Jean-Eric Vergne secured his third pole position of the Formula Renault 3.5 season in a tightly-contested qualifying session at Paul Ricard this morning.
On the series' first visit to the Provence circuit, the Frenchman bumped Epic Racing's Albert Costa from provisional pole on his last flying lap. Costa, searching for his first win in the championship, will join Vergne on the front row of this afternoon's race. The Spaniard was just 0.023sec adrift of Vergne's effort.
Third-placed Brendon Hartley, returning from a two-race GP2 sojourn with Ocean Racing Technology, also produced a late effort after the appearance of the checkered flag to come within 0.1sec of the pole time.
Virgin's Formula 1 third driver Robert Wickens sawhis championship lead reduced by 10 points today. His Carlin team successfully overturned a penalty sustained by teammate Vergne at Monza on appeal. Wickens will start from fourth, ahead of Alexander Rossi. Fortec's American racer led the session with just two minutes left on the clocks, but was subsequently unable to improve on his lap of 1m51.586s.
ISR's Daniel Ricciardo completed the top six. This will be the final round of the 2011 season that the HRT F1 driver competes in, as the Barcelona finale clashes with the Japanese Grand Prix on Oct. 8-9.
Jake Rosenzweig recovered from steering problems in Friday's free practice to take a commendable seventh for Mofaz.
The second Epic Racing entry of Estonian Sten Pentus ended the morning in eighth. The team is operating from a new workshop in the Spanish city of Vitoria-Gasteiz. Epic is keen to emphasise its independence from Epsilon Euskadi, whose motorsport operation it acquired in a management buyout pre-season.
Pos Driver Team Time Gap
1. Jean-Eric Vergne Carlin 1m51.423s
2. Albert Costa Epic 1m51.446s + 0.023s
3. Brendon Hartley Gravity-Charouz 1m51.506s + 0.083s
4. Robert Wickens Carlin 1m51.545s + 0.122s
5. Alexander Rossi Fortec 1m51.586s + 0.163s
6. Daniel Ricciardo ISR 1m51.745s + 0.322s
7. Jake Rosenzweig Mofaz 1m51.888s + 0.465s
8. Sten Pentus Epic 1m51.892s + 0.469s
9. Daniil Move P1 1m52.045s + 0.622s
10. Kevin Korjus Tech 1 1m52.108s + 0.685s
11. Nathanael Berthon ISR 1m52.137s + 0.714s
12. Daniel Zampieri BVM Target 1m52.178s + 0.755s
13. Cesar Ramos Fortec 1m52.202s + 0.779s
14. Oliver Webb Pons 1m52.207s + 0.784s
15. Jan Charouz Gravity-Charouz 1m52.247s + 0.824s
16. Sergio Canamasas BVM Target 1m52.346s + 0.923s
17. Walter Grubmuller P1 1m52.357s + 0.934s
18. Nick Yelloly Pons 1m52.358s + 0.935s
19. Andre Negrao Draco 1m52.391s + 0.968s
20. Stephane Richelmi Draco 1m52.509s + 1.086s
21. Nelson Panciatici KMP 1m52.548s + 1.125s
22. Fairuz Fauzy Mofaz 1m52.657s + 1.234s
23. Arthur Pic Tech 1 1m52.865s + 1.442s
24. Anton Nebylitskiy KMP 1m52.930s + 1.507s
25. Daniel de Jong Comtec 1m53.113s + 1.690s
26. Daniel McKenzie Comtec 1m53.253s + 1.830s