After 21 races and a lot of mileage, we still don't have a British F3 Series champion, though after this morning's race was won by Jaime Alguersuari (Carlin Motorsport), he and Oliver Turvey (Carlin Motorsport) are only three points apart, as...
After 21 races and a lot of mileage, we still don't have a British F3 Series champion, though after this morning's race was won by Jaime Alguersuari (Carlin Motorsport), he and Oliver Turvey (Carlin Motorsport) are only three points apart, as Turvey finished a slightly distant third behind the third Carlin Motorsport driver, Brendon Hartley. In the National Class, newcomer Henry Surtees (Carlin Motorsport) held off 2008 champion Jay Bridger (Fluid Motorsport) all the way to the flag, while Adriano Buzaid in the other Carlin car came home third in class.
At the start Alguersuari made the most of his pole position to get away into the lead, while Hartley hung onto his coat-tails to go with him. Series leader Turvey was unable to make up any ground, despite having a good look at the rear end of Hartley's Dallara. Rookie Dean Smith (Fortec Motorsport), on the other hand, did gain ground, barging his way past Nick Tandy (John Tandy Racing) for 4th as they tore through Redgate. It was a bit desperate in the National Class too, with Bridger bottled up behind Surtees and had Marcus Ericsson (Fortec Motorsport) stuck behind him, the Swede looking desperately for a way through so he could join in the Championship Class fight at the front. There was a bit of a kerfuffle at the back too, with Philip Major (Fortec Motorsport) and Max Chilton (Hitech Motorsport) tripping over each other and dropping themselves to last.
While Alguersuari and Hartley pulled away at the front, and Turvey settled down to hold off Smith, Tandy lost another place to Sam Abay (Carlin Motorsport), though it will come as no surprise that the Englishman didn't take it lying down, and in fact spent a lot of the remainder of the race trying to retake the position from the Aussie. The real action was in the middle of the pack though, with Steven Guerrero (T-Sport) and Hywel Lloyd (C F Racing) scrapping furiously. Sergio Perez (T-Sport), meanwhile, has a massive moment at the Chicane and wiped out his chances of the championship, slight though they were. He also took Walter Grubmuller (Hitech Racing) with him, the Austrian taking no further part, while the Mexican pitted for new tyres and went back out to try and at least salvage a point for fastest lap.
That was without taking the leading pair into account. Although Perez did briefly hold the fastest lap of the race, Alguersuari and Hartley were soon disputing that honour, the pair of them trading times lap after lap. Hartley by now had closed right up on his team-mate, and was trying everything he could think of to get by, to no avail. Alguersuari was determined to hold onto that win, the championship almost within his reach it seemed. Surtees meanwhile had Bridger and Wilson all over him and was having to defend ferociously, the new champion taking being beaten by a rookie about as well as you might expect. He wasn't helped by Ericsson who found a way past all the National Class runners to move up to 8th and was now giving Atte Mustonen (Double R Racing) a fierce looking at. Surtees hung out but Wilson lost out badly and dropped a long way back. Ahead of the Scandinavian stand-off Smith was still fighting off Abay, while Tandy kept on applying the pressure from behind. Turvey was losing touch with the leaders as the track dried out and the leaders pulled away, and was pretty much running on his own as Smith lost touch slightly, being more interested in keeping Abay back than in worrying about the man in front. Abay's latest attempt on Smith led to Tandy getting back on terms and making an attempt to go by on the inside. Abay was able to defend but it was now clear that he couldn't mount a significant attack on Smith if Tandy wouldn't go away. and he wouldn't.
At the front Hartley was still after Alguersuari's lead, and was pushing as hard as he could. Alguersuari's response was a new fastest lap, as he tries to open a gap over his troublesome team-mate. All of this meant that they were losing the rest of the pack at speed. Alguersuari upped the pace again and set a new lap record as he took advantage of the rapidly drying racing line.
