Dutchman qualifies ahead of Latifi and Ilott in Sochi

Having seen DAMS dominate Free Practice and the majority of Qualifying, Nyck de Vries drew out the full force of his ART Grand Prix machine to snatch pole position from the clutches of title rival Nicholas Latifi, who had looked set to seal first, and the four points that come with it.

De Vries left it late, but a perfect final sector saw him go 0.260s quicker than the Canadian for his fifth pole of the season. The DAMS driver held on for second, ahead of Sauber Junior Team by Charouz’s Callum Ilott.

The early afternoon sun had vanished by the time Qualifying came around, with a 60% chance of rain and dark clouds looming over the top of the Sochi Autodrom. Luca Ghiotto was amongst the first to head out onto the track and warned of drops of rain in certain spots.

Latifi picked up where he had left off in Free Practice, setting the standard at 1:48.060, ahead of De Vries, who suffered a slow final sector. The Canadian then improved on his time and further cemented his place in P1, as Ghiotto nestled into third, behind the Championship’s top two.

Meanwhile, Jack Aitken’s evening got off to a rough start when a coming together with Giuliano Alesi left him requiring a new front wing. Thanks to the hard work of his team, he returned to the pits and re-emerged with plenty of time to play with.

The cars went for fresh rubber as the session hit the halfway point and De Vries requested an early release, with rain starting to spit in the pit lane. Matsushita was left out on track by himself in an attempt at an alternate Qualifying strategy, but could only manage sixth fastest with his solo tour of the track.

The remainder of the field returned in unison with eight minutes to go, and with his Championship hopes on the line, Latifi was on course to seal his first ever pole position, as the others struggled to match his pace.

Those hopes were given a boost as De Vries’ first sector came in 0.013s slower, before a wobble on Turn 7 further damaged his time. However, the Dutchman managed to recover and kept his lap green, before smashing the final third, which gave him enough of an edge to snatch P1.

Latifi was left with less than two minutes to react and couldn’t beat De Vries, forcing him to settle for second. Ilott had managed to eek further power from his machine on the second stint, earning him third place on the grid.

Ghiotto and Guanyu Zhou secured fourth and fifth, ahead of Sérgio Sette Câmara, Louis Delétraz, Nikita Mazepin, Jordan King and Nobuharu Matsushita. Meanwhile, Jack Aitken’s top three hopes took a bruising, as the British racer struggled to 12th place.

With the gap now at 63 points, and only 92 remaining, De Vries could potentially wrap up the Drivers’ title in tomorrow’s Feature Race, which takes place at 4.45pm (local time).

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