Virtuosi Racing rookie Jack Doohan took an emphatic first pole position of the year in Formula 2, utilizing an almost empty track to set a 1:40.542, when the majority of the field were busy in the pitlane changing their tyres.
ART Grand Prix’s Théo Pourchaire and Hitech Grand Prix’ Jüri Vips attempted to beat the Australian’s time in the second half of the session, but both felt short and had to settle for second and third, respectively.
The Australian’s effort means that a Virtuosi driver has taken pole in the opening round four seasons in a row, with Guanyu Zhou achieving the feat in 2020 and 2021 and Luca Ghiotto in 2019.
All 22 cars emerged from the pitlane when the lights went green, but the session was red-flagged before they’d all made it out on the tarmac as Ayumu Iwasa’s DAMS came to a halt, forcing a stoppage as the marshals wheeled it off the track and out of the session.
The remaining 21 cars fed out onto the track when the session resumed, led by Van Amersfoort Racing duo Jake Hughes and Amaury Cordeel, who had seen their F3 counterpart Franco Colapinto take pole in the third tier earlier on Friday.
Looking to make it two VAR drivers on pole, Hughes was sat in P1 after the first set of flying laps, setting a cool 1:41.469 to lead Doohan. The British driver remained there after the second lot of fast lap, this time beating the morning’s quickest man, Felipe Drugovich.
PREMA had yet to set a representative time and opted to run their pairing in the gap, with Jehan Daruvala emerging in fifth, while Hauger had to settle for P13. Doohan had also decided to make the most of the empty track and delivered a statement lap, launching to first by more than half a second thanks to two purple sectors.
1:40.542 had become the time to beat as those who had gone into the pits at the halfway point returned to the tarmac with a fresh pair of soft Pirelli boots.
Vips was the only driver to come close to Doohan on the first run of the second set of tyres, but the Hitech racer’s effort was only good enough for second, as he fell two tenths short of the Australian.
Pourchaire briefly put himself on the front row but saw his time deleted for exceeding track limits. Dusting himself off, the ART Grand Prix driver went again and matched his previous effort, going second once again, one-tenth off P1, to push Vips down to third.
There was still time to be found in the final minutes as Ralph Boschung put his Campos in fifth between the two Carlin drivers, with Logan Sargeant in fourth and Liam Lawson in sixth.
Daruvala left it late, but the Red Bull junior returned to the track with just enough time to spare and found the pace for seventh.
After leading for much of the session, Hughes had fallen to eighth at the flag, which still marked a solid effort for VAR on their debut. Richard Verschoor earned Trident a spot in the top 10, taking ninth, with Drugovich ending Qualifying in 10th.
The Brazilian MP Motorsport racer will start from pole on Saturday evening’s reverse grid at 7.40pm local time.