DAMS proved that it’s never over until the chequered flag in Formula 2, as Ayumu Iwasa stormed to his second pole position of the 2022 campaign. His teammate Roy Nissany put together an unbelievable lap, only 0.036s down on his team, to bring home his first front row Feature Race start ahead of Théo Pourchaire in third.
Unlike previous visits to the Yas Marina Circuit, the 30-minute session got underway in the blistering mid-afternoon sunshine rather than under the floodlights. Pourchaire set the first representative time with a 1:37.145. However, the ART Grand Prix driver didn’t hold the top spot for long as Doohan broke into the 1:36s to give himself a 0.486s buffer out front.
Seven minutes into Qualifying and with only half the field having put a lap on the board, running came to a brief halt. Virtuosi Racing’s Marino Sato suffered a spin underneath the hotel section between Turns 13 and 14, bringing out the Red Flag and forcing several drivers to abandon their laps.
Fortunately, the first sets of tyres hadn’t faded off after their first heat cycle and improvements continued to come through after the Red Flag. While Pourchaire closed up to with 0.226s of Doohan’s time, the PREMA duo of Daruvala and Hauger climbed up into third and fourth ahead of Practice pacesetter Iwasa.
As predicted pre-session, Sector 3 would prove to be the undoing for several attempts. Despite looking rapid in the first two sectors, Vips’ couldn’t get up further than P8, while sixth-placed Drugovich abandoned his second run.
After a quick trip to the pits for fresh rubber, the second phase of running started with 10 minutes remaining and track evolution meant times continued to tumble. Determined to end his F2 career in style, Drugovich was mighty in the final sector to take provisional pole with a 1:36.546.
However, his time didn’t stay top for long as Pourchaire hooked it all together to snatch P1 by 0.174s. The MP driver was then demoted one place further as Sargeant skyrocketed up from 16th to second on an important weekend for the Carlin driver. Meanwhile, Doohan narrowly avoided disaster, tapping the wall on the exit of Turn 14 but emerging unscathed.
Yet it was DAMS who were the stars of the show by locking out the front row. Clocking his best sectors of the session, Nissany laid down the lap of his life to snatch provisional pole with one minute remaining.
Not content with one surprise performance, Iwasa, who had been languishing down in P18 after an earlier attempt was deleted for track limits, showed his hand and set a 1:36.290. There was nothing the Japanese driver’s rivals could do to deny him, as Zane Maloney brought out the yellow flag in the last sector in the final seconds of the session.
2022 Champion Drugovich has put himself in the hunt for another win in fourth, as Doohan was forced to settle for fifth. In the Teams’ Championship fight, Carlin have the early advantage as the only title-contending team with two drivers inside the top 10, with Sargeant and Lawson securing P6 and P9 respectively.
Hauger’s final weekend for PREMA has started strongly in seventh, ahead of Van Amersfoort Racing’s Amaury Cordeel. Lastly, Richard Verschoor has secured reverse grid pole for the Sprint Race in 10th.
The Sprint Race action gets started at 16:20 local time on Saturday.