Sam Bird takes second successive GP2 pole after thrilling session at Monza
RUSSIAN TIME driver secures valuable four points in title fight
By William Esler
Last Updated: 17/09/13 1:37pm
The RUSSIAN TIME driver still has the Drivers' Championship in his sights and the four points for pole position were the perfect way to start the weekend after a 1:31.788 sealed him top spot.
Palmer set the pace after the initial runs with a 1:31.961, with less than a tenth of a second separating Dani Clos, James Calado and Tom Dillmann behind him.
The Carlin driver looked set to go even quicker on his next flying lap, but Sergio Canamasas spun into the gravel at Parabolica, bringing out the yellow flags and forcing Palmer to back off after he improved in the first two sectors.
The session was delayed further when Vittorio Ghirelli spun at the same corner, dragging a mountain of gravel onto the circuit. After six minutes of yellow flags with no one on track, the red flag was eventually thrown, halting the clock with 14 minutes remaining.
Championship leader Stefano Coletti was the first man to improve after the restart, jumping up to second. Although he would slip to sixth by the end of the session, this was still the Rapax driver's best qualifying result since Silverstone where his run of one points finish in eight races started. With his nearest challenger Felipe Nasr starting 12th, this could be the weekend for Coletti to get his season back on track.
Behind him Leimer and Palmer were both on flyers and dipped into the 1:31.8s, with the Swiss just 0.021 seconds ahead.
However, after a quiet start to the session, it was Bird who flew in somewhat under the radar, hooking up all three sectors to go top, before returning to the pits and watching the rest of the session unfold.
Leimer would improve to within 0.034 seconds of Bird, whilst Palmer was up after two sectors on his final flying lap before falling back in the final sector. The top three separated by just five hundredths of a second after a thrilling session.
"I'm a little disappointed not to get pole position as it was definitely in the car but it didn't quite come together," Palmer said.
"Nevertheless third place is still my best grid position of the year and we have a good package for the races. I'm fighting for the win, I either come out of the first corner leading or I don't come out of the first corner at all!"
However, qualifying was not without incident further down the order as Johnny Cecotto escaped penalty after blocking Jon Lancaster at the second chicane. The British driver made his feelings known to the Arden driver - gesticulating widely from the cockpit - after he slowed on the exit of the corner, ruining the Hilmer man's lap.
Lancaster, though, would find himself in front of the stewards as he was handed a ten-place grid penalty for ignoring yellow flags.
Clos, who had qualified seventh, was excluded from the session after failing to provide the required amount of fuel for a sample in scrutineering.
GP2 Qualifying - Italy
1) Sam Bird (GBR) - RUSSIAN TIME - 1:31.788
2) Fabio Leimer (SWI) - Racing Engineering - +0.034
3) Jolyon Palmer (GBR) - Carlin - +0.055
4) Marcus Ericsson (SWE) - DAMS - +0.127
5) Tom Dillmann (FRA) - RUSSIAN TIME - +0.161
6) Stefano Coletti (MON) - Rapax - +0.205
7) Dani Clos (ESP) - MP Motorsport - +0.236 *excluded from qualifying
8) James Calado (GBR) - ART Grand Prix - +0.245
9) Jake Rosezweig (USA) - Addax - +0.312
10) Simon Trummer (SWI) - Rapax - +0.376
12) Felipe Nasr (BRA) - Carlin - +0.593
16) Adrian Quaife-Hobbs (GBR) - Hilmer Motorsport - +0.674
18) Jon Lancaster (GBR) - Hilmer Motorsport - +0.694 *ten-place grid penalty