FIA Formula 3 is back – and so are the exceptionally close qualifying sessions that it provides. It was a thrilling contest in Bahrain, but in the end, Hitech’s Gabriele Minì took his first ever pole position in the series, with a sublime performance in the middle of the desert. Following his first big on-track statement of the year, here’s what he told Feeder Series after his convincing first day at the office.
By Daniele Spadi
A dream start
Friday couldn’t have gone any better for Minì. As one of the main protagonists of the day’s on-track action, he secured a first-place start for Sunday’s Feature Race. What made it even more special was that this important milestone in his career came in his first ever weekend in Formula 3.
“Of course, [taking] pole on debut is something amazing, starting the Feature Race – the most important one – on pole I think will be key, because it’s where you get most of the points. This means a lot, of course.
“It’s a really good way to start in those new Alpine colours and also for the new team,” said an evidently happy Minì minutes after his stunning qualifying lap. “It was just a very good job from the team.”
Qualifying in Formula 3 is always crucial, as it sets the tone for both races during the weekend. With an extremely close pack at the top of the standings and a track that evolves quickly during the session, it’s crucial to be among the last drivers to set a lap time in order to take advantage of the track in its quickest state.
We’re having good trust in our pace, so the job was up to me, and I had to do a good lap and of course without traffic it was a bit easierMinì on his first FIA F3 qualifying session
However, as traffic caused some issues in recent years – most notably on tracks like Monza, where slipstream and perfect track conditions are key to secure a good starting position – Minì went for a different approach.
“I think many drivers went on three sets [of tyres], but in the end we only went for two sets. [At the end of our first stint] we set a pretty decent lap time, and then we just decided to go a bit earlier in order to avoid a bit of traffic.
“Also, we’re having good trust in our pace, so the job was up to me, and I had to do a good lap and of course without traffic it was a bit easier,” the Italian rookie told Feeder Series.
Staying on track
Track limits were a key factor during today’s qualifying. Drivers like Zak O’Sullivan and Taylor Barnard suffered the consequences of getting their lap times deleted by the stewards, with turns 4, 13 and 15 proving to be the corners where getting a warning was almost guaranteed at some point during the session.
“In qualifying, it’s always tricky not to get a track limit [warning], you always want to maximise the track. I was very close every lap, I was always at the limit of the white line, but in the end I managed not to get any laps deleted.”
“In the race it will be quite tough to only use the track limits three times. You can easily go off, especially if you’re following someone, but it’s a risk that we [have to take] if we want to be fast,” he added.
With Bahrain being a highly abrasive track, tyre wear will be a main factor during the race – and it had some impact on qualifying, too. Many drivers, including Minì, were struggling on their second flying laps on the same tyre set, sliding off the track in sector three and failing to improve on their previous lap times.
“In qualifying, you can already feel the degradation towards the end of the lap. That’s why in my last sector I was struggling a bit, because at the end of my second push [lap] the tyres were struggling,” said the Hitech driver.
“I think [tyre degradation] will be a key thing, especially in the races – I think we’ll see drops of two, three seconds [per lap]. It depends partially on the setup you have on the car, and also the driver can make a huge difference on that.”
Ready to race
However, the weekend isn’t even close to being done, and staying at the top won’t be an easy task for the Italian. With the top 13 drivers being covered by less than four tenths in today’s qualifying session, it could be difficult for the Hitech driver to race through the pack during the Sprint Race without facing any issues.
“We have to be careful tomorrow in the Sprint Race, starting in P12. It will be a tricky start for sure, and then we’ll see what the pace looks like. In the Feature Race, of course, the goal will be to win.”
In the Feature Race, of course, the goal will be to winMinì on his goals for the rest of the weekend
Despite starting tomorrow’s Sprint Race from the sixth row, Minì is looking very confident ahead of the first two races of the season.
“The competition is very high, of course everybody is really close. But I would consider race and quali pace two different things; of course, there’s a bigger gap in the races [because of] the degradation,” he told Feeder Series.
“To be honest, I have full trust in my pace in the race.”
Header image credit: Formula 3
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