Ayumu Iwasa emerged as the fastest driver in a highly intense Free Practice session, setting an impressive time of 1:22.081 to take the lead for DAMS. The Japanese racer managed to clock his best lap just before the occurrence of the third Red Flag, which marked the end of a session filled with incidents.
Victor Martins of ART Grand Prix secured the second-best time, closely followed by Richard Verschoor from Van Amersfoort Racing, who unfortunately ended up in the barriers in the final minutes of the session.
The initial stages saw Frederik Vesti of PREMA Racing setting the pace with a time of 1:26.529 after installation laps. However, the session was halted early on due to a collision between Ralph Boschung and Roman Stanek at the final corner, resulting in the first Red Flag.
After the cars were recovered, the practice session resumed with 31 minutes remaining. The PREMA drivers continued their strong performance, with Vesti improving his time to 1:26.164, just over a tenth quicker than his teammate Oliver Bearman in second place. As the track conditions improved, Dennis Hauger briefly claimed the top spot with a time of 1:23.692, only to be overtaken by Jack Doohan, who set a faster time of 1:23.616.
The second Red Flag occurred with just over 20 minutes remaining, as Bearman lost control of his PREMA car and collided with the barriers at Turn 8. Once the session resumed, with 18 minutes left on the clock, many drivers switched to the supersoft tires to familiarize themselves with the conditions ahead of Friday’s Qualifying session.
Hauger reclaimed the fastest time with a lap of 1:23.139, but he was soon surpassed by Victor Martins and then Doohan. The Australian driver improved his time to 1:22.752, securing the top position with less than 10 minutes remaining.
The battle for the fastest time continued as drivers exchanged positions at the top. Martins briefly reclaimed first place, only to be challenged by Iwasa, who narrowed the gap to a mere 0.012 seconds in his DAMS car. Martins responded with an even better effort, lowering his benchmark to 1:22.127.
Finally, Iwasa managed to take the lead with a time of 1:22.081, just before Verschoor’s incident triggered the third and final Red Flag. The VAR driver encountered the same oversteer problem as Bearman and crashed into the barriers, prematurely ending the session with only a minute remaining on the clock.
Split Qualifying is scheduled to begin at 15:10 local time on Friday in Monte Carlo, with Group A taking the track first, followed by Group B at 15:34.
Image: Formula Motorsport Limited