Jüri Vips is optimistic about his potential this weekend, believing that the solid baseline he set for himself in Free Practice should mean he won’t be playing catch up come Qualifying later on Friday evening.

Following a quiet beginning to the session, with most of the field in no rush to head out given the numerous damp patches on track, the Hitech Grand Prix driver had no problems getting up to speed. He repeatedly set the pace to beat around Monza’s Temple of Speed, ending his running 0.313s faster than second-place Ralph Boschung.

After mistakes in the opening sessions at previous rounds, the error-free running has given Vips a boost of confidence before the switch over to the soft tyres. Looking ahead, he’s adamant that he’s already found the car’s groove and isn't looking to change anything.

“To be honest it was just a very clean session,” Vips remarked. “The car was good, and I didn’t really do any mistakes. A nice clean way to start the weekend. We had a very rocky start at Zandvoort and I think it compromised our Qualifying a little bit with mistakes in Free Practice. So happy to start things off this weekend in this way, hopefully we can maintain this pace.

“I’m specifically making sure the mechanics don’t touch the car. It was mega. It was really mega this morning, so I definitely want the same balance.”

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However, Vips is keenly aware that pace in Practice around the Italian circuit doesn’t always neatly translate into frontrunner one-lap performances in Qualifying. His prior experience around Monza has taught him to brace himself for the potential chaos ahead and he admitted there’s no way for them to strategically get around it and deliberately try to get the tow from those ahead.

READ MORE: FREE PRACTICE: Vips in a class of his own in Monza opener

Instead, he recognises that it’s every driver for themselves out there and that it’ll be down to him to get his elbows out, ensure track position and find those crucial windows of opportunity.

“I think Quali is going to be quite a mess. At least in previous years it’s been quite messy. The Qualifying here, especially in F3, but for us even if we have less cars it’s tricky. Everyone will want a tow. Last year, I think it was Christian Lundgaard that had a purple middle sector but ended up P19 overall. You don’t want to be leading the pack. Everyone’s going to be basically fighting around and you need to stay on top of things, make sure your tyres are still in the window and you are in good track position.

“We have no chance, no chance to plan. What we did last year was quite good, but you can’t really plan it because on the first run, we went leading the pack which triggered everyone else to go, but then we went through the pit lane afterwards between the out lap and the warm-up lap.

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“Then I think someone else tried to do it on the second run, but they were called into the FIA weighbridge, and then their Qualifying was over so it’s risky. You can’t really play around much, and you just have to hustle it out on track.”

READ MORE: Drugovich’s Monza approach won’t change even with F2 Championship in touching distance

Fortunately, even if Qualifying doesn’t go according to plan, Vips is hopeful that his chances of securing a solid haul of points and progressing up the Championship standings won’t be entirely lost. Spotting several areas to make moves along the 5.793km circuit, the Estonian driver is excited to get stuck into the action in both races.

“Overtaking is still quite difficult if you get stuck in a DRS train but it’s definitely a lot easier here and it’s a lot easier to follow. Once you’re within that four-to-five-tenths window, you can already start poking your nose in and attacking, putting the other guy offline. It’s a very different sort of racing here, but very enjoyable.”