Charles Pic will start tomorrow’s GP2 Asia race from pole position after putting on a dazzling display under the floodlights here in Abu Dhabi with a lap of 1:52.497.
The Frenchman, nicknamed “Tooth Pic” by his team owing to the fact he’s really quite skinny, was in inspired form to fend off the challenge posed by the iSport duo of championship leader Davide Valsecchi and Oliver Turvey, to record his first GP2 Asia pole.
Valsecchi perhaps thought pole was his for the taking after his main challenger from practice Luca Filippi retired in the early minutes of the session with an as yet unknown car failure. But the Italian was never allowed a moment to breathe, with Pic, Turvey and the ART duo of Jules Bianchi and Sam Bird all fighting over the top spot in the final minutes.
Valsecchi came close to snatching pole back with his last lap, but ran just a touch wide over the rumble strips at the final corner, and the time he lost saw him slip not just from second, but from the front row as his team-mate Turvey romped to P2 with his final gambit.
Jules Bianchi will start from fourth after a seriously impressive first qualifying outing on a car he’s never driven, on a track he’s never seen, and for the first time at night. Alexander Rossi took fifth ahead of Javier Villa, Bird, Edoardo Piscopo, Giacomo Ricci and Christian Vietoris.
In the end, it was Pic who put together the perfect lap and put a huge smile on the faces of the Arden team, which this weekend races for the first time under a new younger generation of engineers led by Campbell Hobson, after long-time chief of Engineering Mick Cook parted company with the team over the winter. The change in the team’s approach has reaped immediate reward, and deservedly so.
It will be fascinating to see how he handles the pressure of the iSport boys behind him, the speed of the ARTs and the ever impressive Rossi in tomorrow’s race. And keep an eye out for Filippi. Starting from the rear of the grid, the fastest man of the early running will be a man on a mission tomorrow.