Nobuharu Matsushita has grabbed his first pole position at this level in this afternoon’s FIA Formula 2 Championship qualifying session at the Autodromo Nazionale Monza, soaring to the top spot early in the session and holding on through two red flag periods for pole by 0.089s ahead of Nyck De Vries and Louis Deletraz.
The McLaren Honda development driver stopped the clocks at 1:30.982 on his first flying lap, taking advantage of the F1 rubber laid down in the previous session to set a target to which his rivals could only aspire.
The session opened under warm and mostly sunny conditions, with the promised rain holding off throughout despite some ominous looking clouds looming overhead. The entire grid was straight out on track when the lights went green, with Alexander Albon leading Charles Leclerc out: the pair both claimed the top spot with their first competitive laps, but further back Matsushita ran faster, setting the pace in sector 1 and 2 while missing the top spot in sector 3 by a thousandth.
De Vries pulled up to P2 on the next time through with Leclerc trying to get a tow but unable to stay with the Dutchman through the Parabolica, while Deletraz slid in behind them for his best qualifying performance of the year in 3rd before the whole field returned to the pits for fresh rubber.
With 9 minutes remaining the whole field re-emerged again, but a spin and a stall by Nabil Jeffri at turn 2 brought out the red flags: Matsushita, Oliver Rowland and Gustav Malja were unable to pit in time and were forced to do another outlap while their rivals waited for their return.
Deletraz and Leclerc were the first 2 drivers back on track, with Artem Markelov overtaking them both on their first push lap but Leclerc squeezing back past to have a clear track for his fast run: it was to no avail as Santino Ferrucci ground to a halt on track, bringing out the red flags once again with no time to restart the session.
Behind the top 3 Markelov will be disappointed not to have repeated his free practice performance while Roberto Merhi grabbed his best qualifying performance to put 2 cars into the top 5 for Rapax, ahead of Jordan King, Leclerc, Antonio Fuoco, Ferrucci and Albon in a session which saw 17 drivers finish within a second of pole.