Mercedes Formula 1 junior George Russell inched closer to the 2018 Formula 2 title, taking an extra four points by claiming pole position for the Abu Dhabi season finale.

ART Grand Prix’s Russell now leads his championship rival Alexander Albon by 41 points with 44 remaining in the final two races of the season.

The championship leader vaulted to the top of the timesheet after his first run of the 30-minute qualifying session, eclipsing second-placed Albon by over four-tenths.

However, Russell emerged for his second and final run of the session in third place having been beaten by Nyck de Vries and Nicholas Latifi who opted to complete their first timed efforts while the majority of the field was in the pitlane.

Posting a 1m49.251s, Russell was able to overhaul McLaren junior de Vries to retake pole and earn the additional four points awarded to the polesitter.

While de Vries improved with his final lap of the session, it was not enough to overhaul Russell’s new benchmark and he ended up 0.290s behind.

Russell’s only remaining threat to the championship will start eighth after slipping down the order in the closing stages. Albon lost significant time on his final lap after running wide at Turn 20 and mounting the sausage kerb on the exit.

His DAMS team-mate Latifi also suffered a tricky end to his session as he had to abort his final attempt. However, the strategy to run in the gap with de Vries still resulted in third on the grid.

Russian Time’s Artem Markelov set the pace through the final sector, qualifying in fourth.

Russell’s ART team-mate Jack Aitken made a significant improvement on his second run after having been outside the top 10 halfway through the session. He qualified fifth.

McLaren F1-bound Lando Norris was the only driver to complete two timed laps on his final run. Despite failing to improve on the first lap, Norris was able to beat his run one time with his last lap of the session and propelled himself into seventh place behind Louis Deletraz.

Tadasuke Makino was blocked by Luca Ghiotto at the Turn 6 chicane during his first run of the session. He recovered to qualify ninth, while Carlin’s Sergio Sette Camara rounded out the top 10.