Trident’s Gabriel Bortoleto topped the times in free practice for the first FIA Formula 3 round at Bahrain.
Bortoleto’s time of 1m47.775s was 0.237 seconds faster than the best mark set by Roman Stanek for the same team in the equivalent session last year.
Hitech GP’s Gabriele Mini and ART Grand Prix’s Gregoire Saucy were the only other drivers to set times in the 1m47s on Friday morning to sit second and third on the timesheet.
The first competitive session of the season got off to a slow start with drivers limiting themselves to a single installation lap before returning to the pits.
Van Amersfoort Racing’s Tommy Smith was the first to record a lap after 15 mins of the session, before being deposed by the Jenzer Motorsport duo of Taylor Barnard and Nikita Bedrin as only five drivers set times initially.
The remaining 25 drivers finally ventured out with 24 minutes remaining, as Barnard and Bedrin continued to trade times at the head of the field, while the Hitech duo of Sebastian Montoya and Luke Browning headed back to the pitlane.
Bortoleto then jumped to the front with a 1m48.395s, just ahead of his former Formula Regional rivals Mini and Paul Aron.
Bortoleto continued to press on, bettering his times in all three sectors to improve to 1m47.775s, 0.072s ahead of Mini, as VAR’s Caio Collet moved up to third.
Having lost a possible quick lap after encountering traffic, Saucy put all three sectors together to break the 1m48s barrier, moving up to third in the process.
With 10 minutes remaining, the field took to the track again for their second stints. Browning was the first to improve, jumping up to fifth, although he was immediately pushed down a place by Bortoleto’s team-mate Leonardo Fornaroli.
Browning was one of the few drivers to go faster in the final minutes, returning to the top four with a 1m48.226s lap.
Aron was the quickest Prema driver in seventh, with Zak O’Sullivan in 10th having appeared to have been held up by fellow Williams junior Ollie Gray slightly while on a quick lap at the close. Prema third entry, Dino Beganovic, was 17th fastest.
Franco Colapinto spent almost the entire session in the top 10 for MP Motorsport, finally ending up in eighth, ahead of ART GP’s Kaylen Frederick.
Barnard and Jenzer are under investigation for one of the mechanics straying onto the track to deal with a problem on the car at pit exit.
Free practice results
|2||Gabriele Mini||Hitech GP||1m47.847s||+0.072s||12|
|3||Gregoire Saucy||ART GP||1m47.966s||+0.191s||11|
|4||Luke Browning||Hitech GP||1m48.226s||+0.451s||10|
|8||Franco Colapinto||MP Motorsport||1m48.418s||+0.643s||11|
|9||Kaylen Frederick||ART GP||1m48.436s||+0.661s||10|
|11||Sebastian Montoya||Hitech GP||1m48.528s||+0.753s||9|
|12||Pepe Marti||Campos Racing||1m48.572s||+0.797s||12|
|15||Hugh Barter||Campos Racing||1m48.646s||+0.871s||13|
|16||Christian Mansell||Campos Racing||1m48.694s||+0.919s||11|
|18||Jonny Edgar||MP Motorsport||1m48.773s||+0.998s||11|
|19||Nikita Bedrin||Jenzer Motorsport||1m48.926s||+1.151s||12|
|20||Mari Boya||MP Motorsport||1m49.019s||+1.244s||10|
|21||Nikola Tsolov||ART GP||1m49.044s||+1.269s||12|
|22||Taylor Barnard||Jenzer Motorsport||1m49.048s||+1.273s||13|
|26||Sophia Floersch||PHM by Charouz||1m49.347s||+1.572s||13|
|28||Alex Garcia||Jenzer Motorsport||1m49.443s||+1.668s||13|
|29||Piotr Wisnicki||PHM by Charouz||1m49.577s||+1.802s||11|
|30||Roberto Faria||PHM by Charouz||1m50.519s||+2.744s||13|