ART Grand Prix driver Victor Martins is confident that he can transfer his eye-catching pace at a wet Free Practice in Monte Carlo to the sunnier conditions expected in Qualifying.

The Frenchman impressed on the opening day by topping the timesheets from start to finish in the session, ending the afternoon with the fastest time of 1:39.237.

His nearest rival, MP Motorsport’s Dennis Hauger, was over six-tenths off his pace-setting time and with his teammate Zak O’Sullivan in fifth, it represented a strong 45 minutes of running for ART.

PRACTICE: Martins on top for ART in rain-hampered Monte Carlo opener

“I think it was a good session overall,” said Martins. “I kind of built up to get some good confidence from Lap 1. We knew it was going to be tricky conditions before the weekend and I think we can see now that it was quite challenging.

“But getting ready on all subjects and then doing it and getting confidence in the car was the target and it's what happened obviously. I'm happy to start like this but it's still FP, it doesn't count at all.

“We still need to deliver tomorrow but I will say we have started on the right foot. The first time we are competitive, we are in front, so it gives confidence.”

Martins was fastest in a wet Monte Carlo Free Practice session
Martins was fastest in a wet Monte Carlo Free Practice session

Martins also went on to explain how he was able to navigate the narrow Monte Carlo street circuit while dealing with a wet track and heavy rain.

“You need to forget about the doubts you have,” he said. “Forget about the car you have also and just push yourself to the limit and believe that you will react if you make a small mistake, or you will keep yourself cool and smooth until the end of the lap when you are on it.

“Just feel everything then try to do a step forward and improve lap after lap. But it's all about confidence, driving and being in the zone in the moment while also enjoying it.

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“You know you are in Monaco; you want to get the opportunity; you want to use this chance to shine, and I think it's just a pure pleasure in the car.”

But he also acknowledges how difficult a start it has been for him and ART this year. The reigning Champions currently sit 10th in the Teams’ Standings with 24 points when at this stage last year, they were third with 82.

However, Martins believes a strong weekend in Monte Carlo could be just what they need to turn their fortunes around for the rest of the season.

Martins is eyeing a battle for the top spots in Qualifying tomorrow
Martins is eyeing a battle for the top spots in Qualifying tomorrow

“For sure,” replied Martins when asked if this performance could be a turning point for ART. “There are always two things that go on in your mind. One: it's saying to yourself that's the start of our season, it's the beginning, it gives you extra confidence, showing you that we are there.

“The other side is to keep calm, it's just one session. It's just a balance between working, keeping it calm and having good consistency on the confidence side also. I can maybe be confident today but if tomorrow the weather conditions change, you don’t know.

“It's all about finding the compromise between it being a good day and looking at it each round also. Like if you do a good weekend, then you go into the next one with confidence but then also the opposite can be true. So, keep it calm and analyse the small details.”

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Part of what makes Martins confident is that he believes despite the conditions, the teams and the drivers can learn plenty from Free Practice. He is positive that if the pace is as it was today, he can fight for the top positions.

“I think a bit of everything,” said Martins when asked what he can learn from Free Practice. “There are some things you can take from and not take from today. If tomorrow is dry, you will need to forget about the driving style you had today.

“But in the end, feeling confident on the track even if it's wet, it gives you the confidence also in the dry because there are always some small bits you can take from even if it's wet. I know for sure even if it's dry tomorrow I am confident I will be capable of putting it at the front of the field and I know I will have everything in my hands to do it.”