Vandoorne denies Pic of Sochi pole

Identical laptimes for both drivers, but Belgian ace claims top spot

McLaren test driver Stoffel Vandoorne has claimed his third pole position in a row in today’s exciting qualifying session at Sochi Autodrom. With an identical laptime of 1:45.002, Arthur Pic takes P2 ahead of Vandoorne’s teammate Takuya Izawa.

Vandoorne set the pace early on until Mitch Evans went top only to be bettered by the Belgian a few minutes later. Pic was up next for the top spot, but Izawa was on fine form as well: the Japanese was the first man to dip under 1m46s. Series leader Jolyon Palmer found some clean air however to sit pretty at the top of the timesheet halfway through the session and before the end of the field’s first stints.

The final minutes saw an intense battle for pole position. Pic looked determined to claim a second pole this season when he clocked a laptime of 1:45.552. The chequered flag dropped but the Frenchman had one last chance to improve on his laptime and secure P1. Izawa was also on his final attempt. He did improve on his personal best, but Pic’s time remained better so the Japanese was then second.

Vandoorne was the last man to be able to challenge Pic. The ART man put his head down and was able to go top as he crossed the finish line hoping he had done the job and that Pic would not be able to go faster. The Frenchman lit all his sectors in green, but when his lap was done his identical laptime with Vandoorne meant the Belgian would take pole today.

Behind the top 3, Palmer finished fourth and is in a good position to fight for the win tomorrow. Raffaele Marciello finished fifth ahead of Evans, Kimiya Sato, Stefano Coletti, André Negrao and Felipe Nasr, the latter will need to have a strong result tomorrow in order to keep his title hopes alive.