DAMS' Marcus Ericsson looked set to start the final GP2 feature race of the year from pole position after finishing qualifying just 0.007s ahead of Caterham's Alexander Rossi, only to have his final lap disallowed after he was deemed to have exceeded track limits in setting the pole time.

That hands Rossi his maiden series pole and puts Ericsson down in 12th position, while also promoting championship contender Sam Bird onto the front row of the grid for Russian Time. His main rival for the title Fabio Leimer was only able to capture fourth place in the Racing Engineering car behind Carlin's Jolyon Palmer. Palmer's team mate Felipe Nasr remains an outside bet for the title after qualifying in eighth place for Saturday afternoon's 28-lap race.

Qualifying was the sole GP2 track activity of the weekend to take place under the floodlights, making it a totally different look-and-feel in terms of circuit conditions from every other outing that the drivers will experience at Yas Marina. It meant that everyone was taking a jump in into the literal as well as figurative dark as they streamed out of pit road for the first time in the 30 minute session, with the Rapax pair of Simon Trummer and Stefano Coletti leading the cars off pit road and down the distinctive underground exit road.

Trummer's first flying lap was 1:51.293s but this was quickly bested by the cars running behind him, with Rossi immediately on the pace and going top with a time of 1:49.675s ahead of Bird, and Rossi's own team mate Sergio Canamasas slipping into third ahead of Carlin's Jolyon Palmer and Arden's Johnny Cecotto Jr. Palmer's next effort moved the benchmark down even lower as he shaved another three tenths off the provisional pole target, but Rossi was up to the challenge as he responded with a 1:49.276s despite very nearly rear-ending Daniel Abt in the process, the ART rather clumsily attempting to stay out of the way of those drivers on flying laps. Just before the drivers came back to the pits for their mid-session brainstorming and set-up tweaks, Fabio Leimer moved into third place in the timings with Bird also improving his time but only enough to put him into fourth just behind his arch rival for the title.

The drivers were back on track and winding up for their final runs when suddenly the red flags materialised after the left rear lugnut on Abt's car flew off and the tyre itself followed suit and abandoned ship a corner later. That stopped the clock with six minutes and one second remaining once Abt's car and errant wheel had been recovered from the track, breaking the rhythm and momentum of the session. Even so, everyone was quick to exit pit lane once the track reopened - Julian Leal almost ploughing his Racing Engineering car into the side of Marcus Ericsson's DAMS in his haste to leave his pit stall. With everyone having to jockey for clear air while simultaneously heating the tyres for one final effort, the question of whether any of them had anything more to give was quickly answered when Ericsson went top with a new target pole position time of 1:48.924s, seven thousandths ahead of Rossi's immediate riposte. Bird moved up to third place three tenths further back just ahead of Palmer, who set the fastest time in sector 1 before then blowing it by running through the chicane and who looked set to have to settle for fourth place, just ahead of Leimer whose final effort wasn't good enough to lift him out of fifth place. However, the post-session decision to disallow Ericsson's final flying lap reshuffled the top positions and sent Ericsson down to 12th place on the grid.

James Calado finished qualifying in 14th place, but the Briton will start five places further back on the grid after being handed a penalty by the race stewards for forcing Tom Dillmann off track at the hairpin in the Friday morning qualifying, seemingly as a result of frustration at having a flying lap thwarted by the slow Russian Time car. The penalty ends Calado's already nominal hopes of featuring in the title battle this weekend, with Coletti's last championship hopes also extinguished after another poor qualifying left him in 18th.

Gianmarco Raimondo and Daniel Abt were also subsequently given three-place grid penalties, Abt for impeding Rossi at turn 19 and Raimondo for blocking Calado at the final turn 21 later in the session. They will start from 25th and 26th place on the grid as a result.

