Formula 3 races on the streets of Monaco this weekend for the first time since 2005 with a capacity, 30-car field taking on the short and narrow street circuit.
Practice takes place on Thursday rather than Friday. Qualifying has been moved forward to Friday morning and will run in a shortened, split format much like that used in Formula 2. The field will be divided into two groups of 15, with each getting 16 minutes on-track.
The fastest driver overall gets pole for the feature race, but the second fastest driver won’t necessarily make it to the front row as the lead driver in the slower group will qualify second. The order of the pole-setting group is used to fill all the places on the odd-numbered side of the grid, with the slower group filling the opposite side.
F3 gets morning slots for both of their races, with Saturday’s reversed-grid sprint starting at 11am local time and Sunday’s feature taking place unusually early, at 8am.
“It’s going to be a tough one, especially tomorrow free practice for 30 minutes with 30 drivers in 3.3 kilometres. It’s going to be messy,” predicted Alpine junior Sophia Floersch, who drives for PHM Racing by Charouz.
“Obviously for us, because it’s first time for us drivers, but also especially for the team and the engineers here, it’s all going to be about learning. Also it’s the first time with soft tyres, so many new things are coming together.”
Despite the revised qualifying format meaning drivers should have twice as much room on track, traffic is still going to be a big problem in a shortened session as drivers on flying laps will be encountering others on cool-down laps.
“Planning the strategy is the tough bit,” said Carlin-run Williams junior Ollie Gray. “You always go out with a loose plan that in an ideal world you want to follow. But, especially around Monaco, this is probably one of the only ones where the traffic is going to be a massive player in qualifying and in free practice as well, trying to get a lap under your belt.
“You can’t really plan, you’ve just got to adapt when you’re out there. The team have a GPS which can help sometimes, but once you’re in the car I think it’s mainly up to you and trying to figure out when you should cool, when you should push.”
With so many drivers vying for room on such a short track, disruptions due to incident are inevitable, said Floersch. “There’s always a strategy you kind of have, but in the end most of the time it works all different compared to what you planned, actually, because [of] yellow flags, red flags and so on.
“The good thing is that we have groups in qualifying, so it’s less cars on tracks, but still in the end it’s the same for everyone and you’ve just got to make the best out of it. It’s going to be busy on track.”
ART Grand Prix’s Gregoire Saucy, who was part of the 32-car Formula Regional Europe field in Monaco, two years ago, said his team will have “no plan” for the distinct challenge the circuit poses in qualifying.
“We just need to go for it and to manage it,” he said. “Of course my engineers will be there helping me about the traffic, but at the end it’s mainly up to me in the car to manage and to adapt with the traffic.
“We will have the free practice to learn the track, and then the qualifying it’s less time, but less cars on track. So you need to adapt with the traffic.”
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