Gabriele Minì believes that he and his Hitech Pulse-Eight team had enough pace to reach the podium in the Monza Sprint Race. The Italian was one of the biggest chargers through the field, rising from 26th on the grid to reach P8 at the chequered flag.
That result improved to P6 following a post-race disqualification for teammate Luke Browning and a penalty for compatriot Leonardo Fornaroli, but the Italian is certain both Hitechs were showing enough pace for a rostrum spot had a late race interruption occurred. With so many places gained in the shorter Sprint Race, Minì says that had things gone differently in the closing stages, his impressive result could have been even greater.
“Today, looking at our pace towards the end, getting a Safety Car in the last five laps would’ve been amazing,” he explained. “I think we could’ve got to the podium. You can gain a lot of positions but it’s not easy, so you need luck and speed on your side. You need everything to go well when you’re starting from P26.
“We were a bit lucky with what happened at Turn 1. Luckily no one got hurt but many people went off and they lost many places. We gained 11 or 12 places on the first lap and then the pace was amazing. We kept gaining places and then in the end I managed to finish P8. I’m a bit sad because P7 and six were close to me, not too far away and considering I lost quite a bit of time in the fights, I think P6 was achievable. Still, I’m very happy because I went from P26.”
After losing a top 12 Qualifying spot following the session as all three of the British outfit’s cars were disqualified, Minì says that he was still sure a good result was on. Though Qualifying and race pace aren’t always the same, he was riding a wave of confidence despite the setback in terms of grid position.
Driving a mature race to secure points for the team, the Alpine junior says that braking performance in particular allowed him to excel during the Sprint and pull off a number of moves on rivals.
“It was a really good race. To be honest, we knew scoring some points would be possible, but we knew it wouldn’t be easy. Qualifying and race pace are two different things. You can be the fastest in Qualifying and then struggle in the race or the opposite way around. What we needed to do was to try and push a bit on the first corners to gain as many places as possible.
“As soon as I understood what my balance was like, I tried to manage it in the best way possible. Then it was all about managing in some corners and trying to attack when there was an opportunity. In the end, I think it went pretty well. We had really good braking efficiency so we could just send it on many drivers which is what Luke and I did.”
Perhaps the most crucial moment of his race came at the very start. Avoiding the commotion at Turn 1 led to a huge gain on the opening lap. The Hitech Pulse-Eight driver says he only had a few seconds to choose the right path through the chaos. Ultimately, he made the correct call, gaining plenty of places in all the melee at the opening corner.
“What we did is just to try and look ahead, what the positioning is like and what the best thing to do is. When I saw what was going on with Paul getting the puncture and some drivers going off, I wasn’t sure if I needed to stay on my line and cut on the inside or stay on my line and cut on the outside, it was a bit tricky. I was looking two or three cars ahead of me to see where they were going. In the end I felt the inside was the best and the outside for Turn 2. I tried that and then it was about avoiding the cars rejoining. I had to go a bit on the grass, but I gained 10 or 11 positions without any big effort.”
Having pulled off plenty of overtakes and shown the team’s speed around the Autodromo Nazionale Monza is as strong as Practice and Qualifying suggested, Minì is fully focused on going even better in the Feature Race. A chance to analyse overnight and reassess their game plan will only benefit the Hitech Pulse-Eight trio says the Alpine Academy driver.
“To be honest I think we can be even quicker than what we were today, still improve a bit. After analysing the data compared to my teammates, you always get a bit extra than the previous day, but we also know that all the other teams will do the same. I think it will be a bit more balanced. Hopefully we’re still going to be the quickest on track. Then what we have to do is try again to get a good start, survive Turn 1 and attack as much as possible.”