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Formula One Etihad Airways Abu Dhabi Grand Prix: Pierre Gasly leads the way in GP2 free practice

Frenchman steals an early march on his teammate and title rival Giovinazzi

Gulf News

Abu Dhabi: Pierre Gasly topped the timesheets in Friday’s first GP2 practice session, grabbing P1 late in a busy session ahead of former teammate Alex Lynn and title rival Antonio Giovinazzi at Yas Marina Circuit in Abu Dhabi.

The Red Bull tester clocked 1:50.940 late in an exciting session, which saw the top spot swapping throughout.

A second session was due to take place on Friday evening, while the series’ first race of 31 laps or 60 minutes will be held between 6.40pm and 7.45pm on Saturday.

The feeder series for Formula One will, like its ‘big brother’, crown a world champion this weekend in the UAE capital.

PREMA Racing’s Giovinazzi leads his teammate Gasly by seven points in the drivers’ standings.

Meanwhile, in the GP3 series, Alexander Albon may be 29 points down in the thrilling title race, but the Thai driver made a statement of intent by taking pole position for Saturday’s feature race in Friday’s qualifying session.

The 20-year-old ART Grand Prix driver claimed his third pole position of the season with a time of 1:55.274, an average lap speed of 173.451km/h, in a frantic final 10-minute segment of the half-hour session.

Teammate and championship leader Charles Leclerc could finish no higher than fifth, 0.386 seconds slower, in a session that reminded the 19-year-old Monegasque driver that the destination of the 2016 title is not settled yet.

GP3 poles bring a double reward: not only does the pole-sitter have an advantage at race start, he also earns four points, perhaps a vital boost for Albon’s title hopes this weekend if other drivers can interfere with Leclerc’s progress in Saturday’s 18-lap race.

Second on the 22-car grid will be Arden International’s Jake Dennis, the Monza feature race-winner who is currently fourth in the overall standings. The Briton was just under a quarter of a second behind Albon on 1:55.514.

The one incident of note came when DAMS driver Jake Hughes had to stop with a piece of equipment still attached to his car, while Jenzer’s Alessio Lorandi, who joined the series in Malaysia, was able to complete only one lap before pulling out of qualifying altogether. They ended up 21st and 22nd respectively.

GP3’s first race on Saturday, of 18 laps or 40 minutes, takes place between 12.25pm and 1.10pm.

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