F2 France: Mercedes' Russell claims maiden F2 pole ahead of Albon

George Russell scored a brilliant Formula 2 pole position at Paul Ricard, after a throttle issue thwarted McLaren Formula 1 junior Nyck de Vries' challenge for the top spot

Mercedes junior Russell went 0.494s quicker than anyone after the field had set at least one flying lap, but it was clear he'd need to improve again once the drivers had regrouped in the pits as the track rubbered in.

Russell duly did, by 0.3s to a best time of 1m44.469s, as he headed Alexander Albon by a solitary tenth on the front row of the grid after the 30-minute session, where high temperatures mirrored the earlier practice session.

Albon suffered a throttle sensor issue in practice that limited his running, but was faultless in qualifying, his only complaint being heavy traffic while attempting his last flying lap.

But de Vries reported he had suffered a throttle issue towards the end of his final flying lap, where he had gone fastest in sector one, saying over the radio: "That was my pole, that was such a good lap."

The Prema Racing driver will therefore start eighth.

Practice pacesetter Lando Norris was only just clinging on to a top 10 spot after his first flying runs, but summoned a mighty effort to leap up to third at the end of the session.

Norris hasn't finished lower than sixth in the eight races so far this season and his starting spot gives him another chance to extend his points lead, as he qualified ahead of his closest championship rival Artem Markelov.

Sergio Sette Camara completed an impressive return from his qualifying crash in Monaco, which injured his right hand and left him needing an operation.

He delivered fourth place on the grid and will have a chance to end a poor spell of luck after opening the season strongly.

Luca Ghiotto rounded out the top five, with Jack Aitken and Markelov ending up ahead of de Vries.

Aitken's car looked lively in qualifying, and he ended the session 0.6s off his ART Grand Prix team-mate Russell, after being the first frontrunning driver to set a time in the second spell of fast laps.

Markelov recovered from the spin that ended his practice session earlier on Friday to give himself a chance of scoring points in tomorrow's race with seventh on the feature race grid.

Louis Deletraz and Nicholas Latifi rounded out the top 10 for Charouz Racing System and DAMS respectively.

Santino Ferrucci was the first of the runners out for the second instalment of quick laps, after his first runs were severely curtailed by what appeared to be engine trouble.

The issue looked to have been resolved, but when he subsequently returned to the pits he struggled to get going again after visiting the weighbridge.

But Ferrucci was able to return for a final run and took 13th.

Ralph Boschung also suffered an issue and did not get out for a second run, ending the session in last place.

Qualifying Results

Pos Driver Team Gap Laps
1 George Russell ART Grand Prix 1m44.469s 11
2 Alexander Albon DAMS 0.166s 10
3 Lando Norris Carlin 0.312s 10
4 Sergio Sette Camara Carlin 0.623s 11
5 Luca Ghiotto Campos Vexatec Racing 0.640s 10
6 Jack Aitken ART Grand Prix 0.674s 10
7 Artem Markelov RUSSIAN TIME 0.781s 10
8 Nyck de Vries Pertamina Prema Theodore Racing 0.800s 9
9 Louis Deletraz Charouz Racing System 0.809s 11
10 Nicholas Latifi DAMS 1.013s 10
11 Maximilian Guenther BWT Arden 1.139s 10
12 Sean Gelael Pertamina Prema Theodore Racing 1.252s 10
13 Santino Ferrucci Trident 1.270s 11
14 Roberto Merhi MP Motorsport 1.284s 10
15 Antonio Fuoco Charouz Racing System 1.450s 11
16 Tadasuke Makino RUSSIAN TIME 1.476s 10
17 Arjun Maini Trident 1.552s 10
18 Nirei Fukuzumi BWT Arden 1.591s 10
19 Roy Nissany Campos Vexatec Racing 1.681s 10
20 Ralph Boschung MP Motorsport 2.031s 6

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