A drying track overnight rain brought drama to the F1 Academy Qualifying sessions at Monza as Marta García and Abbi Pulling took pole for Race 1 and Race 3 respectively.
After a strong Free Practice on Friday, Pulling got up to speed quickly as she topped the Q1 timesheets early on with a 1:57.267. With the sun appearing through the clouds and all 15 cars on track, the times would tumble with every flying lap as conditions around the 5.793 KM circuit improved.
Pulling continued to prove that she excels in in damp conditions, as the Brit went purple in the final two sectors on her way to a 1:55.834.
Series leader García, who set the fastest time in Free Practice yesterday, was also battling at the front, and her time of a 1:55.425 led the way for just under a minute, before Pulling fired back by breaking the 1:54s barrier for the first time.
PREMA Racing’s Garcia sealed pole position with a 1:54.151 on her final flying lap, four tenths ahead of title rival Hamda Al Qubaisi in P2 with a 1:54.515. Rodin Carlin driver Pulling was on course to reclaim the top spot, but traffic in Sector 2 means she will start from the second row.
Finishing in P8 for the second week in a row, MP Motorsport’s Amna Al Qubaisi is set to start on reverse grid pole for Race 2.
As the field headed back out for Q2, the track evolution continued. Rodin Carlin’s Jessica Edgar set the initial benchmark with 1:55.600, which was quickly be beaten by a 1:54.835 from Spaniard Nerea Martí.
Pulling again continued to show her strength around the Temple of Speed as she moved into P1 with a 1:53.624. Again, the Brit would be locked into a battle for pole with a PREMA driver, but this time it would be Bianca Bustamante who set two purple sectors on her way to P1.
After missing out on the top spot in the first Qualifying session, Pulling would not be outdone again, setting the fastest time of the day with a 1:52.926.
Bustamante would recover from her P9 in Q1 to take a place on the front row for Race 3 ahead of Hamda Al Qubaisi who starts in P3.
Series leader García, starting in P4, will have to hope for an excellent launch to get ahead of her closest title rival.
Marta García, Pole Sitter for Race 1:
“Mixed feelings after Qualifying. It was humid and a bit wet in Q1 – you had to find the good line and not overpush and I think I did that and was P1 with a bit of a gap so I was happy with that!
“In Q2 we gave ourselves a bit of distance to other guys to avoid the slipstream, but I made a bit of a mistake in one of the corners and lost a couple of the tenths in Sector 3.”
Abbi Pulling, Pole Sitter for Race 3:
“Amazing to be P1 in Q2 – bit disappointed though as I knew I could have been P1 in Q1 if it wasn’t for traffic. The pace was pretty ridiculous in Q1 but as it dried up in Q2 it was a little bit closer – I just put my head down and went.”
Race 1 kicks off at 12.55 with García looking to extend her lead at the top of the standings. Race 2 follows tonight at 18.40 with A. Al Qubaisi on pole.