Lynne Waite and Stella-Maria Thomas, F3 Correspondents
Magnussen makes bid for 2011 runner-up slot at Silverstone
Changes: In the run up to Macau, several drivers have turned up to ensure they meet the qualifying requirements. That means Alexander Sims is here in one of the Motopark car, while Mitch Evans has stepped into the spare Double R Racing Dallara, and there is an Invitation Class runner in the shape of Guilherme Silva (Hitech Racing).
At Silverstone this morning Kevin Magnussen (Carlin) and Carlos Huertas (Carlin) fought it out for pole for rounds 28 and 30 and by association for the runner up slot in this year’s championship in a session that delivered little else in the way of excitement. While the two of them wrestled for possession of pole and Magnussen ultimately came out on top, Felipe Nasr settled into 3rd behind the pair of them for the feature race on Sunday, secure in the knowledge that he already has the series wrapped up. For today’s race he will start 2nd behind Magnussen, with Scott Pye (Double R Racing) in 3rd. Kotaro Sakurai (Hitech Racing) is again the only Rookie Class runner out of 23 drivers and thus starts from class pole, despite being the slowest man on the track all morning. By the same reasoning, Guilherme Silva in another Hitech Racing car is on Invitation Class pole simply because there is no competition for the honour.
The session started with Huertas looking especially strong, after a particularly good run in testing yesterday. Of course it could just be that after three years in the series he really thinks he should win at least one race. It’s not that he’s not quick, but he doesn’t seem to apply that speed intelligently when he should and being the only one of the Carlin sextet without a victory to his name this season can’t be a comfortable position to be in when contemplating the future. Certainly he wasn’t hanging about today, at least as far as the timing screens indicated. However, as has been repeatedly demonstrated this year, it’s not usually the man who is fastest at the start of the session who comes out on top at the end.
That said the Colombian was pushing hard. He wasn’t alone. Nasr was soon up to 2nd ahead of everyone. Magnussen was also on a charge, keen to get ahead of his arch-rival Nasr (the two are not exactly on friendly terms after the events of Donington Park two weeks ago). He was soon in 2nd, with Rupert Svendsen-Cook (Carlin) trailing just behind him. A reshuffle saw Jazeman Jaafar (Carlin) move up to 2nd with newcomer Mitch Evans (Double R Racing) rocketing round to claim 5th – clearly marking himself as a man (or more accurately boy as he’s only 17) to watch out for. He has certainly continued the apparent renaissance in form of Double R that started when Marko Asmer got in the car and proved there was nothing wrong with its pace early in the year. It was Huertas who still had the pace though and nothing looked likely to dislodge him, at least not yet anyway. Svendsen-Cook’s best effort was only enough to net him 2nd and a penalty for not respecting track limits (his fastest lap would be disallowed). He was quicker than Magnussen but only just, and it wasn’t long before the Carlin juggernaut had rolled over the front 3 rows of the grid, their drivers occupying all 6 places. For once though the effect was only temporary, with Pietro Fantin (Hitech Racing) breaking them up when he intruded in 5th.
Huertas responded by going faster yet, which was just as well as Nasr put in a fast lap for 2nd again, from Svendsen-Cook, Magnussen, Fantin, Jaafar, Pye, Jack Harvey (Carlin), Lucas Foresti (Fortec Motorsport) and Evans. Magnussen’s response to that was to come back at Nasr, and at Huertas and it was clear that the fight for that runner-up slot was now well and truly on!
Certainly Magnussen was now very focussed on it, winding himself up properly as he went for – and snatched – pole, just before the usual half distance pit stop rounds started. The trickle of cars became a rush and then there was no one out on track apart from Menasheh Idafar (T-Sport). We were well past the halfway stage and the order was Magnussen, from Huertas, Nasr, Jaafar, Fantin, Pye, Harvey, Foresti, Evans and William Buller (Fortec Motorsport). Hywel Lloyd (Sino Vision Racing). Alexander Sims (Motopark) was 11th, presumably hampered by both the lack of a team-mate and the lack of any data relating to the new circuit layout. 12th was Idafar, seemingly off the pace again after last time out, Fahmi Ilyas (Fortec Motorsport), Harry Tincknell (Fortec Motorsport), Max Snegirev (Hitech Racing), Pipo Derani (Double R Racing), Adderly Fong (Sino Vision Racing) and Bart Hylkema (T-Sport). 21st was Silva, ahead of Yann Cunha (T-Sport) and Sakurai.
With no idea what the times were, thanks to the hopeless nature of the Blancpain timing system and the way it’s set up to show only the last lap time not even the best time, we had little idea whether Magnussen had pole for both races or not, though it seemed likely. There was still scope for improvement though, as was rapidly demonstrated by Buller digging deep and shooting up the lists to 5th. There then followed something of an hiatus while people waited for the new tyres to come up to their optimum temperatures, and the time ticked down towards zero and the end of the session.
The next improvement, with less than 7 minutes to play with, came from Tincknell, but it wasn’t enough to move him beyond 13th in the order. Huertas meanwhile also found some more pace from somewhere which was enough to take 2nd, but not enough to dislodge the Dane at the top. Pye was also showing good pace and was suddenly there or thereabouts in 6th at the same time as the officials issued a warning to Tincknell over track limits. The trouble with modern circuits is that there is far too much concrete for drivers to run across with impunity. Perhaps if everywhere had the same sort of sharply abrasive paint used at Paul Ricard this sort of thing might stop. After all, if you’re going to knacker your tyres doing something, there’s a good chance you’ll stop doing it.
As the session drew to a close there was a final rush of activity with Svendsen-Cook rising back up to 4th and signs of life from Foresti as he broke back into the top ten. The next improvement came from Fantin who did enough to claim 3rd, which Nasr wasn’t going to like. And suddenly there were lots of improvements but none of them were enough to displace Magnussen and in the main they didn’t do much to change the positions either. The most significant ones were probably from Nasr (for 2nd) only to be bettered by Huertas an eye blink later, and by Pye for 4th. Jaafar was on a charge now and was 5th while Evans again went faster to edge into 7th. Magnussen’s next flying lap put his control of the front row beyond doubt, while a push from Svendsen-Cook was enough to displace Pye from 4th. A late improvement from Lloyd moved him to 13th, ahead of Ilyas (the latter uncharacteristically high in the results, and having for once not fallen off the track), and Foresti managed a final push for 6th just before the chequered flag came out to end the session.
The results that follow may not stand however, as Idafar, Tincknell and Svendsen-Cook were all called to race control, to be accompanied there by their team managers, no doubt to discuss track limits and the respecting or otherwise thereof. That said, the order at present would seem to be reasonably clear in that Magnussen will start both races from pole.
The order for Race 1 of the weekend (Round 28 of the championship) is thus Magnussen over Nasr, Pye, Svendsen-Cook, Huertas, Fantin, Jaafar, Evans, Harvey and Foresti. Buller is in 11th, from Sims, Lloyd, Ilyas, Derani, Snegirev, Tincknell, Idafar, Hylkema and Cunha. Silva starts 21st, from Fong and Sakurai. For the 30th and final round of the 2011 British F3 International Series, then, Magnussen will start from pole, ahead of Huertas, Nasr, Svendsen-Cook, Pye, Foresti, Jaafar, Evans, Fantin and Buller. 11th will be Harvey, from Sims, Lloyd, Ilyas, Snegirev, Derani, Tincknell, Idafar, Hylkema and Cunha. 21st is Fong, with Silva and Sakurai in the last two slots.
Weather: Cold, overcast, dry.