The Brazilian was threatening the top spots throughout the session and set a new track record on the way to P1 ahead of Qualifying. Despite his quick start in the opening session of the weekend, he is taking nothing for granted ahead of this afternoon's running.
“It was not bad. I think it's a bit too early to think about whether or not we have the pace for Qualifying because everything can change,” Bortoleto explained. “The track conditions will be different because F2 and F1 will run, so we need to see how things go and how the track evolves.
“As a first impression of the track this weekend, along with the three weeks we haven’t driven since Barcelona, I feel quite good with the car. I’m feeling confident so let’s see how things go.”
His best effort of a 1:19.410 was good enough to be the new F3 track record, some 0.009s faster than the previous best. Times look set to tumble even further during the all-important Qualifying session. The Trident driver says that the team has been able to fire up their tyres nicely so far, and will be aiming to replicate what they did in Practice to set a new Championship record.
“I started out quite progressively in the run. I did my usual step-by-step as I always do with every track, but it was not that bad. We did a very good job I think in helping to build up the confidence and when we went to the soft tyres, we managed to put everything together.”
One huge aspect that could have an impact on the grid is traffic. With 30 cars on track all vying over the ideal gap to complete a flying lap, things can get a little close for comfort around the Austrian circuit.
In Practice, Bortoleto was part of a group of cars that were at the front of the pack battling for track position. The Brazilian says that it’s likely to be more hectic in Qualifying, with drivers desperate to get their laps in prior to any potential yellow or Red Flag interference.
“To be fair, when everyone went to the soft compound tyres, it was crazy. A lot of people were trying to get a tow, I was trying to get a tow and the two guys ahead of me were doing the same, it was a big mess. I think that it could be even worse in Qualifying, I hope no one crashes because of that situation in Practice, I think a few drivers nearly did.”
Turning his attentions fully to the Qualifying half hour, Bortoleto says that managing the traffic is only the beginning of the challenge in such a session. The ideal track position and tyre preparation balancing act is made even tougher by the Red Bull Ring’s relatively short lap compared to other circuits on the F3 calendar. Whoever manages that the best should be in line for a good result according to the F3 Championship leader.
“I think that’s the toughest thing around the Red Bull Ring. Firstly, you have to manage the traffic before you even set your Qualifying lap and that’s very difficult to do during your warm-up procedure. Then, putting the lap together isn’t easy because this track makes it easy to make a mistake. But I have no other expectations for the session, that’s how it is.”