Esteban Guerrieri mastered a damp Circuit de Catalunya to claim his third Formula Renault 3.5 Series pole position of the season for today's season finale
The ISR racer dropped out of title contention following yesterday's opening race, but the Argentinean is guaranteed to finish third in the points after a commendable season in which he picked up five wins despite being forced to miss three races.
Intense overnight storms had drenched the track, although no further rain would fall during the half-hour qualifying session.
"It was so slippery out there, it was a matter of adapting to the car and the track," said Guerrieri. "I really wanted to get this last pole of the season. The car was quite difficult to drive, really not perfect, but we got the brakes at exactly the right temperature and everything seemed to work well."
Tech 1 Racing's Daniel Ricciardo earned a place on the front row with an effort some 0.470 seconds adrift of the pole time. The Australian is tied with his fellow championship protagonist Mikhail Aleshin on 128 points at the top of the drivers' standings.
In his highest starting position of the season, Greg Mansell will line up a superb third. The British Comtec racer is building a reputation as a wet weather specialist, and is hoping for more rain this afternoon.
"There have been times this year when we have struggled with the car, so it's nice to remind people that I am not slow!" said Greg. "The wet is mega because it is a great leveller. They say that in every category, but it is true. Usually it is about 90 per cent car and 10 per cent the driver, but in the wet it is more like 50/50. I hope it is wet for the race, but unfortunately I don't think it will be."
Pons Racing's Daniel Zampieri, another consistently strong performer in the rain, will start fourth. The Italian Ferrari academy driver echoed Mansell's views.
"I would have preferred it if the whole session had been wet," said Zampieri. "Still, it is much better than yesterday [when he qualified 22nd], but, you know, I always want more."
There were tense faces on the Carlin pitwall throughout the session. Championship contender Aleshin ended the morning in sixth. The Russian narrowly avoided hitting a spinning ISR car of Filip Salaquarda after the Czech spun across his bows exiting the Europcar corner early in the session. Aleshin later had a spin of his own exiting Turn 1.
The Aleshin camp will not be overjoyed to see that Ricciardo's Tech 1 team-mate, Carlin's British Formula 3 champion Jean-Eric Vergne, is in such close proximity in seventh. Should neither of the points leaders finish this afternoon's race, Ricciardo would take the title courtesy of his four victories to Aleshin's three.
"It is my first time driving the car in the wet," said Vergne, "but I am a little bit annoyed to be sixth. I was fast in the first two sectors, but then I got blocked at the end of the lap. I am sure we could have been third or fourth."
Among those who had off-track moments in the session were Aleshin's team-mate Jake Rosenzweig, Formula 2 champion Dean Stoneman and Interwetten's Spaniard Sergio Canamasas.
Pos Driver Team Time Gap 1. Esteban Guerrieri ISR 1m56.515s 2. Daniel Ricciardo Tech 1 1m56.985s + 0.470s 3. Greg Mansell Comtec 1m57.067s + 0.552s 4. Daniel Zampieri Pons 1m57.179s + 0.664s 5. Mikhail Aleshin Carlin 1m57.197s + 0.682s 6. Jean Eric Vergne Tech 1 1m57.363s + 0.848s 7. Stefano Coletti Comtec 1m57.807s + 1.292s 8. Nelson Panciatici Junior Lotus 1m57.818s + 1.303s 9. Jon Lancaster Fortec 1m57.911s + 1.396s 10. Sten Pentus Fortec 1m57.945s + 1.430s 11. Jan Charouz P1 1m57.952s + 1.437s 12. Albert Costa Epsilon Euskadi 1m58.217s + 1.702s 13. Anton Nebylitskiy KMP 1m58.521s + 2.006s 14. Walter Grubmuller P1 1m58.602s + 2.087s 15. Filip Salaquarda ISR 1m58.611s + 2.096s 16. Jake Rosenzweig Carlin 1m58.725s + 2.210s 17. Nathanael Berthon Draco 1m58.843s + 2.328s 18. Keisuke Kunimoto Epsilon Euskadi 1m58.933s + 2.418s 19. Salvador Duran FHV Interwetten 1m58.997s + 2.482s 20. Julian Leal Draco 1m59.192s + 2.677s 21. Dean Stoneman Junior Lotus 1m59.205s + 2.690s 22. Victor Garcia KMP 1m59.246s + 2.731s 23. Federico Leo Pons 1m59.309s + 2.794s 24. Sergio Canamasas FHV Interwetten 2m01.136s + 4.621s
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