Whilst most drivers naturally might be rather nervous about their first weekend racing at a new venue, Zane Maloney is raring to go after the opening Practice session in Melbourne. Although experience aided the returning drivers in Sakhir and Jeddah, the Championship’s debut in Australia has evened out the playing field for Round 3.
Getting his first laps in around the Albert Park Circuit, Maloney closed out a solid session for Rodin Carlin in P8, with his teammate Enzo Fittipaldi just ahead finishing in P5. Nevertheless, with the field’s running disrupted by three Red Flag periods, they approach this afternoon’s 30-minute session with plenty of question marks – something the Bajan driver remains undaunted by.
“It’s really cool! Of course, there were quite a few Red Flags, so it was difficult to get a proper lap in. I’m not sure many people got a clean lap, so going into Quali is a bit of an unknown. I love this type of situation where everyone’s coming in at the same level, doesn’t know the track and they need to get on with it.
“The entire session we were in the top five until the very last lap, so it was a good session and a good step forward from Jeddah. Of course, Practice means nothing, so the plan is to just make another step in Qualifying and hopefully we end up in a good place.”
On a weekend where driver feedback is at its most vital, Maloney seems to be steadily more at home behind the wheel of the #3 car. Chalking it up to a variety of factors, he’s hoping to replicate the feeling as he prepares for the switch in compounds, trading the yellow-walled mediums for the red-walled soft tyres.
High track evolution is also expected to play a big factor in the early evening running, adding a further sense of jeopardy to the unforgiving hybrid circuit.
“It’s a bit of everything to be honest. I knew what I needed to do after Jeddah, I feel like I’ve made a small step in that direction. Of course, there’s still more to do. Then in terms of the car and the feedback we gave after Jeddah, we’re trying a few things. Like usual, it’s always a balance between what the driver does and what the team does. So, I think the car is in a good place. Hopefully, when we put those soft tyres on and push in Qualifying it feels the same.
“Everything is quite cool. It feels on the edge, it’s a bit like Jeddah, but it doesn’t feel like a street circuit so it’s really cool. To be honest, I think the best section is Turns 9 and 10. It’s the most high speed and you’re properly feeling how much downforce these cars have, I can’t imagine what the F1 guys are doing through there. There are a lot of unpredictable bumps and things about this track that make it difficult, so it should be good fun in Quali.”
Facing a track that’s not straightforward to overtake on, nailing Qualifying could be key to bringing home a hefty haul of points this weekend. Having struggled with his one lap pace across the opening two rounds, Maloney’s targeting breaking into the top 10 and slotting himself right in the action for the reverse grid Sprint Race and Feature Race.
“A top 10 start puts you in the range for the weekend. It’s crazy to think I have a podium in F2, but I’ve not started in the top 17 yet, so I will be trying to make Qualifying better. I know I can race; I know that we have a good race car, I just need to put it together in Qualifying and really have a good Qualifying result. Of course, the expectation is to get pole and the goal is to get pole, but realistically I think we just need to be in the range of the top five.”