Marta García fastest in Monza day 1
Marta García and Abbi Pulling continued to trade positions at the top of the timing sheets on Friday afternoon – but the Spaniard, at her first time at Monza, eventually brought Prema Racing on top after the first day at Monza. With great performances by Megan Gilkes and Jessica Edgar, Rodin Carlin placed three cars within the top five.
Marta García brought home team Prema Racing on top of the timing sheets and ended Friday as the fastest F1 Academy driver. The Spaniard is competing for the first time at Autodromo Nazionale di Monza but got up to speed quickly through the first two 40 minute practice sessions, as the current championship leader traded places at the top with Rodin Carlin’s Abbi Pulling throughout the day.
García ended third fastest in FP1, behind Léna Bühler and Abbi Pulling – as the top three drivers confirmed their pace in the afternoon – with a few more interesting additions.
In an uninterrupted FP2 at the Temple of Speed, Emely de Heus was the first driver to set a representative lap time, then topped by Carlin’s Jessica Edgar. Ten minutes into the session, García posted the first time in the 1:55s – and from then on, the Prema Racing driver and Abbi Pulling continued to top each other’s times by a few thousands of a second at a time.
Pulling was the first driver to beat Léna Bühler’s morning benchmark, setting a 1:54.187 after 15 minutes of a scorching hot session.
Bühler and Hamda Al Qubaisi followed the leading duo but over half a second behind. Bianca Bustamante was briefly in the top five, also followed by Nerea Marti – who has been making great progress for Mercantile Campos Racing, at its first race weekend in Monza.
Marta García was the first driver to break the 1:54s at the 30 minute mark, then further improved with a 1:53.402 as the Valencian set the fastest first and second sectors overall. Bühler was also fast enough to close in on the leading duo, but in the closing minutes everyone went for a new push lap: Abbi Pulling was back on top of the leaderboard – again by few hundredths of a second – before being topped once again by García less than a minute later.
The fastest time of the day would remain a 1:53.371, 31 thousands faster than Alpine Academy’s Abbi Pulling. In a brilliant performance for the Rodin Carlin team, Megan Gilkes was up to third in the final minutes of the session, a little over 4 tenths adrift – with Jessica Edgar making three Carlin cars within the top five. A pre-season test at Monza – albeit with Spanish F4 cars – might have played a role, as Gilkes herself confirmed after the session.
Fourth fastest was Léna Bühler – always one of the most consistent drivers of the series who rarely finishes outside the top five. Bühler has raced at Monza in FRECA, and is looking fast ahead of qualifying and the races of Saturday. Edgar has scored a podium already and has shown potential to run up front – so the British racer could also be someone to watch.
Nerea Marti made significant improvements and is not far behind – just ahead of an impressive Chloe Chong, seventh fastest and with interesting sector times. The youngest driver of the championship has often shown good pace and ability to battle in the pack – and with a starting position among the top eight, she might be in for a strong weekend.
After her breakthrough victory in Zandvoort, Carrie Schreiner continues to run well within the top ten and is looking comfortable around Monza. She ended the first day eighth fastest – a position that could reveal once again very important at the end of Q1. Second in the championship standings, Hamda Al Qubaisi was ninth but remains confident for qualifying, on a track where she has historically done well in F4 machinery.
Bianca Bustamante is also enjoying driving around the legendary Temple of Speed and rounded out the top ten in FP2. She preceded Amna Al Qubaisi – who had limited running in the morning session due to a gearbox issue that has been solved – Chloe Grant and Lola Lovinfosse. The French driver has made a 1.5 second improvement from the first session. Emely de Heus and Maite Caceres completed the classification – with the Uruguayan being the driver who improved the most across the sessions, by almost three seconds.
Several drivers were on slightly different strategies on Friday, and albeit tyre degradation is not expected to be as impactful as some previous rounds, tyre strategy is still going to be an important talking point in the three races of the Italian weekend.
Saturday is expected to be a busy day, with two qualifying sessions – respectively at 09:00 and 09:20 – and two races in the afternoon: the longer Race 1 will go green at 12:55, while the reverse grid 20-minute race will start at 18:40.