Racing is often decided by the tiniest of margins, but for Luke Browning the distance between him and a maiden Formula 3 podium couldn’t have been tighter. After missing out on topping Group A in Qualifying by 0.003s, the Hitech Pulse-Eight driver had to settle for finishing where he started with fourth in the Feature Race.
Disappointed to have missed out on standing on the rostrum at one of motorsport’s most iconic circuits, the British racer is determined to look on the bright side – impressing on his debut as a Williams Academy driver and proving that the Hitech’s pace from the opening two rounds hasn’t gone anywhere.
“Driving through the streets of Monaco is incredible and to be the highest-placed Williams junior driver is always helpful. There’s a mix of feelings this weekend. I think we got unlucky getting picked for Group A in Qualifying and then missing out on that group’s pole by three thousandths, which would have been P2. Obviously then it’s difficult starting P4 to make positions. The pace was just incredible in Qualifying considering that we didn’t manage to finish that fourth lap, which where all the times were being done.
“I was super gutted, but still my first time here Qualifying in Monaco and when I look down the grid, there’s not many people that managed to do what we managed to do this weekend considering the experience. I’m super happy with the result and then we missed out on the fastest lap by seven thousandths in the Feature Race.
“The thousandths didn’t go my way this time, but the pace is super promising. I think we showed in Bahrain and Melbourne just how the pace could be, but we got a lot of bad luck. Sometimes some rookie mistakes creeped in, but it looks like the experience is kicking in now and we’re on the wrong side of the thousandths this time, but next time I don’t think it will.”
Considering Monaco’s reputation for overtaking opportunities being few and far between, the strategy was all about putting those cars under pressure to open the door for mistakes. Having seen how tyre degradation hampered many drivers’ pace in the latter stages of the shorter Sprint Race, Browning says he would chop and change between pushing and conserving in order to not ruin his soft Pirelli rubber in Aron’s dirty air.
“I think there were a lot of people playing games at the start, I was probably at the head of it all to be honest. I was backing off two seconds and then going for it again after to try and get the fastest lap. Also, it’s an easy way to keep your tyres rather than being consistently behind the car in front.
"That’s why you’d see midway through the race when all the tyres dropped that I started to stay behind Aron. He defended well with it being very difficult to overtake here. There didn’t seem to be in too much fire from behind, it was all very manageable.
Eager to demonstrate his front running potential sooner rather than later, Browning’s ready to get back behind the wheel of the #16 Hitech Pulse-Eight. Heading to the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya next week, the track still represents somewhat of an unknown, with the Briton’s only previous running there during in-season testing last month.
Despite his lack of experience there, his feats in Monte Carlo prove that Browning can adapt quickly to venues he’s never raced at before. Given his experiences this weekend, the Williams junior believes maximising his one lap pace could dictate the story of his weekend once again.
“Barcelona’s one of the most popular testing tracks and I think we were on the backfoot a little bit in testing considering I’d never driven there. We managed to clear a few issues and we seemed pretty quick. You just don’t know how it’s going to go, but I think it’s probably going to be dictated by Qualifying once again.”