Nobuharu Matsushita has qualified on pole for the Formula 2 feature race at Monza, while championship leader Charles Leclerc endured a difficult day finishing in seventh place.
Despite inclement conditions being forecast earlier in the week, qualifying took place on a dry track allowing drivers to run the soft tyres throughout the session.
ART and McLaren Honda junior driver Matsushita set an early benchmark of a 1m30.982 on his first run of the session – a time two tenths clear of Pierre Gasly’s 2016 pole effort.
Nyck de Vries sat second on the timesheet after the opening run, but less than a tenth adrift of Matsushita, while Rapax’s Louis Deletraz surprised the field in third spot.
Conversely, championship protagonist Oliver Rowland was mired in 13th spot at the half-way mark in the session. After bouncing across the kerbs at Turn 1, Rowland described his DAMS car as ‘the worst’ he had ever driven as he grappled with understeer.
The crucial climax to qualifying was delayed by a spin for Nabil Jeffri immediately after exiting the pit-lane. Jeffri stalled on the exit of Turn 2, triggering a red flag. The session clock was stopped with just over six minutes remaining.
As qualifying resumed, a frantic battle for track position ensued. As a result, few drivers managed to improve on their next lap.
The session was brought to an early conclusion as Santino Ferrucci suffered a left-rear suspension failure at the Roggia chicane, meaning that Matsushita claimed his maiden pole and only his second front-row start of 2017.
De Vries and Deletraz remained second and third, with Artem Markelov qualifying in fourth spot despite finishing at the top of the timesheet in practice.
Roberto Merhi and Jordan King were two drivers who did manage to improve on their final laps of the session, snatching fifth and sixth respectively. Their efforts demoted Leclerc to seventh spot, leaving the Monegasque driver frustrated at the end of the session.
Leclerc, who had qualified on pole in seven of the previous eight sessions in 2017, critiqued his Prema team on the radio suggesting that his lap was good but hampered by under-performing machinery.
Leclerc’s Prema team-mate Antonio Fuoco finished eighth while Ferrucci impressed yet again with ninth place despite his late suspension drama. Alexander Albon rounded out the top ten.
Rowland’s woes during the first segment of qualifying continued into the second and the Englishman could only manage 13th place on the grid, while team-mate Nicholas Latifi faced similar struggles en route to 14th.