DAMS got off to a flyer in their first ever Formula Renault 3.5 practice sessions, with Arthur Pic, brother of Marussia F1 driver Charles, fastest in both of Friday’s collective tests.
Pic, who sent the benchmark with a 1m40.744s lap in the morning session, bettered that effort by 0.6 seconds in the afternoon to steal a march on Nico Muller, Robin Frijns and Richie Stanaway.
Pic said: “It's important to get in the lead group straightaway.
“It shows we've done some good work this winter, that we've got a solid understanding of this car and that we've laid some good foundations.
“We were fastest at the last two collective sessions here, and we now know that not everyone's working on the same things at these tests, which means we'll have to wait until tomorrow before we start getting excited.”
A short hailstorm at around the halfway mark of the second sessions provided teams which much difficulty, with the drivers only able to produce fast times in the final four minutes after Lucas Foresti brought out the red flag.
Stanaway had been heading the field at that point after finishing second to Pic earlier in the day before eventually ending the session three tenths down in fourth.
“I had a puncture this morning, which meant I had to start the second session on new tyres, and had none left by the time it ended,” said Stanaway,
“All the same I'm very happy with my time. Tomorrow's a different ball game and I'll have to get the most out of the car in qualifying.
“I know we've got a good race set-up but the qualifying sessions are essential and with the level there is here, it's going to be very tough.”
Stanaway was also pipped by Frijns and Muller in the latter stages of the session, with the Swiss driver performing well in the much improved Draco.
He said: “I had a big testing programme set up for this afternoon but I started off with a 15-minute penalty for failing to observe a yellow flag.
“After the storm, I pretty much had a clear lap and manage to put in a good time. I'm not exactly one of the favourites for the title because I've got a lot to learn, but being among the less-fancied drivers could work in my favour.”
Practice one: Pos Driver Team Time Gap 1. Arthur Pic DAMS 1m40.744s 2. Richie Stanaway Lotus 1m40.875s + 0.131s 3. Walter Grubmuller P1 1m40.912s + 0.168s 4. Robin Frijns Fortec 1m41.031s + 0.287s 5. Sam Bird ISR 1m41.072s + 0.328s 6. Carlos Huertas Fortec 1m41.157s + 0.413s 7. Nico Muller Draco 1m41.177s + 0.433s 8. Jules Bianchi Tech 1 1m41.256s + 0.512s 9. Marco Sorensen Lotus 1m41.263s + 0.519s 10. Daniil Move P1 1m41.268s + 0.524s 11. Will Stevens Carlin 1m41.322s + 0.578s 12. Lewis Williamson Arden 1m41.484s + 0.740s 13. Kevin Korjus Tech 1 1m41.601s + 0.857s 14. Kevin Magnussen Carlin 1m41.608s + 0.864s 15. Lucas Foresti DAMS 1m41.616s + 0.872s 16. Nick Yelloly Comtec 1m41.638s + 0.894s 17. Andre Negrao Draco 1m41.645s + 0.901s 18. Alexander Rossi Arden 1m41.806s + 1.062s 19. Vittorio Ghirelli Comtec 1m41.894s + 1.150s 20. Mikhail Aleshin RFR 1m41.979s + 1.235s 21. Jake Rosenzweig ISR 1m42.124s + 1.380s 22. Anton Nebylitskiy RFR 1m42.238s + 1.494s 23. Zoel Amberg Pons 1m42.239s + 1.495s 24. Nikolay Martsenko BVM Target 1m42.324s + 1.580s 25. Giovanni Venturini BVM Target 1m42.657s + 1.913s 26. Yann Cunha Pons 1m42.671s + 1.927s Practice two: Pos Driver Team Time Gap 1. Arthur Pic DAMS 1m40.136s 2. Nico Muller Draco 1m40.498s + 0.362s 3. Robin Frijns Fortec 1m40.509s + 0.373s 4. Richie Stanaway Lotus 1m40.522s + 0.386s 5. Carlos Huertas Fortec 1m40.582s + 0.446s 6. Sam Bird ISR 1m40.636s + 0.500s 7. Walter Grubmuller P1 1m40.745s + 0.609s 8. Kevin Korjus Tech 1 1m40.748s + 0.612s 9. Nick Yelloly Comtec 1m40.877s + 0.741s 10. Daniil Move P1 1m41.062s + 0.926s 11. Zoel Amberg Pons 1m41.086s + 0.950s 12. Anton Nebylitskiy RFR 1m41.128s + 0.992s 13. Alexander Rossi Arden 1m41.156s + 1.020s 14. Jules Bianchi Tech 1 1m41.183s + 1.047s 15. Will Stevens Carlin 1m41.247s + 1.111s 16. Kevin Magnussen Carlin 1m41.258s + 1.122s 17. Lewis Williamson Arden 1m41.424s + 1.288s 18. Giovanni Venturini BVM Target 1m41.612s + 1.476s 19. Mikhail Aleshin RFR 1m41.629s + 1.493s 20. Nikolay Martsenko BVM Target 1m41.796s + 1.660s 21. Lucas Foresti DAMS 1m42.099s + 1.963s 22. Jake Rosenzweig ISR 1m42.192s + 2.056s 23. Andre Negrao Draco 1m42.357s + 2.221s 24. Vittorio Ghirelli Comtec 1m42.618s + 2.482s 25. Marco Sorensen Lotus 1m42.852s + 2.716s 26. Yann Cunha Pons 1m44.130s + 3.994s