Robert Wickens took pole position at Motorland Aragon this morning on his return to Formula Renault 3.5 after two years away. The Canadian has filled the seat vacated by outgoing champion Mikhail Alehsin at Carlin, and Wickens got the team's 2011 title defence off to a perfect start by recording a fastest lap of 1m42.901s.
In a tightly contested session, American Alexander Rossi finished just 0.029 second adrift of the Marussia-backed Wickens in second place. The Fortec driver held the fastest time until being demoted by Wickens with just one minute of the half-hour session remaining.
Series veteran Daniil Move went some way to banishing the memory of a disappointing 2010 season by taking an excellent third on his return to P1 Motorsport. The Russian has good form at the Spanish venue, having taken a podium at the circuit on his last outing with Roly Vincini's team in 2009.
Sergio Canamasas took the award for most dramatically improved performer. The Spaniard claimed fourth for series debutant – and Italian Formula 3 stalwart – BVM Target. Canamasas had a lackluster 2010, failing to score a point with the now departed Austrian team FHV Interwetten.
Formula Renault Eurocup champion Kevin Korjus took an impressive fifth for Tech 1 Racing, ahead of Friday morning's pacesetter Nelson Panciatici.
Nathanael Berthon had set the early running, becoming the session's first leader with a representative effort of 1m44.196s. But the Frenchman later caused the session to be red-flagged by spinning his ISR machine into the gravel at the left-hand Turn 5 and becoming beached. As a result, Berthon's fastest time was deleted and he will start 23rd on the grid for this afternoon's opening race.
Compatriot Jean-Eric Vergne was tasked with jumping into qualifying without the benefit of having driven in Friday's two 75-minute practice sessions. The Carlin British Formula 3 champion languished in an unfamiliar 15th place, having travelled to Spain directly after participating in priority Red Bull Formula 1 simulator work in Milton Keynes.
Several drivers had dusty, off-track, moments. Berthon's temporary ISR team-mate Lewis Williamson, EPIC's Sten Pentus and Fortec's Cesar Ramos all had minor incidents sampling Motorland Aragon's wide Tarmac run-off areas, but were able to continue.