Having graduated the amateur Ferrari 488 Class at the end of last season, Sam Smeeth has this year been thrust into the limelight entering his first season as a professional racing driver in the more challenging 488 Ferrari Class. The second race of the season was in Monza, a track steeped in historical significance, famed for high-speed thrills.
To achieve a fast lap at Monza it is essential to drive precisely and to concentrate on maximising straight line. Team Stratstone made various adjustments to the Ferrari, they reduced wing angle, altered ride heights, camber and toe settings throughout testing on Wednesday and Friday to find a highly competitive setup.
Saturday qualifying went extremely well; for the first time this year, Sam qualified on the front row with 17 cars behind him and only Daniele Di Amato in front.
Race 1 proved to be an interesting challenge. Sam had a clean start and managed to hold position, but as the race progressed he experienced problems in the braking zones and so lost time and positions. After a couple of radio exchanges, the team discovered that adjusting the ABS setting to level 2 suited the now degenerated tyres.
Finding pace again while others struggled with their own technical problems, Sam's Ferrari regained 2 positions from P4 and finished in P2; a fantastic result for Sam and Stratstone!
Sunday qualifying was not as hoped… Peak tyre performance only lasts for 2 laps, usually laps 3 and 4 depend upon pressures and how you warm the tyres up. Unfortunately, both laps were impeded by other drivers either intentionally blocking, or being unware of Sam's approach and so unfortunately he only qualified P4.
When race 2 came there was more bad news. The car picked up a puncture in Parc Ferme and needed a replacement rear tyre. Choosing a new tyre would mean Stratstone Ferrari lost a further 4 grid positions for the race, so Sam would start back in P8.
With such a closely contested field, Sam knew there would be little chance of a podium position without risking a DNF (Did Not Finish), and so he approached the race as a point-collecting exercise - gaining some places and finishing P5.
Overall the weekend was a triumph for Sam and Stratstone as they showed great pace, our championship campaign still healthy, 4th position. Next stop Budapest and the Hungaroring.