Jak Crawford made the most of a red flag hampered Free Practice session in Zandvoort to kick off the penultimate round of the season in first place, beating out ART Grand Prix duo Alex Smolyar and Frederick Vesti by just over a tenth, setting the standard at 1:25.535.
After a rainy few days in Spa, the field will have been relieved to get out onto a dry track at Zandvoort, even if it was a cool morning on the Dutch coastline, with track temperature at just 17 degrees.
Juan Manuel Correa set the benchmark at 1:28.708 before Clément Novalak sliced the quickest time down to 1:26.419, ahead of his teammate David Schumacher. The session was brought to a halt 15 minutes in after a lock-up from Crawford forced him to cut the corner and chuck gravel across the circuit.
With the track cleared, the field dashed out for the final 19 minutes of the session, Championship leader Dennis Hauger hauling his PREMA to the top of the timesheet to the tune of 1:26.147. His main rival, Jack Doohan, ducked into second, 0.128s off.
Setting off on another tour, the Australian set the first sub-1m 26s time to swap positions with his title rival before a second red flag with 12 minutes on the clock. Tijmen Van der Helm had gone skidding off track and struck the wall, clambering out of his MP Motorsport and leaving it stranded in the gravel.
With just six minutes to go, the field returned to the tarmac hoping to make the most of the little remaining time. Crawford punched in purple Sector 1 to slice the time down to 1:25.535 and take first place.
ART Grand Prix duo Alex Smolyar and Frederik Vesti both had a go at beating the Hitech Grand Prix driver, but fell just over a tenth short each, finishing second and third. Hauger tried to improve but could only manage fourth, 0.165s off the quickest lap.
Novalak and Doohan switched places with the Frenchman taking fifth from his teammate, the duo separated by just two hundredths. Johnathan Hoggard had spent the majority of the session running in the top 10 and took eighth at the flag, ahead of Victor Martins and Jonny Edgar.
After a two-round absence, due to a fractured thumb and a positive COVID-19 test result, Kaylen Frederick returned to take his highest Free Practice finish to date, rounding out the top 10.
Crawford will look to carry over his early pace into Qualifying, which takes place at 1.50pm local time.