Fortec's Cesar Ramos secured his second Formula Renault 3.5 pole position of the season at Monza
The reigning Italian Formula 3 champion made full use of his circuit knowledge, and a small tow towards the end of his pole lap to record a time of 1m36.254s.
Daniel Ricciardo will join Ramos on the front row for this afternoon's race. The ISR man, who set the pace on Friday, was shaded for the top spot by just 0.065s.
"It was a good lap, and then I think I had a small tow on the exit of Ascari," said Ramos. "I was not really close [to the car in front], but I think it may have made a difference as I was taking Parabolica pretty quick.
"Experience from Italian Formula 3 definitely helps here, and actually I have been on pole at Monza in Formula Renault 2.0, F3 and now in World Series. At this circuit, pole is only useful in getting down to the first corner in first. It is difficult to pull away, but I hope myself, Ricciardo and [Robert] Wickens can make an early break and then fight later in the race."
Championship leader Wickens will start third. The Carlin driver was pleased to be featuring at the sharp end once more, but was left dismayed by the track manners of some rivals.
"I think that the drivers have lost all respect for each other today," said Wickens. "The racing has been really clean in the first two rounds, so I don't know why that it is. There was so much blocking going on, perhaps people feel they can do that to pick up a slipstream. I had the car for pole today, but I didn't even get a clear lap on my second set.
"Personally, I didn't even attempt to try for a tow. In my experience it only works out on about one lap in ten, I think you're better off trying to find some clear space."
Motorland's second race winner, and reigning Formula Renault 2.0 Eurocup champion, Kevin Korjus bounced back from a difficult weekend at Spa-Francorchamps to take fourth.
Ramos' 2010 Italian F3 title rival Stephane Richelmi produced his qualified strongest effort of the season with fifth for Draco Racing.
P1 Motorsport's series veteran Daniil Move continued his consistent 2011 showings to complete the top-six, just 0.003s behind Richelmi.
Spa winner Jean-Eric Vergne was left to rue a mystery ailment on his Carlin car which left him an unfamiliar 12th. "We had a problem with the brakes, and a vibration through the steering," said Vergne. "It was the same problem that I had yesterday, and I really hope we can find what's wrong before the race. I don't think there's going to be as much overtaking here with these cars as there was in F3, but at least it is one of the circuits where you can pass."
Early season points leader Alexander Rossi [Fortec] was equally frustrated in 17th. "I had a perfect car on my first set of tyres," said Rossi. "We were right up there doing the same times as everyone else, and then on my second set we suddenly, totally, lost rear-end grip."
Following his part in an incident during the last round at Spa-Francorchamps, Gravity-Charouz driver Jan Charouz will be relegated from 19th to 25th on today's grid. The Czech elected to sit out the first part of qualifying this morning, and ran five laps less than the majority of his rivals.
Pos Driver Team Time Gap 1. Cesar Ramos Fortec 1m36.254s + 2. Robert Wickens Carlin 1m36.534s + 0.280s 3. Kevin Korjus Tech 1 1m36.769s + 0.515s 4. Stephane Richelmi Draco 1m36.814s + 0.560s 5. Daniil Move P1 1m36.817s + 0.563s 6. Sergio Canamasas BVM Target 1m36.858s + 0.604s 7. Nathanael Berthon ISR 1m36.875s + 0.621s 8. Chris van der Drift Mofaz 1m36.888s + 0.634s 9. Daniel Zampieri BVM Target 1m36.974s + 0.720s 10. Brendon Hartley Gravity-Charouz 1m37.011s + 0.757s 11. Jean-Eric Vergne Carlin 1m37.035s + 0.781s 12. Jake Rosenzweig Mofaz 1m37.052s + 0.798s 13. Walter Grubmuller P1 1m37.069s + 0.815s 14. Albert Costa EPIC 1m37.085s + 0.831s 15. Arthur Pic Tech 1 1m37.118s + 0.864s 16. Alexander Rossi Fortec 1m37.157s + 0.903s 17. Anton Nebylitskiy KMP 1m37.294s + 1.040s 18. Jan Charouz Gravity-Charouz 1m37.319s + 1.065s 19. Andre Negrao Draco 1m37.417s + 1.163s 20. Oliver Webb Pons 1m37.509s + 1.255s 21. Sten Pentus EPIC 1m37.575s + 1.321s 22. Nelson Panciatici KMP 1m37.908s + 1.654s 23. Daniel McKenzie Comtec 1m37.933s + 1.679s 24. Filip Salaquarda Pons 1m37.990s + 1.736s 25. Daniel de Jong Comtec 1m38.113s + 1.859s * Daniel Ricciardo ISR 1m36.319s + 0.065s * Ricciardo excluded from qualifying following a technical infringement
The 2015 Formula Renault 3.5 season will be notable for being the last with the French company's backing but also produced a worthy champion in Oliver Rowland. PETER MILLS evaluates this year's crop of drivers
Last year's field was extraordinary and hard to match, but the Formula Renault 3.5 grid will still have plenty of talent this season. Glenn Freeman runs through the field ahead of this weekend's season opener
Landing the Fortec seat that took rising star Robin Frijns to the 2012 FR3.5 title was already a good sign for Stoffel Vandoorne. Then McLaren took him under its wing. Peter Mills tells Vandoorne's story so far