By now Smith had broken away from Abay, leaving the Australian locked in a fight with Tandy - it was shades of Silverstone all over again when the two tangled, though hopefully without the same degree of acrimony. A lap later and Abay had broken away again and was back on the tail of Smith. The yo-yoing was all rather confusing really.
Alguersuari was still pressing on, his sense of urgency unabated. Two laps later he went even faster, and managed to drop Hartley at last. That meant Turvey was ever lonelier, but things were about to get fraught again. Perez was back out after his pit stop, and Jonathan Legris (Litespeed F3) had also pitted, which meant the leaders were now closing on the back- markers, which included Perez. Additionally, in the middle of the pack, Bridger was all over Surtees, and there was a monumental battle behind them involving Guerrero, Lloyd, Chilton (who shouldn't have been there anyway) and Callum Macleod (T-Sport), the latter standing in for Salman Al Khalifa, the Bahraini unable to race this weekend. It wouldn't be long before Alguersuari and Hartley caught up with them, though first there was Perez to deal with. The Mexican behaved impeccably, moving out of the way, and duly also let Turvey and company by as well. Ericsson, who was still right with Mustonen, saw the presence of Perez as a possible aid to overtaking and made a move when the opportunity arose. It didn't come off and he had to settle back in to 8th, his plan foiled by Mustonen's dogged determination.
The Guerrero train was still running, Lloyd unable to get past, while Chilton lost ground to Macleod. With the three National Class cars now snapping at each others' heels, Chilton let Alguersuari through, and then Hartley as well. And then it got tricky. All of this was allowing Hartley to catch up again, and although Chilton hadn't posed a problem and in fact pitted at the end of the lap, but the trio in front of him did mean trouble. To be fair they were a bit busy, but they should have noticed the blue flags being waved at them, even though they were all now bottled up behind Clemente de Faria Jr and maybe just slightly distracted.
Perez pulled into the pits for good after that, probably cursing Hitech after the last two races, regardless of the fact that today's clash seemed to be mostly his own fault. Meanwhile, Major was being lapped, and he held Smith up badly, letting Abay get on the rookie's tail. He wasn't the only one baulking people. Lloyd didn't seem to be watching his mirrors (or the flags) closely enough, because if he had looked in his mirrors he would have seen a furious Alguersuari waving at him to get out of the way, the Spaniard now having to watch his own mirrors very carefully because Hartley was looming alarmingly in them. Lloyd finally got the message and the pair were through and clear of him; that left Guerrero who seemed equally oblivious. Hartley took it as a signal to try and grab the lead and had a go at the Chicane; that led to even more furious gesturing, this time in the shape of fist waving from Alguersuari, the new gestures directed at Guerrero. Again the information eventually filtered through and the Colombian moved over.
That only left Clemente. He seemed even less aware of the fact that the leaders wanted to get by. Alguersuari came up behind him at speed and had to haul he anchors on desperately to avoid running into the rear end of the Invitation Class car. Hartley didn't lift and was right there as they powered into Maclanes. Hartley would never get a better opportunity but he couldn't quite make it stick and that was it for the challenge. Alguersuari brought it home for maximum points with a win and fastest lap, while Hartley would have to settle for 2nd. Behind them, Turvey crossed the line 3rd ahead of Smith, Abay, Tandy, Mustonen, Ericsson, National Class winner Surtees, who had held off Bridger every bit of the way, and Bridger.
11th was Henry Arundel (Double R Racing), from team-mate John Martin, and then Invitation Class winner Oliver Oakes (Eurotek Motorsport). 14th was Buzaid, Wilson, Clemente Jr., Guerrero, Lloyd, Macleod and Major. 21st, two laps down, was Chilton and the last classified runner was Legris.
The fastest laps of the race went to Alguersuari, Oakes and Bridger.
With three points in it, the championship will be decided this afternoon between Alguersuari and Turvey. Watch this space.