Luke Browning got his weekend off to the perfect start, ending a tricky Practice session fastest of all around a very wet Spa-Francorchamps. The Hitech Pulse-Eight driver delivered his best lap right at the end to lead the way on a 2:23.055, two-tenths quicker than Kaylen Frederick in second.
Having had the chance to dry off and reflect on the morning’s running, the Briton was pleased to have made such a promising start. With more rain predicted, ending Practice as the fastest is a big confidence boost heading into the all-important Qualifying session. Should conditions remain as predicted, the rain wouldn’t be much of a damper on Browning’s expectations for the rest of the weekend either.
“It was good, we did a lot of learning. Obviously, being a British driver, being in the wet always favours us a little bit so yeah going out there and learning before Qualifying, which is looking like it’s going to be wet as well, so it puts us in a good position and it's looking strong for weekend.
“Absolutely every time it rains, I do have a little smile on my face. When I woke up this morning and looked out the window and it was wet. I thought yeah, it's going to be a good day.
“Corners like Pouhon and Eau Rouge in the wet are really tricky. You're really on the limit with the rear tyre a lot of the time in the wet around here and I think managing that rear slip is really crucial. That’s what I tried to keep in focus today and I think that's one of the driving factors as to why we were so good. Hopefully it finishes off in the right way too.”
Browning has of course been in similar positions before. As recently as Silverstone, he topped the opening session of the weekend on home soil but eventually ended up eighth in Qualifying, having looked so quick in Practice.
This time around, he’s hoping that things come good, and he can show what he and the team are looking capable of this weekend. With Spa-Francorchamps being the longest circuit on the calendar, there’s plenty of potential for the driver to make an even greater difference than usual over the course of a Qualifying lap.
“I’m hoping it comes good. It's no secret that the disparity between pace and points is probably the biggest of anyone on the grid. We've had pace this year, there's no reason why we couldn't have been top five in the Championship at this point, but it’s not gone our way.
“Luck hasn’t been there and there’s been a few mistakes from my side, but equally, this is a learning year for me. But we’ll finish off this season and see how it goes.”
Refocusing on Qualifying in Belgium, Browning says that pole is definitely a possibility after starting the weekend so strongly. But the Hitech Pulse-Eight driver also acknowledged that where before he might have pushed for the top spot, consistency is the quality that’s rewarded most.
“I'd like to be in the top five. I think that's where we are with the pace that we've got, so it would be good to start for both races. We’d be in a good place to be able to go forward and I think I'll be able to overtake.
“Obviously, pole would be amazing, but I think this year I've been top in a few Practice sessions and I've not converted it so I’m keeping realistic expectations that being P1 all the time isn’t what you need to win a Championship. I mean look at Gabriel Bortoleto this year. He’s just been utterly consistent, so that's what you got to aim for in this Championship. So consistent Qualifying, execute being the top five, and we'd be happy.”
More rain is expected throughout Friday and conditions could be equally difficult in the 30-minute session to decide the grid. With sectors one and three dominated by straights and fast sweeps and sector two made up of tighter corners, achieving a fast laptime can be done in different ways.
Browning says that there is already a great divergence up and down the pitlane as to the levels of wing drivers and rivals are running. It could be the difference maker come Qualifying.
“Sector 2 is monstrous. A few people are going about it a few different ways. Some people have higher wing, low wing, so it'll be interesting to see what people do going into in Qualifying. It could also bring some interesting racing with it as well, so we’ll see.”