Preparing to break new ground around the streets of Monte Carlo, Oliver Gray believes that Friday’s action will write the story of his weekend. After two challenging rounds in Sakhir and Melbourne, the Rodin Carlin driver says getting the European leg of the Formula 3 season off to a strong start will be key to launching his rookie campaign.
A newcomer to the track, Gray’s only previous street circuit experience was last time out in Australia. However, Round 4 represents a whole new frontier for the Briton. Trading the relatively spacious Albert Park for the tight and twisty Circuit de Monaco, drivers will have to tread a fine line between success and failure.
“I think it’s going to be one of the most exciting weekends,” Gray remarked. “Coming into this, it’s going to be special. I’m about to go on the track walk and see everything for the first time. Obviously, we’ve been on it in the sim, but I think nothing is going to compare to what it’s going to be like in real life. It’s all going to be about Qualifying and getting that good lap in, but very much looking forward to it.
“I think for me and for anyone else who hasn’t driven on a street circuit before, particularly one like Monaco, it’s just getting used to the feeling that there are walls right next to you and getting comfortable with the walls being right next to you the whole time. If you get comfortable with that quickly over the weekend, obviously we haven’t got that much Practice time, the faster you are going to be in Qualifying.”
For Gray there’s no doubt that finding a rhythm will be vital given the limited time to learn the track and to put it into practice during the 16-minute split Qualifying sessions. The Williams Academy junior knows that his one-lap performance will be make or break for his chances at fighting further up the field and is prepared to use his ideal pit position to its full advantage.
“It’s everything! It’s literally going to be all about it this weekend. Luckily, we’re first out of the pit lane which could make a big difference because we might have a little bit less traffic than some people in the middle of the pack, so I’ve got to maximise that opportunity. Putting a lap together for Friday afternoon is going to be the biggest part of the whole weekend, otherwise you’re just going to be in a train really.
Still hunting down his first points in the Championship, Gray says he’s taken the opening rounds as an opportunity to understand as much as he can about the F3 car after stepping up from British F4 – particularly the Pirelli tyres.
“It’s such a big step up from F4, I think quite a lot of people have come from Formula Regional before. The main thing is the tyres, understanding them and then once that sort of clicks, then I think the rest will follow.
“It’s just about following a process and not trying to rush the steps to try and get everything under your belt before you can begin to start to think about getting those top 10 performances. Now I think we’re getting our base knowledge and we can push for some really good results.
Targeting his first break into the all-important top 12, Gray is optimistic that he can throw himself into points-scoring potential and get some momentum going in the run up to his home race at Silverstone in July.
“I think we’ve got a really good chance coming into this weekend just because it’s not going to be so much about the car and a bit more about 100% driver performance. It’s going to be more about putting the lap together and nailing it. As well, having a slight advantage of being first out of the pit lane this weekend is going to play into my hands and I’ve just got to maximise that.
“I’m sure the team are going to do everything they can, so I just want to be in that top 12 because then you’re in with a shout of a good result in one of the races at least. That’s all that it’s about really for the weekend, hopefully get in a good loop – get a good weekend after a good weekend and see how we can recover Silverstone hopefully!”