Barcelona F3: Piquet tops first practice of new F3 era by 0.009s

Pedro Piquet, son of three-time Formula 1 champion Nelson, topped the first session of the new FIA Formula 3 Championship in Barcelona as the new car made a strong debut

Trident Racing driver Piquet jumped to the top of the leaderboard in the last three minutes with a 1m33.255s.

It means he becomes the first session-topper of the championship, which has been formed this year by the merging of the GP3 Series and European Formula 3.

Piquet raced in GP3 last year with Trident, while the next two drivers in the order jump over from European Formula 3.

Red Bull Junior Juri Vips steered his Hitech Grand Prix-run car to second, 0.09s behind Piquet, as he also made the most of improving track conditions to slide up the order in the closing minutes.

Ferrari Acdemy driver Robert Shwartzman had topped most of the session, initially clearing the field by half a second in the middle of the session.

The Prema driver made sure two of the emigrating Euro F3 teams - Hitech and Prema - were in the top three with ex-GP3 team Trident on top.

Finn Niko Kari was concerned that Barcelona isn't his best track, but jumped up the order late on to give Trident two cars in the top four, with last year's GP3 practice pacesetter Jake Hughes in fifth.

Hughes drives for HWA, making its first appearance with its own team proper in junior single-seaters.

He spent the first half of the session at the bottom of the order with a small technical issue, but jumped to within two tenths of Shwartzman while most cars were debriefing in the pits.

Carlin's Logan Sargeant took sixth ahead of Shwartzman's fellow Ferrari junior and Prema team-mate Marcus Armstrong.

Simo Laaksonen - who had a fine end to the GP3 season last year - earned eighth for MP Motorsport, ahead of the top ART Grand Prix car of David Beckmann.

Beckmann was one of two title favourites touted by most in the paddock, but his session was hampered by hitting Fabio Scherer at Turn 12 which damaged Beckmann's front wing.

He was the top ART car, the team having won all but one of the GP3 Series' team titles including last year's, making it a pre-season tip for honours this year.

Renault junior Yifei Ye rounded out the top 10 for Hitech, with its third car a noticeable absentee from the top of the order.

Leonardo Pulcini sat on pole in the GP3 Series at the track last year and also set the fastest pre-season testing lap at the same circuit this year, but could only manage 24th in the order as his early benchmark was toppled by late bloomers.

Most drivers executed some variation of push laps on one set of the hard tyre and then longer runs on a second set. The hard tyre is the only one of the new-for-2019 F3 Pirelli tyres being used this weekend in Spain.

Jenzer's Andreas Estner completed the most number of laps with 21, while Sebastian Fernandez completed the lowest with seven as he spent the early part of the session sat on the Campos Racing pitwall.

Practice times

Pos Driver Team Gap Laps
1 Pedro Piquet Trident 1m33.255s 15
2 Juri Vips Hitech GP 0.009s 19
3 Robert Shwartzman Prema Racing 0.255s 14
4 Niko Kari Trident 0.264s 15
5 Jake Hughes HWA 0.511s 17
6 Logan Sargeant Carlin 0.624s 15
7 Marcus Armstrong Prema Racing 0.668s 14
8 Simo Laaksonen MP Motorsport 0.683s 16
9 David Beckmann ART Grand Prix 0.804s 15
10 Yifei Ye Hitech GP 0.889s 20
11 Jehan Daruvala Prema Racing 0.956s 15
12 Christian Lundgaard ART Grand Prix 0.982s 15
13 Devlin Defrancesco Trident 1.046s 16
14 Bent Viscaal HWA 1.066s 17
15 Max Fewtrell ART Grand Prix 1.112s 16
16 Felipe Drugovich Carlin 1.220s 15
17 Richard Verschoor MP Motorsport 1.353s 16
18 Keyvan Andres HWA 1.500s 15
19 Lirim Zendeli Charouz 1.605s 19
20 Teppei Natori Carlin 1.622s 17
21 Alex Peroni Campos Racing 1.783s 17
22 Liam Lawson MP Motorsport 1.798s 13
23 Sebastian Fernandez Campos Racing 1.884s 7
24 Leonardo Pulcini Hitech GP 1.937s 19
25 Andreas Estner Jenzer Motorsport 1.964s 21
26 Yuki Tsunoda Jenzer Motorsport 2.318s 16
27 Raoul Hyman Charouz 2.470s 16
28 Artem Petrov Jenzer Motorsport 2.559s 18
29 Fabio Scherer Charouz 2.885s 15
30 Alessio Deledda Campos Racing 2.986s 16

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