McLaren Formula 1 junior Stoffel Vandoorne got his GP2 title bid off to the best possible start by taking pole position for the season-opener in Bahrain.
Qualifying for the series took place 30 minutes after Formula 1 free practice had concluded, with Vandoorne immediately asserting himself by setting the pace on his first run.
He then improved on his second set of tyres to consolidate his position, ending up 0.308s faster than ART Grand Prix team-mate Nobuharu Matsushita to secure his fifth consecutive pole in the category.
Matsushita, making his GP2 debut after winning the Japanese Formula 3 crown last year, had been fifth fastest on his first run, but he made a step forward on his second run to relegate DAMS driver Alex Lynn to third.
Lynn had a disappointing first attempt, ending up ninth, but he leaped to second on his second before being shaded by Matsushita by just half-a-tenth.
Arthur Pic, Vandoorne's closest challenger on the first runs, was fourth fastest, three-hundredths slower than Lynn.
Ferrari junior driver Raffaele Marciello, who has switched to Trident Racing this year, looked set to qualify down the order after getting stuck in second gear early on.
But the team got him back out and he was able to grab fifth late on, relegating Racing Engineering's Jordan King, another GP2 rookie, to sixth fastest.
Norman Nato jumped up to seventh in the closing stages of the session ahead of the second Racing Engineering car of Alexander Rossi, who had performed strongly in practice but was unable to replicate that form in qualifying.
Red Bull-backed Pierre Gasly pipped fellow Formula Renault 3.5 convert Sergey Sirotkin to the final place in the top 10 by just one-hundredth of a second.
The most improved driver since last year was Artem Markelov, the Russian driver running competitively throughout the session and taking 11th place ahead of Rio Haryanto.
Haryanto looked strong early in the session and was fourth-fastest on first-run times, but he failed to improve on his second set of soft Pirellis and slid to 12th ahead of Mitch Evans.
Carlin had a difficult session, with Julian Leal and Marco Sorensen 16th and 18th, and the team hopeful of showing stronger pace in race conditions.
|1||Stoffel Vandoorne||ART Grand Prix||1m39.237s||-|
|2||Nobuharu Matsushita||ART Grand Prix||1m39.545s||0.308s|
|4||Arthur Pic||Campos Racing||1m39.630s||0.393s|
|6||Jordan King||Racing Engineering||1m39.770s||0.533s|
|7||Norman Nato||Arden International||1m39.857s||0.620s|
|8||Alexander Rossi||Racing Engineering||1m39.872s||0.635s|
|11||Artem Markelov||RUSSIAN TIME||1m39.955s||0.718s|
|12||Rio Haryanto||Campos Racing||1m39.961s||0.724s|
|13||Mitch Evans||RUSSIAN TIME||1m39.999s||0.762s|
|15||Richie Stanaway||Status Grand Prix||1m40.251s||1.014s|
|17||Sergio Canamasas||MP Motorsport||1m40.434s||1.197s|
|19||Andre Negrao||Arden International||1m40.634s||1.397s|
|20||Daniel de Jong||MP Motorsport||1m40.653s||1.416s|
|23||Marlon Stockinger||Status Grand Prix||1m40.995s||1.758s|