Drama Filled Donington Weekend For Champion Nasr
Recently crowned 2011 Cooper Tires British Formula 3 International Series Champion Felipe Nasr had one of his toughest events of the season at a drama-filled Donington Park Grand Prix Circuit over the weekend, 24th/25th September.
Blindingly quick as always, as proven by taking pole position during qualifying on Saturday, the Carlin ace was on the receiving end of some serious misfortune at the 2.5-mile East Midlands track but, even so, he still managed to break the 300 point barrier in the championship standings.
Unfortunately, the weekend was marred for Felipe by contact with team-mate Kevin Magnussen in two of the three races – most notably in Sunday afternoon’s feature race, round 27, where the Dane punted Brazil’s aspiring Formula One driver out of the lead on the opening lap.
With the track already slippery due to prior rainfall, worsening conditions ahead of the 40-minute encounter resulted in pole-sitter Felipe and those immediately behind him on the grid switching from slick tyres to treaded wet-weather rubber ahead of the green flag formation lap.
Proving to be the correct choice as the rain continued, the 19-year-old led away at the start and aimed to smoothly bed his way into the conditions. At the second part of the Fogarty Esses though, Magnussen tagged the right-rear of the South American’s car pitching him into a wild multiple spin.
Thankfully avoided by those following immediately behind, Felipe retained great composure and set off again – now down in 10th position. The remainder of the race proved difficult, with the Brasilia native having to battle back from a couple of other moments, but he took the chequered flag in 10th position and this became ninth post-race when Harry Tincknell received a penalty.
“It’s disappointing to lose the chance of another win”, said the champion, “You need to be patient sometimes and Kevin wasn’t. I was in the lead and had the line for the chicane, there’s one line through there, he didn’t back off and stayed to the outside. So at the second part, the right-hand turn, he kept his car there and hit my rear wheel and the sidepod – I spun straightaway.”
Sunday’s earlier race, round 26, required a monumental performance from Felipe as he started from the back of the grid due to a non-finish in Saturday’s encounter. Unsurprisingly he starred, rising from 21st place into the top 10 and also posting the fastest lap of the race.
Although the track was damp and slippery, Felipe choose to gamble on running slick tyres from the off to try and get the bonus point for the fastest lap. It worked out well and, given another three or four laps, the improved conditions would have enabled him to possibly mount a podium challenge.
Early on he had to be extremely careful as the track favoured the bulk of the grid which started on wet-weather tyres. By lap 10, Felipe’s slicks were able to begin providing him with the grip needed and on the very next tour he posted the fastest lap of the race before bettering it on lap 13 with a time of 1m30.482 seconds (98.96mph).
“It was quite a good option to go with slicks”, said Felipe, “We knew we wouldn’t have a chance to do anything on wets from the back so I preferred to take slicks and try and get fastest lap which we managed to do. If there were a few more laps, maybe a podium could have been there but it was a great race anyway. I really enjoyed coming through and to get past 300 points was a great moment.”
Saturday afternoon’s encounter, round 25, took place in the dry and began with Felipe sixth on the grid. Making a good start, he wasted no time in moving into the top five. Close behind Magnussen going into the hairpin on lap two, the champion moved to the inside to pass for fourth but as he headed for the apex the door was slammed shut and the ensuing contact caused a puncture.
Recovering to the pits, the Brazilian rejoined the race with a fresh tyre aiming to set the fastest lap, which he did, before parking the car in the garage with no point in continuing being so far down the order. Unfortunately, his fastest lap was shaded – but that wasn’t the biggest frustration.
“I had a great car in the first race, I knew we could have a good result”, he commented, “I tried to pass at the hairpin, I was on the inside but then he (Magnussen) locked the door when I was already there – what can I do? It’s been a tough weekend but we had the pace, we just need to put this one behind us and look forward to Silverstone”
In other news, by taking pole position in qualifying Felipe also secured the required points in the Sunoco Rolex 24 at Daytona Challenge to seal a prize drive in the Daytona 24 Hours Race which will take place at the world-famous Florida race track next January – a great bonus to add to the F3 title.
Just two weeks now remain until the final event of the British F3 season, rounds 28, 29 and 30, at Silverstone Grand Prix Circuit in Northamptonshire over the weekend 8th/9th October.
Provisional 2011 Cooper Tires British F3 International Series Standings (after Rd27):
CHAMPION – Felipe Nasr, 302pts