Monza F3 pole-sitter Smolyar on Qualifying disruption: ‘You need to be ready to deliver lap one’

In a characteristically chaotic Qualifying session for the 2022 FIA Formula 3 Championship finale at the Autodromo Nazionale Monza, two incidents that disrupted the session. Drivers and teams had to adapt their strategies on the fly, and those who had left their final attempts until the last moment were caught out.

By Michael McClure

First, onetime championship leader Isack Hadjar crashed at Curva Alboreto, colloquially known as Parabolica, with 16 minutes to go in the session, bringing out the red flag. The session resumed and continued without incident until the final minute, when returning Campos driver Hunter Yeany went off at Turn 2 to bring out double-waved yellows.

The first incident came as drivers were concluding their first runs in the session, but the second one disrupted what would have been the final timed laps of several drivers. F1 Feeder Series asked the top three in the session about the challenges that such a stop-start session posed.

Finding the limit early on

“I think for sure, when you start the quali, you need to be ready to deliver lap one because, as this happened to me in Zandvoort, you already do two laps and then you think, ‘Well, okay, now I know the limit of the car. I just do the third lap and it’s fine.’ But then someone crashes, you have a red flag, and then you are P16,” pole-sitter Alexander Smolyar said, referencing William Alatalo’s late crash at Zandvoort last weekend that brought the Qualifying session to a premature end.

“You need to understand this, but also, you need to try to find some limit by doing some slight mistakes. You are trying to find the limit of the car, but also on the same time, you need to deliver the lap in case, as [happened] today. Well, today, the first red flag didn’t really compromise anything, but the last one did, so I’m just happy I managed to deliver the lap before the red flag.”

Trident pair say ‘anything can happen’

The two incidents didn’t especially compromise the Trident pair of Zane Maloney and Roman Staněk. While Maloney finished the session second, he rued what he felt was inadequate performance on his side through the session.

“It was very difficult. Obviously, I made the work a bit harder for myself, not doing a good job in any set really, but at least my last lap was a little bit better. But going into quali, we expected anything.

“Anything can happen at Monza, so it wasn’t really a surprise, but at least we have one set of new tyres for the race on Sunday, which is good. I’m glad that we used the two sets and we still got that lap in at the end, so it didn’t really compromise anything.

Staněk said he was lucky not to be affected by the incidents in this session, for red flags had already truncated Qualifying at two rounds earlier this year.

“As Alex said, it didn’t really compromise anything this quali, luckily, but we could see that the quali for example in Zandvoort or Red Bull Ring, some drivers were not able to put a lap together. It’s a mess with 30 cars, always can happen something, and it’s quite common that the red flag will be there in qualifying.

“It’s very important to put quite a decent lap on the beginning of the quali because you never know what happens – if, for example, they decide to stop the quali after the red. Anything can happen, so it’s very important to be up there immediately.”

Header photo credit: Formula Motorsport Ltd

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