Hitech GP’s Luke Browning set the pace in a wet FIA Formula 3 practice session at Spa-Francorchamps.
Rain beforehand meant the track was already wet, and by the time ART Grand Prix’s Gregoire Saucy set the first laptime of the day it had begun raining.
His 2m24.900s effort initially looked untouchable, although eight-and-a-half minutes into the 45-minute session his team-mate Kaylen Frederick lapped 0.043 seconds off his benchmark.
The 11 other drivers who had set a lap were over a second off the pace, and eight drivers remained in the pits after the 10-minute mark.
Saucy improved to 2m24.216s to go 0.727s clear, with Nikola Tsolov making it an ART GP 1-2-3 almost two seconds back.
Lots of drivers set their first laptimes 13 minutes in, and among them was Prema’s Zak O’Sullivan who got within 0.312s of Saucy. The positions in the top 10 below Frederick changed as drivers either improved or posted their first efforts, with Prema’s Paul Aron going fourth fastest.
After 15 minutes there were no laptimes from Jonny Edgar or Sebastian Montoya, with 5.5s covering the 28 drivers that had been out. Hitech GP’s Gabriele Mini went fifth fastest, but could not break the 2m25s barrier.
A few minutes later the next improvements came in, and Browning set a 2m24.644s to briefly go third fastest. Jenzer Motorsport’s Taylor Barnard then posted a 2m24.532s, before O’Sullivan lowered the pace to 2m23.862s. Aron slotted into second, 0.307s behind. Most drivers then pitted, with only a handful of improved laptimes in the next 15 minutes.
Campos Racing’s Pepe Marti went seventh fastest and Van Amersfoort Racing’s Caio Collet improved in 10th at practice’s halfway mark, both lapping in the 2m25s, and Mini then set a 2m24.628s to return to fifth place. The top six were now covered by less than a second.
Browning got within 0.227s of O’Sullivan after 28 minutes, as Montoya’s first laptime put him in 15th place.
Half an hour in, Trident’s points leader Gabriel Bortoleto broke into the 2m24s in eighth, and five minutes later O’Sullivan lowered the pace again to 2m23.694s.
Frederick and MP Motorsport’s Franco Colapinto went fifth and sixth fastest shortly after, and Colapinto’s team-mate Edgar finally recorded a laptime as he climbed to ninth place.
Mini improved his pace again in sixth, then going into the final six minutes the track got faster.
Marti went third with a 2m24.167s, but Saucy posted a 2m23.739s to demote him to fourth, and Frederick then shuffled him down to fifth with a 2m24.154s.
Trident’s Oliver Goethe was next into the top three, setting a 2m24.035s with five minutes to go, as Barnard improved in fifth.
With three minutes remaining Browning unsurped O’Sullivan with a 2m23.671s, and seconds later Collet went 0.05s faster.
Marti knocked 0.201s off the pace with a minute to go, and two seconds before the chequered flag Saucy went fastest by 0.032s. Frederick then went 0.109s up on him, and looked to have secured first place.
But two minutes later Mini jumped from outside the top 10 to fourth, and Browning set a 2m23.055s to go 0.224s clear.
Free practice results
|1||Luke Browning||Hitech GP||2m23.055s||12|
|2||Kaylen Frederick||ART Grand Prix||2m23.279s||+0.224s||10|
|3||Gregoire Saucy||ART Grand Prix||2m23.388s||+0.333s||12|
|4||Pepe Marti||Campos Racing||2m23.420s||+0.365s||11|
|5||Caio Collet||Van Amersfoort Racing||2m23.453s||+0.398s||11|
|6||Gabriele Mini||Hitech GP||2m23.581s||+0.526s||12|
|9||Taylor Barnard||Jenzer Motorsport||2m23.877s||+0.822s||14|
|10||Nikita Bedrin||Jenzer Motorsport||2m23.886s||+0.831s||14|
|11||Hugh Barter||Campos Racing||2m24.055s||+1.000s||11|
|14||Nikola Tsolov||ART Grand Prix||2m24.203s||+1.148s||12|
|16||Franco Colapinto||MP Motorsport||2m24.496s||+1.441s||6|
|18||Jonny Edgar||MP Motorsport||2m24.880s||+1.825s||6|
|19||Christian Mansell||Campos Racing||2m25.036s||+1.981s||11|
|20||Rafael Villagomez||Van Amersfoort Racing||2m25.112s||+2.057s||10|
|22||Sebastian Montoya||Hitech GP||2m25.557s||+2.502s||12|
|23||Mari Boya||MP Motorsport||2m25.559s||+2.504s||6|
|25||Alex Garcia||Jenzer Motorsport||2m26.699s||+3.644s||14|
|26||Roberto Faria||PHM by Charouz||2m26.725s||+3.670s||15|
|27||Tommy Smith||Van Amersfoort Racing||2m26.808s||+3.753s||11|
|28||Michael Shin||PHM by Charouz||2m27.047s||+3.992s||16|
|30||Sophia Floersch||PHM by Charouz||2m27.310s||+4.255s||15|