Guanyu Zhou has taken pole position for the opening round of the 2020 Formula 2 Championship at the Red Bull Ring with a commanding performance over an otherwise tightly packed field.

The Chinese driver, embarking on his second season in F2 with the UNI-Virtuosi team, swept to the top of the order early on with 1m 14.416secs lap to set a benchmark the opposition couldn’t get close to.

Indeed, though an ill-timed red flag with five minutes to go hampered his rivals, the Renault junior driver’s 0.4secs gap over the second place never looked challenged. By contrast, second down to 21st where covered by just a second.

Joining him on the front row will be Felipe Drugovich, who put in a shock performance to grab second place in the MP Motorsports car. The Brazilian is one of several rookies arriving in F2 this year, though his star showing today comes after an 2019 F3 campaign that yielded just a single points’ finish, appropriately enough at the Red Bull Ring.

A strong day for the British-based UNI-Virtuosi team all round, new signing Callum Illot popped into third position with a late flyer, ahead of Zhou’s Renault development driver counterpart Christian Lundgaard in the ART car.

With several fast times set in the final seconds as the session restarted, Mick Schumacher leapt into fifth place for Prema, ahead of Carlin rookie Jehan Daruvala, experienced Luca Ghiotto – leading the way for Hitech on the team’s F2 debut - and 2019 F3 champion Robert Shwartzman.

Dan Ticktum will start ninth in his first race with DAMS, ahead of Louis Deletraz and Nikita Mazepin, whose spin the final seconds cost other drivers the chance to improve.

Practice pace setter Yuki Tsunoda was caught out on his quickest lap as he prepares to start 12th, ahead of Marcus Armstrong and Jack Aitken.