Britain’s Sam Bird scored his second GP2 Series pole position in a row at Monza on Friday afternoon, beating title rival Fabio Leimer to the four points for top spot.
Bird lapped the Italian Grand Prix venue in his Russian Time car in 1m31.788s in the closing minutes of the session, pipping Racing Engineering’s Leimer by 0.034 seconds.
The pole bonus puts Bird within 10 points of the series lead.
Practice pacesetter Jolyon Palmer was again bang in the mix, and set the pace in the first half of the session.
But his final effort was stymied by a slide at Ascari just after he had set the pace through the second sector, and he was forced to settle for third in his Carlin machine.
Marcus Ericsson will start fourth for DAMS, ahead of Tom Dillmann in the second Russian Time car.
Points leader Stefano Coletti will start sixth, enjoying an upswing over the recent form that has allowed rivals to carve into his advantage. The Monagasque has only scored once in the last eight races.
Dani Clos was an impressive seventh ahead of James Calado, fresh from Force India Formula 1 duties.
The title contender who suffered most, however, was second-placed Felipe Nasr, who will start down in 12th.
The session was interrupted by two lengthy yellow-flag periods, both at Parabolica. First, Sergio Canamasas spun and reversed into the gravel at the entry to the right-hand sweeper, which ruined better first-run laps for Palmer and Leimer.
Then Vittorio Ghirelli spun off at the exit a few moments later, and got himself beached in the gravel. The red flags were then thrown to allow marshals to clean the track.
Pos Driver Team Time Gap 1. Sam Bird Russian Time 1m31.788s 2. Fabio Leimer Racing Engineering 1m31.822s +0.034s 3. Jolyon Palmer Carlin 1m31.843s +0.055s 4. Marcus Ericsson DAMS 1m31.915s +0.127s 5. Tom Dillmann Russian Time 1m31.949s +0.161s 6. Stefano Coletti Rapax 1m31.993s +0.205s 7. Dani Clos MP 1m32.024s +0.236s 8. James Calado ART 1m32.033s +0.245s 9. Jake Rosenzweig Addax 1m32.100s +0.312s 10. Simon Trummer Rapax 1m32.164s +0.376s 11. Stephane Richelmi DAMS 1m32.168s +0.380s 12. Felipe Nasr Carlin 1m32.381s +0.593s 13. Rio Haryanto Addax 1m32.384s +0.596s 14. Julian Leal Racing Engineering 1m32.398s +0.610s 15. Alexander Rossi Caterham 1m32.447s +0.659s 16. Adrian Quaife-Hobbs Hilmer 1m32.462s +0.674s 17. Mitch Evans Arden 1m32.481s +0.693s 18. Jon Lancaster Hilmer 1m32.482s +0.694s 19. Nathanael Berthon Trident 1m32.554s +0.766s 20. Daniel Abt ART 1m32.627s +0.839s 21. Johnny Cecotto Arden 1m32.650s +0.862s 22. Daniel de Jong MP 1m32.751s +0.963s 23. Sergio Campana Trident 1m33.195s +1.407s 24. Rene Binder Lazarus 1m33.292s +1.504s 25. Vittorio Ghireli Lazarus 1m33.405s +1.617s 26. Sergio Canamasas Caterham 1m34.963s +3.175s