Red Bull Ring FR3.5: Lotus protege Vaxiviere edges F1 racer Merhi

Matthieu Vaxiviere emerged on top in a tumultuous, rain disturbed, Formula Renault 3.5 qualifying session at the Red Bull Ring to earn his fourth pole position of the season

Red Bull Ring FR3.5: Lotus protege Vaxiviere edges F1 racer Merhi

Intermittent showers threatened to create a topsy-turvy grid, although the weather never worsened to the extent of requiring drivers to use full wets.

Lotus Formula 1 junior driver Vaxiviere's final flying lap on a slightly drying track propelled the Frenchman ahead of chief title rival Oliver Rowland into the pole slot for the second race of the weekend on Sunday.

Manor F1 driver Roberto Merhi also executed a final lap flyer, bumping Rowland down to third spot, and realising his highest grid position of the season.

Race one pole winner Rowland endured a spectrum of emotions during the session, including a low of plunging into a gravel bed and, after a remarkable comeback, briefly holding provisional pole.

The Fortec racer had failed to record a quick lap before the first rain spell, and languished in 17th position when the red flags appeared shortly before the mid-way point of the half-hour session.

On the restart, an under pressure Rowland was caught out on slicks during a localised downpour and skated into the gravel at Turn 6, apparently ending his participation in qualifying.

But the Fortec driver miraculously extricated himself from the gravel bed, and superbly composed himself to move into pole on his final lap after the chequered flag had flown, though Vaxiviere and Merhi subsequently demoted him.

McLaren protege Nyck de Vries will join Rowland on the second row of Sunday's second race, while Tech 1 rookie Roy Nissany achieved his best qualifying effort of the year in fifth.

Status GP2 driver Marlon Stockinger, making a guest FR3.5 appearance at his former team Lotus, followed up his race one front row position by completing the top six, one place ahead of the car's former incumbent Meindert van Buuren, now at Pons.

Alfonso Celis Jr will line up in seventh, but the AVF driver's team-mate Beitske Visser was hit by a technical issue shortly after the pitlane exit. The recovery of the Dutch racer's stranded machine brought about the mid-session stoppage.

Arden also encountered mixed fortunes: Nicholas Latifi's second top-10 qualifying performance of the day was offset by team-mate Egor Orudzhev spinning into the Turn 6 gravel early in the session, leaving the Hungaroring winner in last position.

The top 10 was completed by Draco's Pietro Fantin, who bounced back to record a solid performance after an alternator failure in Q1 left him on the penultimate row for race one.

RACE TWO QUALIFYING TIMES:

Pos Driver Team Time Gap
1 Matthieu Vaxiviere Lotus 1m18.160s -
2 Roberto Merhi Pons Racing 1m18.427s 0.267s
3 Oliver Rowland Fortec Motorsports 1m18.542s 0.382s
4 Nyck de Vries DAMS 1m18.692s 0.532s
5 Roy Nissany Tech 1 Racing 1m18.772s 0.612s
6 Marlon Stockinger Lotus 1m18.890s 0.730s
7 Meindert van Buuren Pons Racing 1m18.950s 0.790s
8 Alfonso Celis AVF 1m18.954s 0.794s
9 Nicholas Latifi Arden Motorsport 1m18.985s 0.825s
10 Pietro Fantin International Draco Racing 1m18.997s 0.837s
11 Aurelien Panis Tech 1 Racing 1m19.036s 0.876s
12 Dean Stoneman DAMS 1m19.318s 1.158s
13 Bruno Bonifacio International Draco Racing 1m19.376s 1.216s
14 Tom Dillmann Jagonya Ayam with Carlin 1m19.398s 1.238s
15 Gustav Malja Strakka Racing 1m19.445s 1.285s
16 Jazeman Jaafar Fortec Motorsports 1m19.592s 1.432s
17 Sean Gelael Jagonya Ayam with Carlin 1m19.878s 1.718s
18 Louis Deletraz Comtec Racing 1m19.962s 1.802s
19 Tio Ellinas Strakka Racing 1m20.368s 2.208s
20 Beitske Visser AVF 1m21.511s 3.351s
- Egor Orudzhev Arden Motorsport 1m28.655s 10.495s

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