Victor Martins says starting Free Practice on top was important to “remove any doubts” he had lingering from the previous Formula 3 round.

Championship leader Martins set the fastest time at Imola on Friday morning in a session that was disrupted by very wet weather and multiple red flag stoppages. Martins’ best time of 1:50.134s left him 0.034s off Hitech Grand Prix’s Isack Hadjar but was buoyed by being at the sharp end of the field straight out of the box.

“For myself I have done a bad free practice in Bahrain, so I was not fully confident for the qualifying in Bahrain,” Martins said, referencing a session in which he finished only 12th. “Here I wanted to be straightaway on the pace to remove any doubts, so it was important to get to the top straightaway and work from there to improve little details.

“I felt good with the car, for sure it was tricky with aquaplaning, but overall it was good. We did enough laps to get some data and feeling before qualifying, but the rain got worse and worse, and the most important was not to put the car in the wall or in the gravel!”

Martins explained that he and ART Grand Prix were keen to validate a wet-weather set-up that had been trialled during a recent rain-hit in-season test at Jerez. “I think qualifying will still be wet – we hope maybe a bit less rain,” joked Martins. “But we wanted to try the set-up that we saw at Jerez to see if it was working well. We put that on, I was happy in the car, and the pace was there straight from the first lap. To get some feeling and confidence is what I have done straight away from lap one. In the dry – if it is dry tomorrow or on Sunday – we don’t know, so we’ll have to see.”

Martins heads into Friday’s Qualifying session one point clear of PREMA Racing driver Arthur Leclerc.