McLaren Formula 1 reserve driver Lando Norris will be on pole for the Formula 2 season-opening feature race in Bahrain after setting the pace in qualifying.

Norris, who enters his rookie season in 2018, snatched pole from fellow Brit George Russell who is also making his debut this weekend, in the final few minutes of the session. The gap between the two was less than a tenth of a second and the result is the first pole position for British outfit Carlin since 2014 in F2/GP2.

Russell had topped the timesheets for most of the session before being beaten by Norris. Nevertheless, the reigning GP3 champion will have a front row start for his F2 debut.

Close behind the two standout rookies were a few familiar faces. Alexander Albon, now racing for DAMS following his move from ART, built upon the strong pace he had shown in practice by securing third place. He finished the session less than 0.02 seconds behind Russell.

McLaren junior Nyck De Vries managed to squeeze into fourth right at the end of the session, his first for his new team Prema Racing. De Vries’ team-mate Sean Gelael suffered from mechanical woes for the whole session and could only manage 19th place on his debut for the Prema team.

Returning driver Louis Deletraz managed an amazing fifth place for new team Charouz Racing System. He was just over 0.4s behind leader Norris. Fellow Charouz driver Antonio Fuoco could only manage an 11th place finish.

Sergio Sette Camara and Jack Aitken both had respectable qualifying sessions, finishing sixth and ninth respectively, but were somewhat outclassed by their team-mates, Norris and Russell.

Arden rookie line-up of Nirei Fukuzumi and Maximillian Gunther put in strong showings during their first qualifying sessions in F2. Fukuzumi wrestled his car to seventh while Gunther could only manage 10th following an early final run.

There was very much a tale of two stories for defending team’s champion Russian Time. Japanese driver Tadasuke Makino qualified eighth on his F2 debut but seasoned veteran Artem Markelov could only manage 17th place as he struggled to get to grips with the new Dallara built chassis.