Jak Crawford proved how you start matters as much as how you finish as the Hitech Pulse-Eight driver secured his maiden Formula 2 pole position in dramatic fashion. Laying down a 1:21.210 on his second attempt around the Circuit Zandvoort, the American’s efforts held firm as three Red Flags denied the field their chance to improve.

Dennis Hauger looked to have the pace but couldn’t complete his final two runs and the MP Motorsport driver was forced to settle for second by 0.034s. Frederik Vesti bounced back after his disappointment in Spa-Francorchamps by securing third for PREMA Racing.

Given the risk of traffic around the short circuit, only 12 cars bolted out of the pits at the green light. Once the whole field headed out, space was at a premium as Alpine juniors Victor Martins and Jack Doohan squabbled for track position. Narrowly avoiding contact at Turn 14, the pair were forced to bail out of their first attempts.

Isack Hadjar set the initial benchmark with a 1:21.732, as Practice pace setter Oliver Bearman slotted up into P2, over two-tenths down on the Frenchman, with Clément Novalak in third.

Putting together a second attempt, Doohan lowered the time to beat to a 1:21.377, whilst Hauger went to within 0.057s of the Australian.

Crawford took charge at the 20-minute mark, clocking in a 1:21.210. Hauger came narrowly close to provisional pole once again, just 0.034s slower than the Red Bull junior’s effort, but ahead of Vesti, Doohan and Bearman.

Meanwhile, Juan Manuel Correa slotted the #23 Van Amersfoort Racing car into P6 on his first attempt and retaining the spot with an improvement on his second.

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After the field dove into the pits for their second set of soft tyres, disaster struck for provisional pole sitter Crawford. The #9 Hitech was forced to pit once more with a damaged front wing after making contact with Novalak in the pits, as the Trident driver tried to pull into the fast lane.

Jehan Daruvala brought running to a halt with seven minutes remaining, spinning off on the exit of Turn 3 to trigger the Red Flag.

Once running resumed, Hauger was back on the pace, going purple in Sector 2. However, the Norwegian wasn’t able to register his attempt that ended up being 0.040s faster than Crawford’s best, as a second Red Flag was thrown metres from him reaching the line.

Having gone fastest in the first Sector, Correa carried too much into Turn 10 and spun off into the gravel trap. However, Rodin Carlin’s Zane Maloney managed to put his lap in just in the nick of time to climb up from P20 to fourth.

Returning to green flag conditions, it was a one-lap shootout with less than four minutes to play with, and Hauger continued to improve. Yet nobody could record a final time, as Novalak brought out a third Red Flag, hitting the barriers out of Turn 3.

With less than a minute left, the session was not resumed, allowing Crawford to hold on to his and Hitech Pulse-Eight’s first pole of the season.

Hauger remained in second ahead of Vesti, Maloney and Doohan, who rounded out the top five. Bearman finished in sixth as Correa’s earlier effort meant he held on to a spot inside the top seven. Martins was eighth ahead of Hadjar and Théo Pourchaire.

Qualifying in 10th, Championship leader Pourchaire will line up on reverse grid pole for Saturday’s Sprint Race, which gets underway at 13:15 local time.