Champion Nasr Adds To Podium Tally In Season Finale
Felipe Nasr concluded his exceptional 2011 motor racing season by increasing his tally of podium finishes to 17 at Silverstone Grand Prix Circuit over the weekend, 8th/9th October, during the finale of the Cooper Tires British F3 International Series.
Having sealed the prestigious title two race meetings ago, and in doing so etching his name into the history books as the 12th Brazilian driver to become British Formula 3 Champion, the 19-year-old was able to go into the final three rounds without any pressure on his shoulders.
Aiming to enjoy the event to the full, Felipe did encounter some misfortune along the way but a fine podium finish in round 28 on Saturday afternoon enabled the Carlin driver to once more taste the celebratory champagne before turning his attention to pastures new for 2012.
“It’s been a very good year for me and the team, I appreciate I had a very competitive car all year”, said the 2011 champion, “I have nothing to complain about this season, it’s been fantastic. We had another podium on Saturday and many, many great moments during the year.
“Thanks to all of the guys in the team, they’re so professional and it’s unbelievable how focused they are. They work so hard for all of the drivers in the team, every driver gets very good equipment. I really learned a lot with Carlin this year – it’s been such a great experience.”
It’s certainly been a phenomenally successful and incredibly memorable year for the Brasilia-born sensation, seven race victories and a total of 17 podiums helping mark Felipe out as a driver with all the hallmarks of a future Formula One star.
Starting the Silverstone weekend strongly during pre-event practice on Friday, 7th October, with the fastest time in session one and second quickest time in session two, he went on to qualify with the third best lap of 1m53.241 seconds for Sunday’s ‘feature race’ – just 0.197 seconds shy of pole.
Such was his high level of consistency, Felipe’s second quickest lap in qualifying was good enough for a spot on the front row for the first of the weekend’s races on Saturday but, at the start, the South American encountered a problem with his clutch which led to a somewhat tardy getaway.
Despite being powerless to avoid slipping to third on the run to Copse Corner, Felipe did recover well and immediately set about reeling-in second placed Scott Pye. Closing to within just 0.5 seconds of him, Felipe pushed hard but in the end had to settle for a nonetheless welcome third place.
“We definitely had a problem with the clutch”, said Felipe, “Even when we left the pits to go to the grid the car was bogging down, like it was almost stalling easily. It was all about the start, the clutch wasn’t right and I couldn’t get away like I wanted to – then following the car in front caused some graining on the tyres. I was quite happy with the podium though.”
On the ‘reverse grid’ for round 29 on Sunday morning, Felipe started in seventh place and with track conditions slippery after earlier rain a decision had to made on whether to run wet-weather tyres or gamble on slicks in the belief the track would dry sufficiently.
Initially making a fantastic start, the Carlin driver – who was one of just a handful of racers opting for slicks – climbed into the top five but with the early laps benefitting those on treaded rubber he had to work incredibly hard and summon all of his skill to maintain his position in the lead group.
Driving superbly to keep good pace and also stay ahead of the majority on wets, Felipe couldn’t possibly prevent a slip down to eighth position but he began to fight back as the tyres started to perform better and with a couple of laps to go he was able to enjoy ever-improving grip. In the end, he took seventh place and was just 0.012 seconds shy of sixth at the chequered flag on lap 10.
Round 30, the final race of the season – and of Felipe’s two-year tenure in F3, wasn’t the dream ending he and the team had hoped for when the rear of his Dallara-Volkswagen was tagged on the opening lap by Lucas Foresti, resulting in a rear puncture and additional contact from Max Snegirev.
Slowly able to make it back to the pits, Felipe did re-enter the race but a long way down on the rest of the field. After posting the second fastest lap of the race, a time of 1m55.196 seconds, he chose to return to the pits and retirement.
“We had a really competitive car in the last race”, added Felipe, “We should have been fighting for the win but we had the puncture – that’s racing though, you have to expect the unexpected sometimes. It was only a slight touch, I didn’t really feel anything. I think Foresti just misjudged it.”
With the British F3 season concluded, Felipe’s attention now turns to the biggest Formula 3 race of them all – the 58th Macau F3 Grand Prix which will be held between 17th and 20th November on the famous Guia street circuit in the former Portuguese enclave. Unsurprisingly, he’ll run with Carlin.
“Macau is our main goal now, we need to get a very good result there and then after that we’ll look to next season and where to go”, he said, “I’d like to try and do World Series (by Renault) next year, or GP2, both are very good championships but we’ll have to wait and see what happens.”