Pedro Piquet roared around the track to steal the fastest time right at the death during a trouble-free first FIA Formula 3 free practice session in Barcelona, Spain. The Trident driver set 1:33.255 at the chequered flag to put him ahead of Hitech Grand Prix’s Jüri Vips and PREMA’s Robert Shwartzman.

Leonardo Pulcini who had set the pace during pre-season testing on the Spanish track laid down an early gauntlet with a time of 1:35.794, in the 17 degree morning heat. He was soon toppled by Alex Peroni though who was closing in on the 1m 35s mark.

There was no love lost between an extremely competitive pack: David Beckmann was held up by Fabio Scherer in his attempts to climb up the leaderboard and the German clipped the back of the Sauber Junior Team by Charouz driver in an unsuccessful overtake move. With Beckmann back in the pits for a front wing change, Christian Lundgaard made no mistake in his bid for P1 and broke the 1m 35s barrier.

PREMA’s Jehan Daruvala briefly nabbed P1, before Shwartzman set the time to beat and dipped under 1m 34s for the first time. Behind the leader, Marcus Armstrong, Simo Laaksonen and Beckmann were battling to make up the top three before Jake Hughes reminded everyone of his lap speed to take P2. The British driver narrowly missed out on top spot in the final sector.

Shwartzman appeared unmovable from his perch as the clock ticked down. It wasn’t until the final moments that the Russian was knocked down the order, as Piquet and Vips flew around the track to snatch first and second, with just 0.009s between them. Piquet’s time of 1:33.255 was enough to seal P1 and he was followed by Vips, Shwartzman, Niko Kari, Hughes, Logan Sargeant, Armstrong, Laaksonen, Beckmann and Ye Yifei.

Having enjoyed their first taste of an F3 race weekend, the drivers and teams will look to continue their early competitiveness in qualifying at 5.50pm local time.