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Bortoleto sets practice pace for FIA F3 opener in Bahrain

by Roger Gascoigne

Photo: Formula Motorsport Ltd

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
Pos Driver Team Time Gaps Laps
1 Gabriel Bortoleto Trident 1m47.775s 10
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
5 Caio Collet VAR 1m48.249s +0.474s 12
6 Leonardo Fornaroli Trident 1m48.303s +0.528s 11
7 Paul Aron Prema 1m48.407s +0.632s 11
8 Franco Colapinto MP Motorsport 1m48.418s +0.643s 11
9 Kaylen Frederick ART GP 1m48.436s +0.661s 10
10 Zak O’Sullivan Prema 1m48.456s +0.681s 11
11 Sebastian Montoya Hitech GP 1m48.528s +0.753s 9
12 Pepe Marti Campos Racing 1m48.572s +0.797s 12
13 Oliver Goethe Trident 1m48.575s +0.800s 11
14 Rafael Villagomez VAR 1m48.589s +0.814s 11
15 Hugh Barter Campos Racing 1m48.646s +0.871s 13
16 Christian Mansell Campos Racing 1m48.694s +0.919s 11
17 Dino Beganovic Prema 1m48.730s +0.955s 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
23 Ido Cohen Carlin 1m49.124s +1.349s 10
24 Hunter Yeany Carlin 1m49.181s +1.406s 11
25 Tommy Smith VAR 1m49.274s +1.499s 14
26 Sophia Floersch PHM by Charouz 1m49.347s +1.572s 13
27 Ollie Gray Carlin 1m49.389s +1.614s 9
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