Heading into the FIA F3 World Cup, much of the discussion lay around the new generation of Formula 3 cars, which would be hitting the Guia Circuit for the very first time. The increased horsepower, higher top-speeds and lower downforce may have dominated much of the debate, but arguably, the Pirelli tyres had the potential to make the defining difference.
However, on the back of the first Free Practice and Qualifying sessions at the Macau Grand Prix, Jake Hughes doesn’t see them being too problematic across the weekend – despite the track hitting temperatures of 39 degrees today.
“I stayed on the same tyres for both FP1 and Q1,” he explained. “I don't know how many laps exactly, but 25 as an estimate. The tyre is overheating a little bit, but it is not wearing massively. I think you will have a little bit of that in the Grand Prix, especially if people start to over-push a bit, but I don't think in terms of pure wear that it will be a massive issue.”
Although the majority of the field have at least tested, if not raced, current F3 machinery, the unique challenges that Macau presents - such as the up-hill climb through San Francisco, or the famously tight Melco Hairpin - mean that the entire grid will be learning as they go this week, says Hughes.
“It was only our second session with this car in Macau,” he emphasised. “I think everybody is improving and finding out new things about this car. The bumps are quite a new sensation to us, in terms of how much they seem to be affecting the car. I think that is a big area where everybody will focus on.
“I think that we all said it this morning, but we are surprised at the level that the car is at already. Not just the laptime, but the feeling of it in the middle sectors. I think that will just keep getting better as the track rubbers in.”
Hughes has been the in-from driver of the sessions so far, finishing second in FP1, before topping the timesheets in the first Qualifying session.
Although the stronger laptimes of the weekend are likely to be set tomorrow in Q2, Hughes will have gained confidence in what he has achieved so far, especially given the surprises that Macau can throw up.
“I had one lap in the middle of Q1 and tried to make sure that I got it right, just in case I had no more chances, and it was a really strong lap. Later in the session, I was quicker in some sectors, but didn't quite get to finish it off.
“I think we are performing well, P2 in FP1 and P1 in Q1 is a really strong start to the weekend. Obviously, it is only provisional, so we will still have to do the job tomorrow, but it is looking good.”