Luke Browning completed an impressive drive from P17 on the grid to take fifth by the chequered flag in his first Formula 3 Feature Race. The Hitech Pulse-Eight driver put on a late-race charge, passing several rivals in the closing lap to secure a top five finish.
Rebounding from a disappointing Sprint in which contact left him on the sidelines in retirement was a huge boost Browning said. The British driver believes that Sunday’s performance was a truer reflection of where he and the team really stand in the F3 pecking order.
“It was nice today. We had a really tough weekend to start off with. Every single push lap in Qualifying I think I was blocked, it meant it was so difficult. A mistake on the lap I was blocked the least meant that we were 17th. I think that two-tenths would have been the difference between a top seven start and P17 where I qualified. To show what our pace actually is in the race is really nice. I’m looking forward to seeing how the rest of the season goes.”
A factor that all of the drivers were expecting to play the biggest part in the Feature Race was tyre degradation. As some pushed early, others held onto the best of their rubber for as long as possible.
After three days in the car during pre-season testing, Browning says he and the team felt pretty comfortable with where their race pace was at versus rivals. The 21-year-old says that understanding the hard compound Pirelli tyres was a pivotal difference maker in the race.
“It’s really difficult. I knew it was going to be all about tyre management. It’s something the team highlighted for me. I really tried in the opening laps to not use too much, not do too many wheelspins before the start and not overpush the tyres early on. The car was great today and I’m glad I was able to do this result.
“It’s super tough. I did no GP3 days going into the season but I didn’t do the post-season test out in Jerez last year. I’ve literally rocked up at the first round but Hitech did a great job of making me as prepared as possible, using the simulator back at the workshop. We knew our race runs from testing were really strong and thankfully, I could show that in today’s race.”
Browning added that along with great race pace, making crucial moves at critical points of the race was the other major factor in his comeback drive.
The Hitech Pulse-Eight driver ended up the highest-placed of the trio following Gabriele Minì’s time penalty. Along with teammate Sebastián Montoya, all three were able to make overtakes during the Feature Race as others struggled.
“The outside move at T1 was pretty exciting, I was just so comfortable on the brakes there, so that was probably part of the secret to our success. We seemed really really strong at managing the tyres and could make moves when it really mattered.”
With Sakhir’s races in the books and some time to reflect on the opening weekend of the 2023 season, Browning has a key takeaway he’ll be carrying into the next Round.
Ensuring he is in the running for both the Sprint and Feature Races via a top 12 Qualifying result will be pivotal moving forward he says.
“I think nailing Qualifying is crucial. Luckily we just managed to just sort it out after a tough Qualifying but it really does seem to be the key. If you can qualify inside that top 12 and stay in contention on the reverse grid and for both races, you’ll be in a good position instead of having to fight through the pack.”