Wickens clinches second Spanish pole
31 October 2009 – Robert Wickens has taken a second pole position in Barcelona ahead of Sunday's season finale at the Circuit de Catalunya. Having already driven to the top spot ahead of the first race on Saturday, the Canadian will start alongside Champion and crowd favourite Andy Soucek for the final encounter of the season.
A brief shower in the morning meant the track continued to dry and improve as the session wore on. Mikhail Aleshin made the most of the early conditions, dominating the opening ten minutes and bettering his own provisional pole time on three occasions.
Tobias Hegewald, Robert Wickens and Philipp Eng remained in close proximity to Aleshin, whilst De Marco and Jack Clarke both recovered from spins during an early flying lap.
Almost every car pitted for new tyres with a little over ten minutes remaining and the session would develop into a dramatic final dash for pole. Aleshin was the first to complete a flying lap on fresh rubber and the 22-year-old immediately improved to set a 1:38.470 lap time - the quickest of the weekend so far. The decision to come out early seemed to have cost Aleshin, however, as Soucek bettered the Red Bull-backed driver just a few moments later.
Almost every driver improved their times late on as De Marco, Hegewald and Kazim Vasiliauskas moved into fourth, fifth and sixth respectively. Wickens was the last man to bolt on new tyres and make a final attempt for pole, and the Canadian timed it perfectly to set a phenomenal time of 1:38.096 and clinch his fifth pole of the season.
"I am delighted," said Wickens. "It goes to show that the championship wasn't lost through my lack of speed. Since Donington Park the championship has been out of reach and since then I have just been trying to maintain second. It's good coming into the weekend with a nine point advantage and a win this afternoon will clinch it for me. I went for an aggressive strategy in qualifying and took my third pole position in a row, which is pretty good!"
Several drivers made another attempt on their second lap but none of the notable front-runners improved, as Soucek and Eng held on to take second and third.
"It reminds me a lot of Valencia when Robert took two pole positions and I couldn't get him," noted Soucek. "This time it is a lot closer however, I have much better pace and I'm sure I can challenge for the win."
"It was quite a crazy session actually," said Eng. "I had a lot of traffic on my second lap which would have been even quicker, but to finish just behind Robert and Andy is a good result."
Aleshin had been bumped down to seventh at the finish, ahead of further impressive runs from debutant Tristan Vautier and Indian pilot Armaan Ebrahim.
Julien Jousse rounded out the top ten although the Frenchman encountered traffic on his final run, as both Pietro Gandolfi and Jens Hoing were ahead of him on the track.
Jason Moore and Jolyon Palmer again showed well as the two young British drivers improved to take 11th and 12th - a fitting way of ending qualifying in their first campaign of international racing.
Mirko Bortolotti and Miloš Pavlovic; are still in the race for second and third in the championship, and the prize of qualification for an FIA Superlicense, but their hopes were seriously dented in qualifying two. The pair could only manage 13th and 14th, ahead of a spirited run from Natacha Gachnang.