Taking on the streets of Monaco for the first time was always going to be a tall order, but Josep María Martí rose to the occasion in a demanding Free Practice session. Skirting around in the wet, conditions swiftly began to evolve with a move onto slicks and plenty of flying laps before the chequered flag.
With only the experienced Gabriele Minì, Franco Colapinto and Grégoire Saucy ahead of him, P4 has imbued the Campos Racing driver with huge confidence boost. Yet according to him, it was all about reigning himself in to steadily build towards the limit.
“It was good, obviously a first experience for me here in Monaco – first-ever street circuit as well. To start off in the wet was a little bit scary, it was not the circumstances we were expecting. At the time of going out, I took things really easy. Obviously, it was the first time for everyone with these cars on this track as well, so it was a little bit of a discovery. Slowly got into the groove of it and slowly picked up the pace and then we were really, really confident in the wet.
“Well, I think I enjoyed being close to the walls too much. In fact, at some point during the wet stint I had to tell myself to back it down a bit because we’d only done five push laps and I was already getting fairly close to the walls. I slowly told myself ‘hey, hey, back it down. We’ve got like 30 more minutes.’.
“The track has a great flow to it. I don’t think there’s pretty much anything that compares to it. I don’t think I’ve ever experienced so much adrenaline and I think for Qualifying tomorrow for such a short event, it’ll be even more so.”
Relishing the challenge that Monte Carlo poses, Martí didn’t let the adrenaline rush get ahead of him when the time came to switch to dries for the final quarter of running. Although ideally, he would have preferred more opportunities to set a flying lap, the Spaniard believes he’s profited from understanding more about how the track evolves – and how that could play into Qualifying.
READ MORE: PRACTICE: Minì scores top spot late on in wet-to-dry Monte Carlo running
“It was quite technical and would require a lot of precision. On my out-lap and warm-up lap, we had the Virtual Safety Car as well so that didn’t help to put temperature in the tyres. By the time I started to push, I only had one push because on the first lap, the tyres were so cold that I had to more or less back down halfway through and understand the track and the grip that I had on me.
“For the second push, I put a clean lap together. There’s so much to improve, so many bits to work out. Thankfully, Gabriele got P1 so we can look at his onboard and see what he was doing differently to us to improve for tomorrow.
“I think I learnt as much as I could. Everybody, at least ourselves, maximised track time as much as we could. We’ve got three Monaco rookies in the team, so none of us have track experience and we just focused on trying to get as many laps in as we could. It was not ideal to have a wet start, but I think for a confidence perspective of getting close to the walls, understanding the grip and all of that. It was actually even a positive for me at least to have a wet start, the changeable conditions and the increase in grip throughout the session.
“It gave me a little bit better feel of what to expect tomorrow and if the grip goes further, where I can push more. It was a very critical session to get that knowledge and to understand how the car behaves with the new soft compound as well, which nobody knew how it was going to deliver and how much performance it was going to give us.”
Featuring alongside Championship leader Gabriel Bortoleto and Practice pace-setter Minì in Group B, theoretically Martí should benefit from being in the second group out on track in the split Qualifying format. However, as the roads return to public use and the track conditions are transformed once more, he’s not ruling anything out.
READ MORE: Groups decided for Monte Carlo Qualifying
“It’s funny because when we were in the briefing, I think me, Gabri and someone else in the odd group were like ‘yes, come on!’ After a bit, Luke (Browning) turns around and says that the Formula 2 pole has been from Group A over the last few years.
“For tomorrow, it’s going to be interesting because we never know. It’s a little bit of going into the unknown again because the track is going to be much different than it was today, even if the track played up towards the end. The track’s open in the afternoon so all the rubber that we put down gets taken out, but there’s also rubber left so you don’t really know.
“I think it’ll be an experience and an adventure going into Quali, but the main objective is to for us to get a good lap in. If I’m proud of the lap, I don’t really mind being in the top three to six. If I think the lap was good enough for what I had, then I’m going to be happy. For example, today I am and hopefully tomorrow I can be again.”