Romain Grosjean has picked up where he left off in the GP2 Asia Series by claiming the first pole position for this year's main Series, ahead of Sam Bird and Luca Filippi, this afternoon at the Istanbul Park circuit.
Pole trio: Brid, Grosjean and Filippi.
The Frenchman's best lap of 1:34.398 was the target for the final 20 minutes of the session, and although Filippi went close and then Bird closer still to be within a tenth of pole, three red flag periods broke the session up sufficiently for Grosjean to hold on for the first points of the season.
Qualifying opened under dry but still cold conditions, with Fabio Leimer, Dani Clos, Grosjean and Jules Bianchi swapping best times, and Bird close but held up by traffic. Grosjean put himself on the top of the timesheets just prior to Davide Valsecchi stopping on the circuit and then rolling backwards, forcing a red flag stop for the field.
Bird and Filippi were among the first drivers back on track, and made good use of the space: the Italian ran just three tenths short of Grosjean's target with Bird splitting the pair just seconds later, but when Mikhail Aleshin hit the wall hard at the end of the back straight there was no option but to bring out the red flags once again.
When the track cleared the session got under way once more, but the cool temperatures meant there was little more to be gained and, when Michael Herck replayed Aleshin's incident in the final minute, the red re-emerged and the session was closed. Lining up on tomorrow's grid behind the top three are Bianchi, Clos, Luiz Razia, Charles Pic and Valsecchi: with rain now expected to hold off tomorrow, the opening round of the 2011 calendar promises fireworks.
Giedo van der Garde
Johnny Cecotto Jr