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Monza FR3.5: Carlos Sainz Jr fastest for DAMS in Friday practice

Carlos Sainz Jr

Carlos Sainz Jr topped both free practice sessions ahead of the Formula Renault 3.5 season opener at Monza this weekend.

The Red Bull-backed Spaniard, who has taken over 2013 champion Kevin Magnussen's seat at DAMS for this year, set the fastest time of the day with just four minutes remaining in the afternoon session.

That lap came during a final flurry of activity as the session restarted for 10 minutes after Matias Laine caused a red flag by spinning.

Almost every driver in the field improved at the end, but it was Sainz who came out on top to complete a sweep of Friday's running, having also been fastest in the morning session.

In both sessions, the pacesetter's closest challengers were not necessarily those expected to be fighting for the title.

Marlon Stockinger and Zoel Amberg were second and third respectively in free practice one, while Luca Ghiotto, Jazeman Jaafar (who was an occasional frontrunner in testing), Pietro Fantin and Nikolay Martsenko led the chase in the afternoon.

Plenty of the likely frontrunners for this season were in and around the top 10 in both sessions, as Sergey Sirotkin, Will Stevens, Marco Sorensen, Oliver Rowland and Pierre Gasly all featured somewhere near the sharp end at various stages.

Only 21 cars are in action this weekend. While Carlin is not in attendance in Italy due to a lack of funded drivers, Tech 1 Racing, ISR and Comtec Racing are all only running one car each for the season opener.

Practice one:

Pos  Driver               Team     Time       Gap
 1.  Carlos Sainz Jr      DAMS     1m34.207s
 2.  Luca Ghiotto         Draco    1m34.378s  +0.171s
 3.  Jazeman Jaafar       ISR      1m34.423s  +0.216s
 4.  Pietro Fantin        Draco    1m34.675s  +0.468s
 5.  Nikolay Martsenko    Comtec   1m34.724s  +0.517s
 6.  Pierre Gasly         Arden    1m35.058s  +0.851s
 7.  Marco Sorensen       Tech 1   1m35.084s  +0.877s
 8.  Will Buller          Arden    1m35.188s  +0.981s
 9.  Norman Nato          DAMS     1m35.226s  +1.019s
10.  Sergey Sirotkin      Fortec   1m35.243s  +1.036s
11.  Will Stevens         Strakka  1m35.404s  +1.197s
12.  Oliver Webb          Pons     1m35.445s  +1.238s
13.  Matthieu Vaxiviere   Lotus    1m35.549s  +1.342s
14.  Marlon Stockinger    Lotus    1m35.708s  +1.501s
15.  Roberto Merhi        Zeta     1m35.760s  +1.553s
16.  Matias Laine         Strakka  1m35.864s  +1.657s
17.  Oliver Rowland       Fortec   1m35.982s  +1.775s
18.  Meindert van Buuren  Pons     1m36.004s  +1.797s
19.  Zoel Amberg          AVF      1m36.330s  +2.123s
20.  Roman Mavlanov       Zeta     1m36.744s  +2.537s
21.  Beitske Visser       AVF      1m40.083s  +5.876s

Practice two:

Pos  Driver               Team    Time       Gap
 1.  Carlos Sainz Jr      DAMS    1m33.731s
 2.  Marlon Stockinger    Lotus   1m33.899s  +0.168s
 3.  Zoel Amberg          AVF     1m33.986s  +0.255s
 4.  Sergey Sirotkin      Fortec  1m34.041s  +0.310s
 5.  Will Stevens         Strakka 1m34.051s  +0.320s
 6.  Marco Sorensen       Tech 1  1m34.082s  +0.351s
 7.  Pietro Fantin        Draco   1m34.143s  +0.412s
 8.  Oliver Rowland       Fortec  1m34.200s  +0.469s
 9.  Pierre Gasly         Arden   1m34.374s  +0.643s
10.  Norman Nato          DAMS    1m34.375s  +0.644s
11.  Roman Mavlanov       Zeta    1m34.383s  +0.652s
12.  Jazeman Jaafar       ISR     1m34.422s  +0.691s
13.  Luca Ghiotto         Draco   1m34.567s  +0.836s
14.  Will Buller          Arden   1m34.650s  +0.919s
15.  Matias Laine         Strakka 1m34.685s  +0.954s
16.  Nikolay Martsenko    Comtec  1m34.765s  +1.034s
17.  Matthieu Vaxiviere   Lotus   1m34.792s  +1.061s
18.  Oliver Webb          Pons    1m34.898s  +1.167s
19.  Roberto Merhi        Zeta    1m35.419s  +1.688s
20.  Beitske Visser       AVF     1m35.461s  +1.730s
21.  Meindert van Buuren  Pons    1m35.475s  +1.744s
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