Lynne Waite and Stella-Maria Thomas, F3 Correspondents
Magnussen takes wet Donington finale
Race Report – Round 27 (Race 3):
Kevin Magnussen (Carlin) proved himself the master of wet weather conditions at Donington Park this afternoon, aided in no small part by several of his opponents messing up their choices, and others falling off in the treacherous conditions. 2nd place at the end of the feature race went to Pipo Derani (Double R Racing) and Rupert Svendsen-Cook (Carlin) was 3rd but not before a lot of chopping and changing. Once again the only Rookie Class runner Kotaro Sakurai (Hitech Racing) failed to finish after a trip into the gravel traps.
It had been raining before the race, and although it was starting to ease, the skies were heavy with more of it. It was just a case of how long it would go on for. This led to a lot of meerkat like behaviour as interested parties shot out of their garages, stared up at the sky intently for a nano-second, then bolted back inside again, only to repeat the movement 30 seconds later. Lather, rinse, repeat… Eventually they were going to have to take a decision.
After the formation lap it seemed that minds had been made up. The front three rows, consisting of Felipe Nasr (Carlin), Jack Harvey (Carlin), Svendsen-Cook, Carlos Huertas (Carlin), Magnussen and Derani were all on wet weather tyres at the start. From Valtteri Bottas (Double R Racing) back everyone else apart from Adderly Fong (Sino Vision Racing) and Harry Tincknell (Fortec Motorsport) were on slicks, whilst Sakurai had dived into the pits for a tyre change rather than take his place on the grid after the warm up lap.
The formation lap saw a number of drivers questioning the wisdom of slicks, especially as the rain was no starting to fall again. As a result, at the end of the green flag lap the grid was strangely empty with Pietro Fantin (Hitech Racing), Lucas Foresti (Fortec Motorsport), Jazeman Jaafar (Carlin), Scott Pye (Double R Racing), Max Snegirev (Fortec Motorsport), Menasheh Idafar (T-Sport), Yann Cunha (T-Sport), Hywel Lloyd (Sino Vision Racing), Fahmi Ilyas (Fortec Motorsport) and Bart Hylkema (T-Sport) all deciding that what they really wanted were treaded tyres, and could they have them now please. It made you wonder what exactly the point of qualifying had been…
At the start Magnussen got the power down incredibly effectively and leapfrogged his way to 2nd, just behind Nasr only to tag the Brazilian into a spin before the race was a lap old. That let Harvey through into the lead, with Svendsen-Cook also easing through, as the pair of them recovered, Magnussen coming out of it far better in 3rd. Behind the front half dozen Bottas was regretting staying on slicks; when he tried to put the power down at the start nothing at all happened for what felt like a week, and then the rubber finally started to grip the road and he was able to move off the line. It wasn’t particularly surprising when he pitted after a lap and swapped to wets. The real surprise was that William Buller (Fortec Motorsport) who had also stayed on slicks, didn’t choose to follow suit. Granted he was still 8th at the end of lap 1 but the writing was on the wall when even the guys on wet compounds couldn’t stay on the track, and it was starting to come down ever more heavily. Behind the top 3 the order was Derani in 4th, from Huertas, Fong, Tincknell, Buller, Jaafar and Nasr, both of whom had just blasted by Fantin.
A lap later and the order was further stirred up by Buller opting to go with the majority tyre choice, though why he left it that long was anyone’s guess. At the same time, the screens flashed up an announcement informing everyone that Fong and Tincknell were under investigation over their starts. While people were pondering what it might mean, Lloyd set the first fastest lap of the race and Fantin lost another place, this time to Pye, thus dropping out of the top 10, at least until Pye speared off into the gravel and forfeited the place along with two others when Lloyd and Foresti came past as well. To be fair to the Australian even Magnussen was having trouble keeping it on the black stuff, and ran horribly wide in his pursuit of Svendsen-Cook, so much so that Derani was able to catch up with him, and was starting to look very threatening. Harvey, meanwhile, was having trouble opening a gap to Svendsen-Cook, the latter benefiting from being able to follow Harvey round rather than having to figure out the best line for himself. It was turning into a very internecine tussle with Carlin drivers all on the attack and Derani embroiled with them.
