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Esteban Ocon tops four-way Spielberg qualifying fight

by Peter Allen
Esteban Ocon

Photo: FIA F3 European Championship

Esteban Ocon claimed his 14th pole position of the FIA F3 European Championship season as he conquered a four-way battle in first qualifying at Spielberg.

The championship leader hit the top of the timing screens with his first lap of the session and gradually improved his benchmark so that he was still ahead as the session entered its final five minutes.

Antonio Giovinazzi then proved his practice pace was no fluke when he moved towards the front. He initially moved into P2 but although that time was then deleted, he went quickest with his next effort.

The Italian set a personal best first sector and a then-purple second sector on his next lap, but pitted before completing the lap.

That enabled him to be immediately demoted by Jagonya Ayam with Carlin team-mate Tom Blomqvist. The Briton went quicker still on his following two laps, first increasing his margin over Giovinazzi and then reclaiming first after Max Verstappen had briefly stolen it away.

Ocon however wasn’t to be beaten, going almost two tenths of a second quicker than Blomqvist to seal pole for Saturday’s opening race as the only driver all day to dip below the 1m25s mark.

Verstappen slotted into second with his final effort, 0.15s away from his recent rival (the leading pair have won the last 11 races between them).

Blomqvist and Giovinazzi will share row two, with two more rookies Antonio Fuoco and Jake Dennis making up row three after the latter’s late improvement.

Gustavo Menezes won a close battle for seventh that saw five drivers covered by just 0.039s. The American edged out Austrian ace Lucas Auer by four thousandths of a second, and Auer’s Mucke team-mate Felix Rosenqvist beat the returning Ed Jones to ninth by just 0.001s.

Qualifying results
Pos Driver Team Time Gap Laps
1 Esteban Ocon Prema Powerteam 1:24.856 13
2 Max Verstappen Van Amersfoort Racing 1:25.006 0.150 14
3 Tom Blomqvist Jagonya Ayam with Carlin 1:25.045 0.189 12
4 Antonio Giovinazzi Jagonya Ayam with Carlin 1:25.206 0.350 9
5 Antonio Fuoco Prema Powerteam 1:25.353 0.497 13
6 Jake Dennis Carlin 1:25.367 0.511 12
7 Gustavo Menezes Van Amersfoort Racing 1:25.450 0.594 12
8 Lucas Auer Mucke Motorsport 1:25.454 0.598 13
9 Felix Rosenqvist Mucke Motorsport 1:25.473 0.617 11
10 Ed Jones Carlin 1:25.474 0.618 13
11 Jordan King Carlin 1:25.489 0.633 12
12 Nicholas Latifi Prema Powerteam 1:25.555 0.699 12
13 Dennis van de Laar Prema Powerteam 1:25.769 0.913 13
14 Felix Serralles Team West-Tec 1:25.876 1.020 12
15 Roy Nissany Mucke Motorsport 1:25.920 1.064 12
16 Sean Gelael Jagonya Ayam with Carlin 1:26.047 1.191 12
17 Santino Ferrucci EuroInternational 1:26.133 1.277 12
18 Alexander Toril ThreeBond with T-Sport 1:26.151 1.295 15
19 Spike Goddard ThreeBond with T-Sport 1:26.265 1.409 15
20 Tatiana Calderon Jo Zeller Racing 1:26.340 1.484 13
21 Jules Szymkowiak Van Amersfoort Racing 1:26.372 1.516 13
22 Hector Hurst Team West-Tec 1:26.544 1.688 12
23 Sandro Zeller Jo Zeller Racing 1:26.549 1.693 14
24 John Bryant-Meisner Fortec Motorsports 1:26.683 1.827 14
25 Michele Beretta EuroInternational 1:26.839 1.983 13
26 Alfonso Celis Fortec Motorsports 1:27.116 2.260 13