean Gelael, got his account off to a creditable start with 24th place on the timing screens, meaning that he at least will not be starting on the back row in his first feeder series race on Saturday. In his first qualifying session, the Carlin driver had been able to pip experienced GP2 driver Rene Binder (Trident) by eight thousandths of a second.
Missing the session altogether was Lazarus' Zoël Amberg, who had been hoping to return to racing this weekend after being forced to miss the last two rounds at Austria and Silverstyone with unspecified medical issues. Amberg had taken part in the earlier practice session but had notably cut his participation short and overall put in the least laps of any driver, leading to a conversation with the FIA medial delegate which resulted in the decision to pull Amberg from the rest of the day's activities and in all likelihood from this week's feature and sprint races as well.
The first GP2 race of the weekend will be the 37-lap feature race on Saturday afternoon at 3.40pm (2.40pm BST), with the Sunday sprint race consisting of 28 laps getting underway at 10.35am (9.35am BST) the following morning.
The GP3 Series is also in action this weekend, starting with practice on Friday evening at 5.50pm (4.50pm BST) with qualifying set for Saturday morning at 9.45am (8.45am BST). Race 1 consisting of 22 laps will be held later in the day at 5.20pm (4.20pm BST) and the 17-lap race 2 following on Sunday morning at 9.25am (8.25am BST).
See full GP2 Friday afternoon qualifying times from the Hungaroring.