Britain’s Jake Dennis topped the times in the first of two days of Formula 3 European Championship testing at Imola that herald the end of the series’ long autumn break.
The Carlin-run F3 rookie, who is yet to win a race in the category, pipped Mucke Motorsport driver Lucas Auer with just three minutes remaining to edge out the Austrian by 0.027 seconds.
Auer in turn had only just leapfrogged Max Verstappen – just four days after starring in Japanese Grand Prix free practice with his new Formula 1 team Toro Rosso, the Dutchman headed the order for most of the day at Imola.
Verstappen’s Van Amersfoort Racing machine was four tenths clear of the field in the morning session, with team-mate Gustavo Menezes going third on the final lap, but the team appeared to be playing a more conservative game in the afternoon.
Likewise, Prema Powerteam worked to a preordained programme in the morning, with none of its four cars completing more than 26 laps. The team’s championship leader, Lotus F1 junior Esteban Ocon, went fifth fastest in the afternoon session.
Dennis’s Carlin team-mate Jordan King was second fastest in the morning, but the Brit completed only eight laps in the afternoon before he crashed at the exit of Tamburello.
A raft of newcomers – including the returns of Will Buller with Signature and Nick Cassidy with T-Sport – joined the field to expand it to 28 ahead of the coming weekend’s three races.
Fortec Motorsport is running its British F3 champion Martin Cao, while 16-year-old Brazilian F3 newcomer Sergio Sette Camara is also on a one-off, with EuroInternational.
German Nicolas Pohler is stepping up from Team West-Tec’s Euroformula Open team to its F3 squad for the test, although Andy Chang reclaims the seat for the race weekend.
Carlin’s Tom Blomqvist will expand the field to 29 for Wednesday’s running: the Anglo-Swede was due to head to Heathrow airport on Monday with his Jagonya Ayam stablemates Antonio Giovinazzi and Sean Gelael, only for a fall on a slippery floor to divert him to hospital with mild concussion.
But the grid will drop back to 28 for the race weekend: Marvin Kirchhofer and Motopark are running the two test days in preparation for the team’s F3 race return at Hockenheim next week, but Kirchhofer has clashing GP3 commitments at Sochi.
Combined testing times: Pos Driver Team/Car Time Gap 1. Jake Dennis Carlin Dallara-VW 1m36.808s 2. Lucas Auer Mucke Dallara-Mercedes 1m36.835s +0.027s 3. Max Verstappen Van Amersfoort Dallara-VW 1m36.874s +0.066s 4. Felix Rosenqvist Mucke Dallara-Mercedes 1m37.007s +0.199s 5. Esteban Ocon Prema Dallara-Mercedes 1m37.093s +0.285s 6. Antonio Giovinazzi Carlin Dallara-VW 1m37.316s +0.508s 7. Jordan King Carlin Dallara-VW 1m37.351s +0.543s 8. Gustavo Menezes Van Amersfoort Dallara-VW 1m37.450s +0.642s 9. Nick Cassidy T-Sport Dallara-NBE 1m37.498s +0.690s 10. Felix Serralles West-Tec Dallara-Mercedes 1m37.504s +0.696s 11. Antonio Fuoco Prema Dallara-Mercedes 1m37.605s +0.797s 12. Tatiana Calderon Zeller (Mucke) Dallara-Mercedes 1m37.648s +0.840s 13. Will Buller Signature Dallara-VW 1m37.704s +0.896s 14. Sean Gelael Carlin Dallara-VW 1m37.721s +0.913s 15. Marvin Kirchhofer Motopark Dallara-VW 1m37.750s +0.942s 16. Alexander Toril T-Sport Dallara-NBE 1m37.759s +0.951s 17. Dennis van de Laar Prema Dallara-Mercedes 1m37.852s +1.044s 18. Spike Goddard T-Sport Dallara-NBE 1m37.963s +1.155s 19. Roy Nissany Mucke Dallara-Mercedes 1m38.051s +1.243s 20. Nicholas Latifi Prema Dallara-Mercedes 1m38.086s +1.278s 21. Ed Jones Carlin Dallara-VW 1m38.112s +1.304s 22. Jules Szymkowiak Van Amersfoort Dallara-VW 1m38.160s +1.352s 23. Santino Ferrucci Fortec Dallara-Mercedes 1m38.532s +1.724s 24. Michele Beretta EuroInternational Dallara-Mercedes 1m38.615s +1.807s 25. Nicolas Pohler West-Tec Dallara-Mercedes 1m39.059s +2.251s 26. Martin Cao Fortec Dallara-Mercedes 1m39.152s +2.344s 27. Sergio Sette Camara EuroInternational Dallara-Mercedes 1m39.324s +2.516s 28. Sandro Zeller Zeller Dallara-Mercedes 1m39.324s +2.516s