Gabriele Minì was more than satisfied with the first 45 minutes of running in Melbourne, after the PREMA Racing driver topped the timesheets in Free Practice from start to end.

The Italian set the initial benchmark time and with each lap around Albert Park, he continued to lower the target time to beat for the rest of his rivals.

On his final flying tour of the track in the session, Minì completed a lap of 1:33.225 with his closest rival coming in the form of Trident’s Leonardo Fornaroli, who was 0.345s off the PREMA driver’s table-topping effort.

PRACTICE: Gabriele Minì sets the pace in Melbourne

Reflecting on his performance, Minì said: “It was a pretty good session. In the beginning, of course on this track, the second-year drivers are going to have an advantage because of the new tracks where we don't have testing.

“So, of course on the first laps it is a bit easier to make a difference compared to the rookies. But pretty much straight from the first push laps and the second for me, we were up on the pace.

“The first one was just to understand the track, the grip level and to build up the confidence and from the second you can keep pushing a bit more.

“The car was very good. I think also the laps were not bad. Of course there are still things to work on, so we will focus on that and try to do the same in Quali.”

Minì was fastest in Free Practice for PREMA in Melbourne
Minì was fastest in Free Practice for PREMA in Melbourne

Melbourne holds positive memories for Minì as he scored his first Formula 3 podium at Albert Park last season. He finished third in the Feature Race but has desires on a much better result at a track he considers to be one of his favourites.

“As I said already, this is one of my favourite tracks,” continued Minì. “It's a street circuit, there are a lot of high-speed corners so if you really understand it, pushing the car to the limit is very nice.

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“It is very enjoyable to drive, so as I said the car was good and it was very nice to drive. But again of course you have to take some risks, since it’s very high speed.

“With the aero we have in Formula 3 you are on the limit and if you are a tiny bit above the limit it’s very likely that you push the car a lot. So of course, that is the hard part, and we have to repeat it in Quali.”

While his performance in Practice may suggest otherwise, Minì believes that PREMA will be pushed closely in the battle for pole.

Minì is targeting pole position after setting the pace in Practice
Minì is targeting pole position after setting the pace in Practice

He cited Trident’s Feature Race victory here last year with Gabriel Bortoleto and Fornaroli being P2 in Practice as a reason why they can expect to be pushed closely by their Italian rivals. He also has his eye on current Championship leader and his former teammate Luke Browning.

“I think we know Trident have been really quick here last year,” the Italian said. “I think also Hitech, Luke will be really quick and hopefully me, myself and my team will be up there.

“So, I think it will be a close battle and hopefully we will do a good job enough to beat them and once again the goal is to do our best, extract the maximum from what we have and then we will see from thereafter.”