Liam Lawson has qualified ninth on his FIA Formula 2 debut, giving the rookie a front row start for tonight’s season-opening sprint race.
The 18-year-old was at the bottom of the timesheets for most of the 30-minute session but surged inside the top-ten with a last gasp effort.
The session sets the grid for the weekend’s feature race held on Sunday. Guanyu Zhou edged out Christian Lundgaard by a measly 0.003s for pole position.
By qualifying ninth, Lawson will start the first race of the weekend, which is a reverse top-ten of qualifying, on the front row. He will start next to ex-Formula 3 rival David Beckmann.
The other New Zealander in the field, Marcus Armstrong, had a challenging session will start both the first sprint race and feature race from 14th.
Armstrong’s DAMS teammate Roy Nissany fared no better and could only muster the 15th quickest lap time.
A red flag with five minutes left in the session led to an intriguing final flurry of laps.
Robert Shwartzman lost drive in his Prema along the main straight and grounded to a halt agonisingly shy of the pitlane.
With only enough time for two flying laps, the rest of the field hurried out of the pits once Shwartzman was recovered.
An impressive effort by Lundgaard saw the Dane leap to provisional pole, nearly half-a-second clear of the field.
But not to be outdone, Zhou responded one lap later to snatch the top spot.
Felipe Drugovich was another driver on a late flying lap and settled for third quickest, ahead of Dan Ticktum in the Carlin.
Lawson’s best time – 1.43.519s – would end up being six tenths adrift of Zhou’s pole position time.
Armstrong, meanwhile, was eight tenths back.
Two sprint races will be held overnight for the F2 field, with the first set to get underway at 11.25 pm NZT.
Race two, which will be a reverse top-ten of the finishing order in race one, will kick off at 5.40 am. You can watch both live on Spark Sport.