Gabriele Minì is under no illusions as he arrives at Budapest for Round 8, well aware that the clock is ticking down his chances to bring himself back into Championship contention. Sitting 51 points adrift of long-time leader Gabriel Bortoleto, the Hitech Pulse-Eight driver recognises that extracting the most out of his team’s package and every second of lap time will be vital in turning the tables on his nearest rivals.
After a strong opening phase to his rookie campaign, Minì’s form over the summer rounds has fluctuated. From the highs of victory in Monte Carlo, he failed to score in Barcelona and retired from the Spielberg Feature Race on Lap 1.
Whilst a Sprint Race podium in Austria and back-to-back points finishes in Silverstone soften the blow, he admits it hasn’t been the best run of performances, but the speed the British team has had remains a source of optimism.
“To be honest, I don’t think it’s been mega because we struggled in Barcelona Qualifying a bit and then getting the lap deleted at the end put me to the back of the grid. In Austria, I went off in the Feature Race and in Silverstone, we were not probably the quickest in Qualifying. Then, in the race, we came back really well but we got the Safety Car right when I caught the pack, which was not ideal.”
He added: “In the end, I think we showed that our pace was always pretty good, so all we have to do is to try and keep working in the same way and just do really well this weekend and next weekend.”
The Alpine Academy junior already knows what it takes to perform around the technical Hungaroring, having claimed consecutive second place finishes in the Formula Regional European Championship by Alpine last year.
Yet the debut of the new medium Pirelli compounds has thrown an increased challenge the field’s way, with tyre management becoming an even more critical part of the weekend at a track notorious for pushing them to the limits. Additionally, with a limited window for overtakes around the 14 corners, Minì says that weights the weekend more towards extracting their best in Qualifying on Friday.
“It’s a tricky track, it will be really, really hard for us drivers and also for the engineers to find the right compromise between being fast and not destroying the tyres. I think it won’t be an easy job. Usually, Hitech have been pretty good with that looking at our pace in Bahrain, which is a high degradation track. Also, we were really quick in the races in Austria and the Silverstone Feature race, where we were quite quick for the whole race, so I’m looking forward to it.
“I think Qualifying is probably 70% of the job because now the tyres are really soft and degrade easily. Maybe there will be more overtakes as some drivers will be struggling quite a lot with the tyres, some a bit less. It depends on many factors like the setup and the driving with how you save. In the end, I still think Qualifying will be the majority of the job done.”
Currently third in the Standings, Minì remains open-minded about his chances, despite the sizeable deficit to Bortoleto. Refusing to rule himself out of anything given the points still on the table, the Hitech Pulse-Eight driver is setting himself a more realistic target, closing the 15-point gap to Josep María Martí in second.
To do this, he’s got his sights set on a return to the front two rows for the first time since Round 4. If the pace isn’t there, the Italian says it’s a game of damage limitation, but all he can do is focus on running his own races regardless of what his nearest rivals are doing around him.
“P1 every time I’m on track here would be nice, but from Free Practice we see where we are. To be honest, it’s not only about being P1, but also about maximising what you have. If you have the pace to be in the top five, you stay in the top five. If you have the pace to be P1, you try and be P1. It’s always about maximising, so we have to try and do that.”
“We are in the top three in the Championship, so I’m going to try and score the most points possible. Of course, P1 is quite far away, but the Championship still has six races. Anything can happen, so I just have to try and make the most of it and we’ll see how it goes at the end.”
He added: “Mathematically, everything is possible! Realistically, I think firstly we have to try and grab P2. Then, if things go really well for me and quite bad for Gabriel, maybe we can try and catch him. Now, it’s not in my hands anymore, so what I have to do is just try and score the best points possible and then hope that something doesn’t go in the best way for the others.”