Last year he scored two podium results in the Principality and today Victor Martins (MP Motorsport) posted the fastest time in the lone free-practice session for the Formula Renault Eurocup in Monaco. With a lap of 1:32.936s, the French driver of the Renault Sport Academy was followed by the R-ace GP trio of Alexander Smolyar, Oscar Piastri and Caio Collet, who was the quickest rookie in the session.
At 8am sharp, the Formula Renault Eurocup drivers had the honour to kick-off the Formula 1 Monaco Grand Prix weekend.
The competitors had to collect as much as information as they could from the 50-minute session ahead of qualifying while also discovering or rediscovering the Monaco street circuit at the wheel of the new Formula Renault FR-19.
On a track with little grip before the rubber was laid down on each lap, the R-ace GP trio quickly jumped to the sharp end of the order and immediately answered when Victor Martins battled them for the top spot.
The Frenchman went to the top of the timing screen with a lap of 1:32.936s just before the half-way point of the session, where all the drivers returned to the pits to adjust their set-ups and shod a new set of Hankook tyres.
The times did not improve in the final minutes due to the Virtual Safety Car periods caused by the successive incidents of Frank Bird (Arden Motorsport) at Sainte Dévote and Alessio Deledda (Global Racing Service) at the Swimming Pool.
Victor Martins held on to the top spot ahead of Alexander Smolyar, Oscar Piastri and rookie Caio Collet. His team mate Lorenzo Colombo (MP Motorsport) was fifth, followed by three drivers from the same team: Kush Maini, Lucas Alecco Roy and Yves Baltas (M2 Compétition). Frank Bird and Renault Sport Affiliated Driver Leonardo Lorandi (JD Motorsport) completed the top ten.
The Formula Renault Eurocup drivers will be back in action Friday morning at 7:55 for the lone qualifying session where each group will have 30 minutes to set their best time.
Victor Martins (MP Motorsport): “Like last year, my Monaco weekend is off to a good start with the best time in the session. It is very positive and I think the key on a street circuit is to be aggressive right away to boost confidence. Now, we have to continue in this direction, because we have a lot of room for improvement. The tarmac has changed in a few areas, so we can improve the balance of the car and my approach in some corners. I will adjust to get it all right during qualifying. The goal will be to do the job in my group and that will let me be in a goof position to race for the win and score a lot of points.”
Alexander Smolyar (R-ace GP): “I am quite pleased to be second quickest. In 2018, I didn’t have a very good weekend in Monaco. Between the fact that I was a long way from the Armco barriers and the new wider cars, I used the exact same lines that I did 12 months ago and I was much more comfortable! This morning, our pace was really good in the first two sectors. Unfortunately, I got caught up in traffic in the final sector. I am happy the field is divided into two groups for qualifying and I am sure we can go for the pole tomorrow.”
Oscar Piastri (R-ace GP): “I am better prepared than last year, where I only got two hours of sleep before running due to exams the previous day. We have gotten the weekend off to a pretty good start, especially when you consider the track was dirty in the opening laps, the traffic and the yellow flags. The new car radically changes the experience between the barriers. Some corners are harder than before, especially the slower ones, and you have to judge the width of the car, which is wider this year. I also found the track to be bumpier and all this makes Monaco a bigger challenge!”
Caio Collet (R-ace GP): “I believe that crossing the city to enter the circuit and head to the pits is one of the best moments of my life so far! It is really an immense privilege and a fantastic opportunity to be able to drive on this legendary and amazing track. My first laps went well. The car was good on used tyres, but we couldn’t really evaluate our potential on fresh rubber due to the incidents in the waning minutes. I was only 0.3s behind the leader in my first session in Monaco. This gives me confidence heading to qualifying, where I will try to do my best. If I succeed, the podium should not be far!"