For the Formula Renault Eurocup’s first visit to Abu Dhabi, Victor Martins (MP Motorsport) dominated the action at the Yas Marina Circuit with best time in each of the three sessions, including the first-ever night session in the category’s history. The duel for the title is shaping up to be a fantastic one with the Frenchman posting the best time of the day in 2:08.193s twice to lead from his rival and leader in the general classification, Oscar Piastri (R-ace GP).
For this major premier, the competitors were given three and a half hours free-practice to find their marks. Leonardo Lorandi (JD Motorsport), Caio Collet (R-ace GP), Grégoire Saucy (R-ace GP) and Alexander Smolyar (R-ace GP) took turns at the top of the timing screen before Victor Martins moved to the sharp end of the order with a fastest lap of 2:08.645s.
There was little change to the order as the temperatures neared 40°C. The Frenchman held on to his advantage over Oscar Piastri, Lorenzo Colombo (MP Motorsport) and rookies Caio Collet and Kush Maini (M2 Competition) at the end of a session that concluded with start simulations.
The first collective tests were run in early evening with lower temperatures. Victor Martins lowered his best time to 2:08.193s ahead of his team mates Lorenzo Colombo and Matteo Nannini while Oscar Piastri and Caio Collet prevented MP Motorsport from a sweep of the top four positions by finishing ahead of Amaury Cordeel.
The field then wrote another page in the Formula Renault history with its first official night session in its near 50 years of existence. Victor Martins was once again the man to beat, but Oscar Piastri launched the final sprint between the two title contenders with five minutes remaining. The Frenchman repeated his best time of 2:08.193s – as he did in the first session - to lead from his title rival, but also Sebastián Fernández (Arden Motorsport), Lorenzo Colombo and Caio Collet.
Tomorrow, qualifying will begin at 11h30 before the start of the first-ever Formula Renault Eurocup night race at 18h00.
Victor Martins (MP Motorsport): “This is the best way to begin the weekend. I didn’t know the circuit, but I knew that learning the track wouldn’t be difficult because I am now used to it after three years in single-seater. The team and I prepared well for this final meeting of the year. So far we have done a good job, but we can’t let our guard down. No one will give up and anything can happen, so we will give it all we have to keep this advantage in each session. I came here to win the two races and I am convinced we will get what we want!”
Oscar Piastri (R-ace GP): “The fight is on! Victor had better pace today, but I think that we made a tremendous amount of progress throughout the day. The first session wasn’t very good, but we kept improving to be better and higher. I believe we now know more about the setups to use and the track will be very different in qualifying. There’s pretty much all to play for tomorrow!”
Matteo Nannini (MP Motorsport): “Today went well. We worked on my driving this morning while also improving the car. The team did an excellent job, but we struggled a bit more in the second session as we focused on a race simulation. We are delighted with the results and having more experienced drivers alongside me is a huge help. This is also a nice opportunity to explore my future options and I hope to do my best in my first weekend in Formula Renault. The top ten would be ideal, but the higher the better!”
Matthias Luethen (Global Racing Service): “This was a fantastic day! Before today, I had only driven a 2008 Formula Renault and I did a lot of testing with that car the past three months before getting into the new generation car today. And it is another dimension! It is a great car, perfect and I found it easy to control right away. I know I am at the bottom of the time sheet, but each lap was better than the lap before. The night session was another incredible experience. I had never done one before and I did better than I thought I would. I am thrilled to be here, in a unique atmosphere and I hope to continue to improve tomorrow!”