Jules Bianchi made the perfect start to this weekend's Formula Renault 3.5 title decider, taking pole for race one in an incident-packed qualifying session.
The Ferrari junior driver, who took the lead of the standings from Robin Frijns last time out at Paul Ricard, kept his composure in a session punctuated by red flags and full course yellows to always be near the top of the times.
After an early delay caused by Yann Cunha's car stopping just after the pit exit, Bianchi went fastest as everyone finally set their first flying laps seven minutes in.
The session was stopped shortly after that when his Tech 1 team-mate Daniel Abt spun. After that, Bianchi and title outsider Sam Bird joined the majority of the field in waiting to put a second set of tyres on rather than heading back out on their first sets.
Frijns, however, was one of the few to use his first set of tyres again, and with clear track he duly moved into provisional pole at the halfway stage of the session.
Another red flag - this time caused by Nikolay Martsenko crashing at Turn 3 - delayed the rush out of the pits when everyone was switching to their second sets. Kevin Magnussen briefly went fastest when the action re-started, but Bianchi responded seconds later to re-take top spot.
Andre Negrao was next to cause a red flag, setting up a three-minute shootout for pole. However, there were very few improvements, with the main drama coming as Frijns spun at Turn 12 on a lap that was unlikely to improve his position.
Prior to that, the Dutchman had moved up one place to sixth, but that still left him the lowest of the three title chasers. Bianchi was unchallenged for pole, while Bird kept his nose out of trouble to take fourth.
Magnussen had to make do with third thanks to a late improvement from Antonio Felix da Costa, while the Red Bull junior's Arden Caterham team-mate Alexander Rossi completed the top five.
Pos Driver Team Time Gap 1. Jules Bianchi Tech 1 1m29.986s 2. Antonio Felix da Costa Arden Caterham 1m30.189s + 0.203s 3. Kevin Magnussen Carlin 1m30.451s + 0.465s 4. Sam Bird ISR 1m30.678s + 0.692s 5. Alexander Rossi Arden Caterham 1m30.698s + 0.712s 6. Robin Frijns Fortec 1m30.708s + 0.722s 7. Mikhail Aleshin RFR 1m30.916s + 0.930s 8. Will Stevens Carlin 1m30.991s + 1.005s 9. Kevin Korjus Lotus 1m31.006s + 1.020s 10. Walter Grubmuller P1 1m31.280s + 1.294s 11. Arthur Pic DAMS 1m31.313s + 1.327s 12. Marco Sorensen Lotus 1m31.432s + 1.446s 13. Nick Yelloly Comtec 1m31.469s + 1.483s 14. Aaro Vainio RFR 1m31.546s + 1.560s 15. Carlos Huertas Fortec 1m31.731s + 1.745s 16. Nico Muller Draco 1m31.768s + 1.782s 17. Vittorio Ghirelli Comtec 1m31.812s + 1.826s 18. Jake Rosenzweig ISR 1m31.933s + 1.947s 19. Daniil Move P1 1m31.958s + 1.972s 20. Lucas Foresti DAMS 1m32.005s + 2.019s 21. Tamas Pal Kiss BVM Target 1m32.277s + 2.291s 22. Andre Negrao Draco 1m32.504s + 2.518s 23. Zoel Amberg Pons 1m32.983s + 2.997s 24. Nikolay Martsenko BVM Target 1m33.722s + 3.736s 25. Daniel Abt Tech 1 - - 26. Yann Cunha Pons - -