Slipstreaming is vitally important at the track - up to seven tenths a lap for WTCC cars - and the field drove aggressively in order to make best use of that fact.
It is Muller’s third pole position of the season and the second in a row after Budapest - but the stewards might have something more to say on the outcome.
Tom Chilton posted the fastest lap of the session in the early stages, completing a lap of 1:26.670 then improving to 1:26.570, which was not to be beaten. Alex MacDowall ranked second and Yvan Muller climbed to third just before the end, demoting Michel Nykjær to fourth.
The final minutes were full of drama, with a bunch of drivers seemingly more interested in bothering each other than in improving their positions. Pepe Oriola hit Charles Ng at Turn 9; James Thompson outbraked himself at Turn 1; Hugo Valente and Tom Coronel made contact to avoid Gabriele Tarquini who was driving at a pedestrian’s pace; Marc Basseng crashed at the exit of the last bend just before being given the chequered flag.
As a consequence, only Tarquini was able to improve and make the cut for Q2 in 11th position, knocking Mehdi Bennani out of the top 12.
The following drivers went through to Q2: Chilton, MacDowall, Muller, Nykjær, Monteiro, Michelisz, Nash, Huff, Coronel, Oriola, Tarquini and D’Aste.
The matter was settled on the first timed lap, when Muller set pole position at 1:25.756, beating Chilton by two tenths.
Huff clocked the third fastest lap, seven tenths from the pole, and relegated MacDowall to fourth and best of the Yokohama Trophy. Nykjær moved up to fifth, demoting Tarquini to sixth, while Coronel was still sitting in the pits.
All cars left the pitlane for the second attempt with less than two minutes to go. They were driving at a slow pace and nobody seemed willing to open hostilities.
Eventually time ran out before they completed a lap, no one improved and Coronel remained without a qualifying lap - then crashed out on the cool-down lap.