Red Bull junior Pierre Gasly started his bid to overhaul Prema teammate Antonio Giovinazzi and win the GP2 title by topping practice for the Abu Dhabi season finale.
Gasly, overlooked for a 2017 Toro Rosso Formula 1 drive, trails Giovinazzi by seven points. The 20-year-old claimed top spot inside the first 15 minutes with a time of 1m51.096s, despite being one of many to have lurid moments on what appeared to be a slippery track surface. That stood until Giovinazzi improved to a 1m51.067s with a little over 10 minutes to go, which put Giovinazzi 0.029 seconds up.
Gasly responsed quickly, setting the weekend’s first sub-1m51s lap, a 1m50.940s. His new benchmark stood for the rest of the session, with DAMS driver Alex Lynn popping into second place inside the final five minutes with a 1m51.002s. That demoted Giovinazzi to third, 0.127s slower than his teammate, although a run of other quick laps suggests he has consistently strong pace on the prime medium Pirelli.
Nobuharu Matsushita led the way briefly early in the 45 minutes but did not improve thereafter and wound up fourth. The only other driver in – albeit slim – title contention, Raffaele Marciello, set the 11th-fastest time.
Marciello is 39 points behind Giovinazzi in the championship, and essentially needs to win both races with neither Prema driver scoring any points.
Racing Engineering teammates Norman Nato and Jordan King were fifth and seventh, split by Oliver Rowland, while Johnny Cecotto Jr., Sergey Sirotkin and Nicholas Latifi rounded out the top 10.
The only driver to strike trouble was Mitch Evans, whose Campos Racing-run Dallara stopped at Turn 7 midway through the session. The Jaguar Formula E racer wound up in 14th place, two spots ahead of Emil Bernstorff on debut with Arden.
Making his first GP2 appearance with Carlin, Renault protege and Formula V8 3.5 runner-up Louis Deletraz finished the session in 21st place, 2.710s off the pace set by Gasly.
|1||Pierre Gasly||Prema Racing||1m50.940ss||1m50.940s||16|
|3||Antonio Giovinazzi||Prema Racing||1m51.067ss||0.127s||19|
|4||Nobuharu Matsushita||ART Grand Prix||1m51.149ss||0.209s||19|
|5||Norman Nato||Racing Engineering||1m51.687ss||0.747s||17|
|6||Oliver Rowland||MP Motorsport||1m51.700ss||0.760s||18|
|7||Jordan King||Racing Engineering||1m51.795ss||0.855s||16|
|8||Johnny Cecotto Jr.||Rapax||1m51.873ss||0.933s||18|
|9||Sergey Sirotkin||ART Grand Prix||1m51.892ss||0.952s||17|
|11||Raffaele Marciello||RUSSIAN TIME||1m52.005ss||1.065s||17|
|12||Artem Markelov||RUSSIAN TIME||1m52.281ss||1.341s||17|
|14||Mitch Evans||Pertamina Campos Racing||1m52.477ss||1.537s||7|
|16||Emil Bernstorff||Arden International||1m52.751ss||1.811s||20|
|18||Daniel de Jong||MP Motorsport||1m52.987ss||2.047s||17|
|19||Sean Gelael||Pertamina Campos Racing||1m53.077ss||2.137s||15|
|20||Nabil Jeffri||Arden International||1m53.185ss||2.245s||16|
|22||Philo Paz Armand||Trident||1m53.808ss||2.868s||18|