Lando Norris claimed pole position for the 2018 Formula 2 season-opener in Bahrain, pipping fellow Briton George Russell by just 0.062s. 

The McLaren Formula 1 reserve driver, who won last year’s European Formula 3 Championship in his rookie campaign, left it late to surge to the top of the standings and usurp Mercedes F1 junior and  reigning GP3 champion Russell with a 1:41.761s - despite running wide on his fastest lap. 

Russell had led throughout having set the early pace after the first meaningful runs on a 1:42.373s, before the ART Grand Prix racer found further improvement with 10 minutes left on the clock.

The returning Alexander Albon, confirmed only for the opening round at DAMS, ended the session just 0.089s off pole as he was forced to settle with third, narrowly ahead of Prema’s Nyck de Vries who took fourth with a late improvement. 

Louis Deletraz impressed to snatch fifth place for new F2 outfit Charouz Racing System in the closing stages, with the second Carlin of Sergio Sette Camara in sixth.

Arden’s Nirei Fukuzumi beat fellow Japanese driver and Honda F1 protege Tadasuke Makino to seventh, while 2017 GP3 runner-up Jack Aitken, who had at one stage held a front-row lockout with ART teammate Russell, ended up ninth.

Maximilian Gunther edged Antonio Fuoco by just 0.006s to complete the top 10, with Luca Ghiotto leading Campos’ charge in 12th, having made the switch from reigning teams champions Russian Time during the winter. 

Ex-Manor F1 driver Roberto Merhi was 13th, ahead of Haas F1 development driver Arjun Maini, who had topped the practice timesheets for Trident earlier in the day. 

Nicholas Latifi was unable to match the pace of DAMS teammate Albon as he finished a low-key 15th, ahead of MP Motorsport’s Ralph Boschung. 

2017 F2 runner-up Artem Markelov failed to make an impression early on in the session and could not improve on his time as the Russian Time driver ended up 17th, fractionally quicker than Trident’s Santino Ferrucci. 

New Prema recruit Sean Gelael only emerged from the garage with five minutes to go and finished 1.2s down on Norris, while Roy Nissany propped up the timesheets for Campos. 

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