Nico Hulkenberg has clinched Germany's third consecutive A1 GP pole position after a thrilling head-to-head with New Zealand around the streets of Durban in a qualifying session marred by several disruptive incidents.

Having surged to the top of the timesheets in morning practice, Hulkenberg was immediately on form from the off, setting a furious pace in the first of the four sessions to take provisional pole position after 15 minutes.

The second session was a different matter though with New Zealand and Matt Halliday coming to the fore with a time some three tenths quicker than their rivals. Indeed, despite having barely featured throughout practice, Halliday went quicker still in the third segment to push New Zealand ahead of Germany and into provisional pole with only one lap each remaining.

What followed was a tense head-to-head between the Super Nova 'team-mates'. Halliday went first and although he wasn't quite able to match his previous best time, his subsequent aggregate marker was still an impressive one.

Nonetheless, despite the pressure Hulkenberg struck back immediately with the fastest time of the weekend to give him pole position by a mere tenth of a second.

Furthermore, an all-Super Nova front row marks an extension of a record that has seen Germany and New Zealand occupy a top three starting position in the last four meetings.

Still, Germany and New Zealand's plight was arguably aided by a continuously stuttering qualifying session after the tricky South African circuit continued to catch out a number of drivers.

Among them were Great Britain, who already missed the first segment with gearbox woes, only for Robbie Kerr to spin at the second time of asking. As a result, the pressure was on in the final two segments, Kerr eventually having to make do with eleventh on the grid - the first time Great Britain has qualified outside the top ten this season.

Other casualties through the hour were India, Singapore and China, the latter two forcing red flags, with Christian Murchison's spin in particular proving detrimental for Indonesia, France, Italy, South Africa and Portugal who were unable to set a time in the second segment.

Nonetheless, despite their problems, France recovered well through the session, with Loic Duval even looking as though he would cause an upset with his final lap and snatch pole position, only for a lacklustre final sector to leave him third on the grid. Nonetheless, his third ensures Germany, New Zealand and France would fill the top three position for the third race in succession.

Neel Jani too had looked as though he would be a challenge for pole position only for a disappointing time in the final segment to keep Switzerland in fourth place, just ahead of the Netherlands, Jeroen Bleekemolen consistently bothering the top positions through the hour but never realistically looking a threat for the top spot.

Another nation to come good in qualifying, Mexico's Salvador Duran defied his frustrating run of form with sixth on the grid, marginally ahead of Richard Lyons, who scored Ireland's best qualifying position of the season after an impressive time in the final segment launched him from outside the top ten and into seventh.

Portugal and Alvaro Parente marked their return to competition with a strong eighth on the grid, getting the better of home favourites South Africa with Adrian Zaugg at the wheel.

The more unlikely hero of the hour though had to be Ananda Mikola, who went into qualifying having raised a few eyebrows with top ten performances in practice. Raised eyebrows became turned heads when he powered to third in the first timed segment, hinting at a possible giant-killing act for the Indonesian.

However, Mikola's luck ran out in the second and third segments when problems for other teams forced him to abort laps, leaving him with no aggregate time with one session left to run.

Nonetheless, despite another red flag threatening to stymie his progress for a third time, Mikola nonetheless got a lap under his belt to lift himself up from the bottom of the grid to tenth, the first time he has qualified inside the top ten this season.

His performance put him higher than a number of high profile nations, namely USA in 12th, Italy 13th, Czech Republic 14th and Malaysia 17th. Elsewhere, Narain Karthiekyan was another to be restricted to just two laps and as a result will start a disappointing 20th, one place ahead of James Hinchcliffe, the Canadian seemingly struggling to get to grips with the Durban circuit.

 

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