Victor Martins threw down the gauntlet early on in Qualifying around the Red Bull Ring on his way to a second Formula 2 pole position of his rookie campaign.

The ART Grand Prix driver led from his first flying lap, improving to a 1:14.643 on his third attempt to retain the top spot. Championship contenders Frederik Vesti and Théo Pourchaire ultimately had to settle for second and third, respectively.

Heading the field out of the pits, Roman Stanek was the first driver to take a turn in the top spot, before Vesti put himself ahead with a 1:15.134. Pourchaire attempted to better his title rival but had to slot into second behind the Dane.

The pair were then swiftly usurped by a charging Martins, as the Frenchman became the first to break into the 1:14s. Meanwhile, Practice pace-setter Fittipaldi looked to continue that form as he moved up into second, before a track limits violation demoted the Rodin Carlin driver to the bottom of the timing sheets.

He wasn’t the only one to fall foul of track limits and get bumped down. Jack Doohan’s second attempt put him up into third before the Australian slipped down to fifth, as his Invicta Virtuosi Racing teammate Amaury Cordeel managed to execute a clean lap to rocket up into second, just 0.187s adrift of Martins in the #6 ART Grand Prix car.

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After a lengthy stay in the pits, the field immediately scrambled for track position as they headed out with 11 minutes remaining. Several drivers tactically drove through the pits to try to find a spot to take advantage of the tow.

With no time on the board, Fittipaldi immediately set to work, moving back up into second. As the final five minutes ticked down, Martins put together another charge, nailing his lap to improve his previous best by 0.283s.

Vesti tried to wrestle provisional pole away from the Alpine junior, but couldn’t quite manage it, ending up a tenth down on Martins. Importantly for his title aspirations, the PREMA Racing driver leapfrogged his nearest rival in the standings, Pourchaire, demoting the Sauber junior to third on the grid.

As the supersoft Pirelli rubber faded away, Fittipaldi attempted two last-gasp shots at pole, but it wasn’t to be. He was forced to abandon his first attempt after MP Motorsport’s Jehan Daruvala rejoined the track in his path, before losing his second lap to a huge lock up through Turn 3.

With few improvements to be found, nobody could catch the leading trio. Kush Maini bounced back from his Barcelona disappointment to secure fourth for Campos Racing ahead of Doohan and Fittipaldi. Cordeel held on for seventh ahead of Arthur Leclerc and Daruvala.

Qualifying in 10th, Hitech Pulse-Eight’s Jak Crawford will get Saturday’s Sprint Race underway from reverse grid pole when the lights go out at 13:45 local time.