Oliver Bearman turned his fortunes around in the final seconds of a tense Qualifying session in Baku to claim his first Formula 2 pole position. Utilising the slipstream from the train of cars ahead, the PREMA Racing rookie stole first from Rodin Carlin’s Enzo Fittipaldi by just 0.012s at the chequered flag.
Less than a tenth of a second separated the frontrunners, as Théo Pourchaire and Frederik Vesti benefitted late on to seal their spots in third and fourth.
After a delayed start to running, an early Red Flag halted the session inside the opening seven minutes before any representative laps could be put on the board. Brad Benavides overshot the entry to Turn 1 and planted the #17 PHM Racing by Charouz car into the barriers.
When things resumed, Practice pace-setter Oliver Bearman once again became the one to beat. The PREMA Racing driver’s 1:53.780 put him 0.140s ahead of Campos Racing’s Kush Maini.
The experienced drivers began to show their hand on their second attempts, and it was Dennis Hauger who hit the front of the field at the halfway mark. The MP Motorsport driver sliced the fastest lap down to a 1:53.531, a tenth quicker than Richard Verschoor.
With the tow around the Baku City Circuit proving so powerful, drivers squabbled for track position entering the final stages. Punching in a 1:53.271, Vesti went 0.085s clear of Pourchaire on his penultimate lap, just as PREMA Racing teammate Bearman brushed the barriers at the exit of Turn 2, bending his steering in the process.
With the chequered flag waving, plenty improved with Hauger the first to move up onto provisional pole. His time lasted for a split second as Vesti then claimed pole, before being demoted himself by Fittipaldi. The battle for pole had one final twist, as Bearman somehow went even faster to take his first F2 pole on a 1:52.652, ahead of Pourchaire and Vesti.
Hauger and Jehan Daruvala put MP right in the mix for both races, as they claimed fifth and sixth respectively. Hitech Pulse-Eight’s Jak Crawford was another late improver as he overtook fellow rookies Martins and Zane Maloney for seventh.
Richard Verschoor will be front and centre when he lines up on reverse grid pole for Saturday’s Sprint Race after qualifying in 10th. The lights go out for the Sprint Race at 15:00 local time.