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.
|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|
|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|
|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|
|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|
|26||Alfonso Celis||Fortec Motorsports||1:27.116||2.260||13|