Shortly afterwards Svendsen-Cook ran out of road at Goddards and ended up 4th, while Fong had a moment at the Old Hairpin and lost a lot of ground, and Sakurai went missing at Macleans, ending up deep in the gravel. Fong’s day got worse when he was awarded a 10 second penalty, as was Tincknell, in both cases because their teams had continued to work on the cars after the warning. Meanwhile, at the front, Harvey was now coming under intense pressure from Magnussen, who was very much quicker. However, catching him was one thing, getting past might prove a whole other issue. That was pretty much what Buller was also finding, as he passed Bottas then promptly fell off at Goddards, though he was quick enough to get back on.
At the front Magnussen was now in a position to take a look up the inside at the Hairpin to try and ease past Harvey. He couldn’t quite manage it though and had to settle back into 2nd again, while further down the order Jaafar in 7th had Nasr and Fong on him like a rash, which was how Fong managed to squeeze past the champion at the Esses after Nasr went far too wide in his efforts to pass Jaafar. It didn’t take Nasr long to reclaim the place though.
Finally on lap 8 Magnussen found the gap he was looking for, and nabbed the lead by going up the inside at the Esses. Harvey could do nothing to stop him and now had to face the prospect of being hunted down by Derani as well. Meanwhile, Snegirev was off after being passed by Idafar and Bottas and Buller were happily swapping placed in their efforts not to be last. Magnussen, meanwhile, was pulling away rapidly from the pack now he was in the lead, setting a new fastest lap as he did so. He didn’t keep it for long, Idafar going faster a lap later, and then a lap after that Bottas, who was up to 17th after Hylkema ran out of road, got the hammer down and set off after the next target like some sort of guided missile. He might not have been too happy about being back there, but he hadn’t given up hope of some sort of decent result. As the rain eased and then stopped, and the track started to dry, the Finn got ever faster, at one point proving almost 2 seconds a lap quicker than anyone else. That left Buller to fight with Hylkema and he was busy doing just that, while Bottas made short work of Ilyas for 16th shortly before the Malaysian fell off for the last time this round, and Bottas went on to pass Cunha just as easily, just as Buller finally got past Hylkema for 18th.
The order changed again after Nasr had his 3rd spin of the race and went off at Macleans. By the time he’d sorted himself out he was back down in 10th, which had not been in his plan for the weekend at all. He got a place back when Jaafar had a spin and another one when Tincknell had a bit of a revolutionary moment. It also moved Fong up to 6th, at least before his penalty was applied. Tincknell was now 10th, and Nasr was back up to 8th without actually having to do anything. Meanwhile, Derani was still impossibly close to Harvey; though maybe not quite close enough, especially as he had Svendsen-Cook sliding around behind him just waiting for it all to go wrong. At Redgate, with four laps left, Derani had a really good go at getting past but Harvey was having none of it. While Bottas rattled of yet another fastest lap, and Nasr spun once again, this time at Redgate, Harvey suddenly lost places to Derani and Svendsen-Cook after the VW engine powering his Dallara suddenly lost power. He kept going in the hope that it would come back to life, but it didn’t and he ground to a halt at the exit to the pitlane, walking back disconsolately to the garages.
And so Magnussen came round to claim another win to keep his hopes of the runner up slot in the title chase alive to the last round. Derani was delighted with 2nd, and Svendsen-Cook was 3rd, ahead of Huertas (who is 1 point ahead of Magnussen now), Pye, Fantin, Fong (once the penalty was applied), Foresti, Nasr and Jaafar. Idafar was 11th, beating off Lloyd, Bottas, Tincknell, Cunha, Buller and Hylkema.
Fastest race laps went to Bottas and Sakurai.
Weather: Grey, drizzly.
Next Rounds: Rounds 28-30, October 8th/9th, Silverstone, Northamptonshire.