Having come out on top in Free Practice, Ghiretti decided to stay behind for the first few laps of F4 SEA Qualifying, to save his tyres. But at first this looked like a mistake as Shepherd smashed the practice times with a 1:38.378 straight off the bat on new qualifying tyres. Japan’s Ryo Komikado, after besting himself and pushing for position, went off, relegating the rest of the grid to the pit lane, perhaps ruining Ghiretti’s weekend.
But the young Japanese driver showed how much he was improving as he kept the car going, getting it back on track and into the pits to make sure all was ok for the races tomorrow.
Wary of repeating the situation from the last event where they over-worked their tyres during Qualifying, the drivers took a page out of Ghiretti’s book and took their time returning to the track.
Eager to get his times down into 1:38s, Thompson was one of the first to rejoin the session, alongside Kane Shepherd. All this time one of his main competitors, Antoine Potty, had been steadily building his confidence. Putting in consistent lap times, the Belgian was now into the 1:40s and just kept getting better and better.
With thirteen minutes on the clock Ghiretti saw his opportunity and pounced out of the pit. The Frenchman had told us his strategy was to wait for cooler weather and that’s exactly what he did, blasting out a 1:38.4 on his first lap, two-tenths off Shepherd and keeping his tyres much healthier for the first race.
Potty caught wind of the new arrival and upped the pace, breaking into the 1:39s and closing in on Thompson and Muizz. The Malaysian was fighting hard to start from P3 in Race one looking to come up the inside into turn one.
But Ghiretti wasn’t going to make it easy. Minutes after his fantastic opening lap he managed to find a way down into the 1:37s, the first man on the grid to do so and firmly causing all of us here in Race Control to believe a 1:36 would be possible.
In response, Muizz set a new personal best but it wasn’t enough to unseat the flying Frenchman. Potty stayed out on the track hunting the second row on the grid as everyone returned to the pits, settling for their time and hoping to make up positions in the race with fresher tyres.
Tyre strategy isn’t just important in F1 and at this level of their training these young F4 drivers need to learn to make the rubber last for Qualifying and three races. That’s about two hours of racing and at least 250 kilometers. To put that in perspective, an F1 driver typically covers 305kms in a race.
Said F4 SEA Promoter Thompson
Its great to be back in Madras, its been 20 years since I cam here first with MERITUS.GP and won the Formula Asia 2000 Championship with ‘The Worlds Fastest Indian’ Narain Karhikeyan. I am happy to see the drivers getting used to the track and putting in faster and faster laptimes and I can’t wait to watch the race tomorrow and see who comes out on top.
Potty ended the session with a personal best but again it was Vive la France as Ghiretti found pole position just ahead of Thailand’s Kane Shepherd and Malaysia’s Muizz Musyaffa.
So that puts the three favorites at the front of the grid but I’m counting on Potty and Thompson to put in an extraordinary performance and surprise us all, and we’ve seen Yoong do some great things in an F4 car so be sure to check in tomorrow at 0900 (GMT+530) to watch the first race with us live on Facebook: https://fiaf4.asia/2018_Live_Race-7