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Jolyon Palmer put in a stunning late effort to take pole position for the opening race at the the Algarve - the fourth time the Briton will have started from the front.
Palmer's late surge denied Benjamin Bailly a second consecutive pole, although the Belgian will be happy after securing a front row starting berth.
Behind them Jack Clarke continued his impressive recent form to take third, with Nicola De Marco lining up alongside him in fourth.
De Marco led for much of the early running on used rubber, bettering his own benchmark at the midway stage. Times began to tumble in the final 15 minutes however, as Russian racer Ivan Samarin became the first driver to set a time on fresh tyres. His 1:36.296s lap time was initially good enough for provisional pole but it was clear that times would drop further, as Bailly immediately jumped to the top of the order.
Clarke followed Bailly across the line, falling short of the RACB-backed driver by just 0.018s. Nicola De Marco, Kazim Vasiliauskas and Philipp Eng slotted in behind, which at one stage left the top five positions separated by less than one tenth of a second.
Championship top two Jolyon Palmer and Dean Stoneman were seemingly stuck down in 12th and tenth with a little over five minutes remaining, after their first few flying lap attempts fell someway short of what was required.
Palmer responded in magnificent fashion however, as he punched in three quick laps in succession, launching himself to the summit of the times in the process. The gap back to Bailly was a healthy 0.215s, which was impressive when you consider that the next 12 drivers were covered by a little over six tenths of a second.
"I knew once I got a lap in I'd be at the sharp end, but whereabouts I wasn't sure," said Palmer. "Obviously I was happy to come over the line and see 35.7 on the dash. I've just got to push for the win and hopefully score good points for the championship."
Bailly and Clarke had to settle for second and third at the finish, ahead of De Marco, Vasiliauskas and Eng. Briton Will Bratt came home seventh while Ivan Samarin's earlier pace-setting lap was only good enough for eighth as the chequered flag waved.
Dean Stoneman was left down in a disappointing ninth despite a slight improvement late on and Ricardo Teixeira rounded out the top ten. The Angolan racer ran as high as fourth in the early stages of qualifying, but he had to make do with a row five starting berth after failing to get the very best out of his new tyres in the latter stages.
Kelvin Snoeks and Benjamin Lariche followed, whilst Natalia Kowalska was 13th. The Polish female racer continues to develop in F2 and this was one of her best sessions so far as she ended up just eight tenths off the pole position time around the technical 4.69km circuit.
Sergey Afanasiev, Mihai Marinescu and Armaan Ebrahim all endured challenging sessions and could only manage 14th, 15th and 16th between them.
|Autodromo Internacional do Algarve 2010|
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