In partly sunny, partly overcast conditions, the young drivers in the FIA Formula 3 European Championship battled for the starting grid positions for the seventh race of the season, to be held at the 2.76 kilometres long street circuit in the city of Pau. At the foot of the Pyrenees, Callum Ilott (Prema Powerteam, 1m09.514s) claimed pole position while rookie driver Lando Norris (Carlin, 1m09.724s) secured second place. Next up on the starting grid behind the two Brits are points’ leader Joel Eriksson (Motopark, 1m09.882s), last year’s runner-up Maximilian Günther (Prema Powerteam, 1m09:753s), rookie Joey Mawson (Van Amersfoort Racing, 1m09.907s) and stalwart Jake Dennis (Carlin, 1m09.856s).
Because of the track length of only 2.76 kilometres, qualifying was held in two groups. The driver to post the outright fastest time would be on pole position, with the fastest driver from the slower group second on the grid. The other drivers from the respective groups are following in a straight line behind their fastest driver, meaning that the drivers from one group line up on the left and the driver from the other group line up on the right side of the track.
In the first group, Callum Ilott came out on top and claimed first place. The British driver of the Prema Powerteam topped the time sheets from the very beginning and held on to his position throughout the session. Whenever one of his rivals reduced the gap, Ilott upped the ante as well. Thus, Joel Eriksson, Joey Mawson and Guanyu Zhou (Prema Powerteam, 1m09.942s) all took turns in second place. Among the drivers behind Ilott, it was Eriksson who eventually came out on top and claimed second place on the grid. Mawson, Zhou, Nikita Mazepin (Hitech Grand Prix, 1m10.146s), Ralf Aron (Hitech Grand Prix, 1m10.258s), Mick Schumacher (Prema Powerteam, 1m10.271s) and Jehan Daruvala (Carlin, 1m10.350s) followed in third to eighth place in group A.
In group B, Lando Norris was on top around the halfway point, but soon was toppled by Maximilian Günther. Jake Dennis also managed to move ahead of the British McLaren junior driver, who thus found himself in third place only a few minutes before the end of qualifying. Then, however, Norris countered successfully and claimed back first place.
In the closing stages, David Beckmann (Van Amersfoort Racing, 1m10.673s) caused an interruption as his car came to a halt on the track. As no driver managed to improve his lap time later on, Norris ended up first in his group. Next up were Günther, Dennis, Jake Hughes (Hitech Grand Prix, 1m09.959s), Pedro Piquet (Van Amersfoort Racing, 1m10.439s), Harrison Newey (Van Amersfoort Racing, 1m10.498s), Ferdinand Habsburg (Carlin, 1m10.634s) and Beckmann.
Eventually, Callum Ilott ended up on pole position for the first race as the fastest driver in group A as his lap time was faster than Norris’s of group B.
Callum Ilott (Prema Powerteam): “I was in the first group and I was among the first to post a lap time as a result. I think I did a good job. I felt really well and didn’t have any issues during qualifying, apart from a yellow flag towards the end of the session. Most of the drivers already headed out on track early, because with the clouds, we weren’t sure whether or not we would be getting some rain again. However, we only had a few drops. Then, we had to wait what the other group would do as conditions for them were similar to ours. It was close, but it turned out to be enough for pole position.”