Podium finish for Andrea Caldarelli and SG Formula in Barcelona
SG Formula toasted its first podium place of the 2009 season in the Formula 3 Euro Series on the "Circuit de Catalunya". Rookie Andrea Caldarelli was the star of the moment. It provided just the fillip the team needed after three tough meetings in a row.
The result was doubly significant because of the format used in the F3 Euro Series. The Toyota Driver Program driver finished 3rd in Race 1, which is the one for which the starting line up is decided by the lap times recorded during a single session of qualifying. There was no reverse grid to facilitate this superb result, the foundations for which were laid in open practice as well as, no doubt, in 2008 when a certain Yann Clairay put his SG Formula car on the front line of the Barcelona grid!
The competitors had two practice sessions on the Friday morning in which to work out their best trajectories and adjust their set ups. Henkie Waldschmidt shone at this early stage, clocking the 5th then 4th fastest times respectively while his team-mate was still getting himself sorted out. Later on we saw a new face make his debut at the wheel of an SG Formula-entered Dallara-Mercedes. This was no rookie. Neither was he an unknown quantity for the older members of the team! It was Dutchman Carlo Van Dam, who, after two seasons of Formula Renault 2.0 Eurocup racing for SG Formula, went on to become Champion of Germany in 2007 and Champion of Japan 2008 in Formula 3. He finished 3rd in the 2006 edition of the FR2.0 Eurocup with the team. Carlo's main objective here was to renew acquaintances with the category, so he contented himself with bringing the car home safely, lapping not far off the leaders.
SG Formula therefore had two Dutchmen under its auspices but in the end it was an Italian who caught the headlines during qualifying. Andrea Caldarelli held on to pole until the final moments of the session, when he lost out by 6/100ths of a second to Jules Bianchi, who currently leads the championship. Henkie Waldschmidt finished the session with a creditable 4th fastest lap. For both drivers this was the best qualifying performance of their respective careers in the Formula 3 Euro Series.
Do you believe in time travel? Last season in Barcelona one SG Formula driver clocked the 2nd fastest qualifying lap 6/100ths behind the poleman, while a team-mate was 4th fastest... but neither of them made it onto the podium in Catalonia. Andrea Caldarelli drove an exemplary race, dropping behind British driver Sims at the start but regaining 2nd place after a safety-car sortie. A little slip during braking let his rival back through but Andreas held on to bag his first points in Formula 3 and his first podium place. This was at the same venue where he had won his last race in Formula Renault 2.0 last October, racing for SG Formula of course! Underscoring that this was no chance result, the Italian clocked the fastest lap in the race. En route to finishing 5th, Henkie Waldschmidt clocked the 3rd fastest lap of the race.
3rd in Race 1, Andrea was the 6th man on the grid for Race 2, while Henkie's 5th place earnt him the right to start in 4th place. That's down to the subtle arrangement whereby the eight leaders start Race 2 in reverse order. However, Lady Luck is wont to intervene to waylay the best-laid plans. Trying to overtake on a circuit which offers little opportunity to do so saw Andrea drop back to 10th place for his pains. As for Henkie, he didn't take advantage of his favourable grid position and slipped down to 7th place.
Team-manager Stephane Guerin welcomed the performance of his troops with the expected pleasure. "It's a triple satisfaction - for the team, for Toyota and for Andrea. His first steps in F3 have not been easy. He made some mistakes, so did we. But he has worked tirelessly and had a very good weekend in Barcelona. His qualifying lap was brilliant and he drove well in the races. He was one of the rare drivers to attempt to overtake. I hope this is going to help him as his career moves forward. On the other hand, I was disappointed with Henkie's performance. Our first podium in 2009 was thanks to a rookie driver. Henkie could have made his experience account. His car was competitive so he ought to have brought us a second podium spot - it was well within his grasp."
In the past, Dijon has proved to be a happy hunting ground for SG Formula in Formula Renault, so the team is looking forward eagerly to the French leg of the F3 Euro Series calendar, next October 10-11.