F2, Austria, Quali : Vesti vanquishes Qualifying struggles to claim maiden F2 pole
Vips was unable to pip the Dane at the last minute
Frederik Vesti put the Qualifying issues that plagued his start to the season firmly to bed, claiming his first pole position in Formula 2 in commanding style. It all came down to his second run after a track limit violation saw his time deleted, plummeting the ART Grand Prix driver to the back of the order at the halfway point.
Jüri Vips was unable to pip the Dane at the last minute and the two were barely separated by three-thousandths of a second. Logan Sargeant put himself firmly in the fight at the front with third, as Ayumu Iwasa blazed up to fourth with a last gasp attempt at the chequered flag.
Championship leader Felipe Drugovich kept consistency as the backbone of his campaign with fifth, ahead of Jack Doohan. Amaury Cordeel secured his and Van Amersfoort Racing’s highest Qualifying result in the Championship yet with seventh, ahead of Trident’s Richard Verschoor. Théo Pourchaire held onto ninth, as track limits caught out severak of his rivals, and Marcus Armstrong rounded out the top 10.
Dreary conditions earlier in the day were thoroughly banished by the time the 22-car field hit the track. Having seen the events that unfolded in Formula 3 just before their session kicked off, the drivers would have been keenly aware that they needed to do their job quickly and efficiently to avoid being swallowed up by traffic.
The DAMS duo of Iwasa and Roy Nissany got the session underway, with the Japanese driver clocking in a benchmark of 1:15.287. However, those behind him were on the pace as well, as Drugovich, Sargeant and then Doohan all usurped his place on provisional pole in swift succession, the Aussie going top with a 1:15.287.
The battle was beginning to unfold between Silverstone’s maiden race winners, as Doohan and Sargeant traded places at the top of the timing sheets on their second runs. Sargeant slotted his Carlin into P1 momentarily, as Doohan improved once again their times were separated by just one-thousandths of a second. In a league of their own, the duo were over four-tenths ahead of their closest competitor Felipe Drugovich in third.
As all but one driver laid down a lap on their first stint, the field dived into the pits to bolt on a fresh set of purple supersoft Pirellis at the halfway mark. While their rivals hung tight in their boxes waiting for the final minutes of running, Calan Williams and the VAR duo of Hughes and Cordeel headed back out early. Capitalising on the clean air, Cordeel stormed up into P2 as the rest of the pack joined the trio on track.
The ever-evolving track conditions around the Red Bull Ring meant that the session was far from over, even as the clock counted closer to zero. Doohan’s grip on provisional pole loosened as Drugovich snatched the quickest time momentarily, but neither of them could match Vesti, whose 1:14.123 put him over a tenth ahead of the Virtuosi.
Improvements came in thick and fast, as Vips jumped ahead of Sargeant to secure a front row spot for the Feature Race. Meanwhile, Pourchaire’s Championship fight was saved by a fortunate run of lap time deletions elsewhere. The Frenchman had been knocked out of the top 10, but with Liam Lawson and Armstrong’s times removed, he hopped back into P9.
The field might have thought it was all over, but Iwasa wasn’t finished yet. Finding performance whilst his rivals headed into the pits, the Japanese racer gave it his all, notching purple and green sectors throughout the lap. However, he could only manage fourth behind Sargeant, Vips and pole-sitter Vesti.
Drugovich scored another top-five start, ahead of Doohan and Cordeel. Verschoor secured eighth, ahead of Pourchaire and Armstrong who clung on to reverse pole for Saturday’s Sprint Race.
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