Qualifying times

1. #15 Alexander Rossi EQ8 Caterham Racing 1:48.931s 114.053mph (11 laps)
2. #11 Sam Bird Russian Time 1:49.241s 113.730mph + 0.310s (10 laps)
3. #10 Jolyon Palmer Carlin 1:49.376s 113.589mph + 0.445s (10 laps)
4. #8 Fabio Leimer Racing Engineering 1:49.485s 113.476mph + 0.554s (11 laps)
5. #12 Tom Dillmann Russian Time 1:49.672s 113.282mph + 0.741s (9 laps)
6. #5 Johnny Cecotto Jr. Arden 1:49.680s 113.274mph + 0.749s (10 laps)
7. #23 Jon Lancaster Hilmer Motorsport 1:49.827s 113.122mph + 0.896s (10 laps)
8. #9 Felipe Nasr Carlin 1:49.829s 113.121mph + 0.898s (11 laps)
9. #2 St?phane Richelmi DAMS 1:49.835s 113.114mph + 0.904s (10 laps)
10. #26 Dani Clos MP Motorsport 1:49.846s 113.103mph + 0.915s (10 laps)
11. #6 Mitch Evans Arden 1:49.864s 113.085mph + 0.933s (10 laps)
12. #1 Marcus Ericsson * DAMS 1:49.910s 113.037mph + 0.979s (10 laps)
13. #14 Sergio Canamasas EQ8 Caterham Racing 1:49.951s 112.995mph + 1.020s (10 laps)
14. #3 James Calado ART GP 1:50.002s 112.942mph + 1.071s (9 laps)
15. #17 Rio Haryanto Barwa Addax 1:50.334s 112.603mph + 1.403s (10 laps)
16. #20 Nathana?l Berthon Trident Racing 1:50.446s 112.489mph + 1.515s (10 laps)
17. #22 Adrian Quaife-Hobbs Hilmer Motorsport 1:50.510s 112.423mph + 1.579s (10 laps)
18. #18 Stefano Coletti Rapax 1:50.534s 112.399mph + 1.603s (10 laps)
19. #7 Juli?n Leal Racing Engineering 1:50.553s 112.380mph + 1.622s (11 laps)
20. #19 Simon Trummer Rapax 1:50.634s 112.297mph + 1.703s (13 laps)
21. #16 Jake Rosenzweig Barwa Addax 1:50.809s 112.120mph + 1.878s (10 laps)
22. #24 Rene Binder Venezuela GP Lazarus 1:50.884s 112.044mph + 1.953s (10 laps)
23. #27 Dani?l de Jong MP Motorsport 1:50.906s 112.022mph + 1.975s (11 laps)
24. #4 Daniel Abt ART GP 1:50.907s 112.021mph + 1.976s (6 laps)
25. #25 Vittorio Ghirelli Venezuela GP Lazarus 1:51.493s 111.432mph + 2.562s (10 laps)
26. #21 GianMarco Raimondo Trident Racing 1:52.311s 110.621mph + 3.380s (11 laps)

Total Laps: 263107% time: 1:56.548s* Final time disallowed for exceeding track limits

Starting grid

1. #15 Alexander Rossi EQ8 Caterham Racing
2. #11 Sam Bird Russian Time
3. #10 Jolyon Palmer Carlin
4. #8 Fabio Leimer Racing Engineering
5. #12 Tom Dillmann Russian Time
6. #5 Johnny Cecotto Jr. Arden
7. #23 Jon Lancaster Hilmer Motorsport
8. #9 Felipe Nasr Carlin
9. #2 St?phane Richelmi DAMS
10. #26 Dani Clos MP Motorsport
11. #6 Mitch Evans Arden
12. #1 Marcus Ericsson DAMS
13. #14 Sergio Canamasas EQ8 Caterham Racing
14. #17 Rio Haryanto Barwa Addax
15. #20 Nathana?l Berthon Trident Racing
16. #22 Adrian Quaife-Hobbs Hilmer Motorsport
17. #18 Stefano Coletti Rapax
18. #7 Juli?n Leal Racing Engineering
19. #3 James Calado * ART GP
20. #19 Simon Trummer Rapax
21. #16 Jake Rosenzweig Barwa Addax
22. #24 Rene Binder Venezuela GP Lazarus
23. #27 Dani?l de Jong MP Motorsport
24. #25 Vittorio Ghirelli Venezuela GP Lazarus
25. #4 Daniel Abt + ART GP
26. #21 GianMarco Raimondo + Trident Racing

* denotes five place grid penalty for feature race for running competitor off-track+ denotes five place grid penalty for feature race for impeding

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