Motorland winner Sten Pentus set the fastest time in Formula Renault 3.5 free practice at Monaco this morning
The Estonian staged a late effort of 1m27.928s to edge out championship leader Mikhail Aleshin by 0.271s. A subsequent heavy accident by Draco's Julian Leal on the approach to the chicane scattered debris across the track, and with Formula 1 practice imminent, would influence the session being abandoned with two minutes left on the clock.
"Well, it's going better than last year," said Pentus. "I know the circuit and where to brake now. Half of the circuit has been resurfaced and there is much more grip. I was really surprised as I was expecting it to be slippery.
"I just started out going step by step, but before putting on new tyres I hadn't had a single lap without traffic. People were backing off to find space much more than last year, it was more of a lottery. When you came up to pass people they were moving around trying to cover you, which was a bit odd as they weren't pushing. I guess that this is a different circuit, different everything, so people have a different approach."
In his maiden outing, GP3 reverse-grid winner Alexander Rossi took little time to adapt to the category. The American benefits from familiarity with his ISR squad, having won three races with the Czech team in Formula Master last season. Rossi was competitive throughout, setting a benchmark 10 minutes in and ending the morning in third place. ISR's outgoing driver Esteban Guerrieri was in supporting attendance and aims to continue with the team for the remainder of the season.
Local driver Stefano Coletti followed his double podium at Spa with fourth today. The Comtec driver made his series debut at last year's Monaco event in a one-off outing with his former F3 outfit Prema Powerteam.
Despite sustaining heavy damage to the right rear corner of his car in his accident at the chicane, Leal took fifth.
Daniil Move put in a strong showing to end the morning in sixth for Junior Lotus Racing, ahead of Rossi's ISR team-mate Filip Salaquarda and, second in the standings, British Formula 3 champion Daniel Ricciardo.
Italian Formula 3 champion Daniel Zampieri toppled Aleshin to briefly head the timesheet as the session got under way, but the Ferrari Driver Academy man was forced to pit a smokey Pons car a quarter of an hour into the 45-minute session. Although the Italian later rejoined the fray, he would slip to an eventual 12th place. Team-mate and compatriot Federico Leo fared worse, damaging his front-left wheel after just two laps.
Jon Lancaster was another to find the barriers, the Fortec driver running off the road at Mirabeau. P1 Motorsport's Jan Charouz was lucky to escape a more serious incident when he lost adhesion on the entry to Massanet, the Czech's P1 Motorsport machine showing little signs of damage from the high-speed spin.
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