Victory Team’s Carella pleased with form
Dubai: Victory Team’s defending four-time world champion Alex Carella was pleased with early form heading into the opening round of the 2018 UIM F1H2O World Championship.
It was Carella laying down the early marker in the much-anticipated inter-UAE duel as the Italian clocked the fastest time during Friday’s unofficial practice at the Grand Prix of Portimao in Portugal.
Touted as the new season’s most anticipated tussle between the defending four-time world champion Carella and Team Abu Dhabi’s Shaun Torrente, it was the Italian heading into the actual racing weekend with a slight edge after posting the fastest time towards the closing stages of the 90-minute session.
Much is being expected from the two drivers following their team swap at the end of last year with the talented Torrente walking off to join Team Abu Dhabi, while Victory Team coaxed Carella to switch over to the Dubai outfit. On Friday, the world champion and his American opponent from Team Abu Dhabi traded times with Carella posting the best time of 41.80 seconds on his 50th lap to edge Torrente into second place by just 0.26 seconds.
“I am extremely pleased with what we have achieved with this new boat so far. This has been a good start, but the main work will have to follow from now on during the next two days of this race,” Carella told Gulf News.
“The main thing is that we have shown that our boat is competitive alongside a quality field of other big teams and drivers. But we need to get some more work done on the balance. But overall, I am more than happy with the way things have gone so far,” the Italian added.
It was an impressive showing on the Arade River with both drivers taking to their brand-new boats with much enthusiasm — Carella in the all-new Victory-designed-and-built hull and Torrente in his latest generation DAC hull.
“This is a great boat. It’s like a rocket ship,” Torrente said of his boat.
“I am really thrilled, but the best part is that we have done what we expected to do after so much of testing coming into the Grand Prix of Portimao. I have narrowed the propeller option to two or three and one especially that is good in all conditions so I am looking forward to the next two days,” the American added.
Sweden’s Jonas Andersson was another to deliver bringing his brand-new boat home in third spot posting a 42.17s lap, with teammate Erik Edin also impressing, a tenth shy and going fifth fastest. “I am very happy with that because I didn’t drive well at all,” Andersson remarked.
“We haven’t had the opportunity to test because of the long cold winter in Sweden so this was the first really runout since Sharjah. I can find more pace if I drive better. The boat was very nice,” he added.
Philippe Chiappe and Erik Stark, a last-minute replacement for the unwell Mike Szymura, completed a top six line-up separated by just 0.97s, with former four-time world champion Chiappe coming in fourth fastest with a time of 42.33 secs and Stark with a 42.76 secs lap.
Meanwhile, officials at the Associacao de Portimao have deliberately revised the racing timetable to reduce the risk of running in the customary afternoon winds and practice, qualifying and the Grand Prix will run late in the afternoons on each day after gales had played havoc with the original timetable last season.
The official free practice was scheduled to be held at 15.00hrs (6 pm UAE) on Saturday preceding the F4 Championship free practice, timed trials and the first of the F4 races, starting at 17.10hrs (8.10 pm UAE). F1 qualifying was then scheduled to take centre stage on the tricky river course from 18.00hrs (9 pm UAE).
The timetable will be repeated on Sunday afternoon with F1 free practice preceding F4 practice, timed trials and the second of the F4 races, before the 2018 Grand Prix of Portugal roars into life at 18.00hrs (9 pm UAE).