LUKE RETAINS SECOND SPOT WITH MONACO PODIUM

Luke Browning remains second in the fight for the FIA Formula 3 Championship after scoring a podium finish during the biggest event on the calendar around the streets of Monaco.

The Hitech Pulse-Eight went into the weekend on the bag of a solid showing at Imola in the previous meeting, where he had picked up a best finish of fourth to remain towards the sharp end of the championship standings.

Emerging unscathed from a tricky free practice session held in wet conditions that caught out a number of his rivals, Luke went into qualifying feeling optimistic about fighting towards the front of the pack – and so it proved when he headed out in the first of two groups.

The talented Williams Academy-backed driver looked set to top the times as he held provisional pole going into the final laps, and was set to improve his time when he brushed the barriers on the exit of the Swimming Pool and was forced to abandon his run.

That allowed Gabriele Minì to edge him off stop spot and meant Luke would end up third on the grid for the feature race – with the two qualifying groups filling alternate positions on the grid.

That meant tenth on the grid for the sprint race on Saturday, and with overtaking being far from straightforward, there were little in the way of expectations in terms of forward progress.

Luke however had other ideas and clever driving through the opening corners at the start allowed him to make his way up two places into eighth spot – one of which was on points leader Leonardo Fornaroli – before an incident behind saw the action halted.

A rolling restart provided no opportunity to repeat the feat when the action got back underway, although eighth place still provided Luke with his first sprint race points of the season.

“You just have to fill a gap in Monaco and hope it opens up for you, but it worked out well for me on the outside of T1,” he said. “I think there was an incident that allowed me to slip around the outside and then the same for T3, they just sort of piled up on the inside.

“It was enough for me to use to my benefit, the extra grip on the outside at the start before the marbles got bad out there. So, to get P8 and my first points in the sprint, long may that continue.”

Sunday’s feature race would also be somewhat chaotic further down the order with a number of caution periods, but was more processional towards the front, with Luke settling into third spot when the field headed round St Devote for the first time.

Holding station throughout, Luke picked up his second podium finish of the campaign and remains second in the championship as a result, with Minì four points ahead having managed to grab the race win from pole.

“It’s not easy to overtake round here and at no point, did I think it was really possible,” he said. “However, I think we have the best average finishing position in the feature races this season which is important, and picking up points is the important thing which is what we did.

“We have some tracks coming up where we know we are going to be strong, and I’ll be looking to make the most of that fact to fight for maximum points.”

The next event takes place in Barcelona at the end of June.