Great day for Carlin: Magnussen wins Feature Race at Rockingham and Nasr crowned 2011 Champion
Felipe Nasr (Carlin) may not have won the feature race at Rockingham today but he didn’t need to. He finished 3rd to take the 2011 British F3 International Series title, the 4th consecutive title to go the way of Carlin. Ahead of him he allowed Pietro Fantin (Hitech Racing) to slip past and set about leader Kevin Magnussen (Carlin) knowing that it didn’t matter one way or the other; if he stayed where he was he would be champion. The Rookie Class was won again by Kotaro Sakurai (Hitech Racing) by a long way over Luca Orlandi (Team West-Tec F3), the gentleman driver finding Formula 3 to be a very tough proposition.
At the start the field lined up on wet weather tyres despite the fact that the rain had finally abated as they emerged from the garages. The racing line was still exceptionally wet and although it wasn’t raining, it was looking very black in the direction the weather was coming from. In fact it was very slippery indeed as Nasr demonstrated when he spun at Brook on the formation lap. It was a bit embarrassing for a man in pursuit of the title, but he was able to get going again before the course car came past and so was able to take station on the front row of the grid alongside Fantin.
At the start Fantin seemed to get away well but then bogged down, at which point Magnussen saw his chance and went round the outside at Deene hairpin, dragging Nasr with him to demote the pole man to 3rd. Elsewhere William Buller (Fortec Motorsport) was edged out by Rupert Svendsen-Cook (Carlin) but gained the place back when Svendsen-Cook ran wide at Tarzan and rattled through the gravel trap emerging back in 11th. Meanwhile, at Chapman, Hywel Lloyd (Sino Vision Racing) and Menasheh Idafar (T-Sport) tangled necessitating a Safety Car period while their cars were dragged to a place of safety.
At this point Magnussen was leading Nasr, from Fantin, Jack Harvey (Carlin), Buller, Jazeman Jaafar (Carlin), Pipo Derani (Double R Racing), Harry Tincknell (Fortec Motorsport), Scott Pye (Double R Racing) and Carlos Huertas (Carlin). Svendsen-Cook was 11th just ahead of Adderly Fong (Sino Vision Racing), Fahmi Ilyas (Fortec Motorsport), Lucas Foresti (Fortec Motorsport), Bart Hylkema (T-Sport), Yann Cunha (T-Sport), Sakurai and Orlandi who was already half a lap distant and didn’t seem able to catch up even with the pack slowed by the Safety Car.
While the Safety Car period continued Ilyas pitted for a new nose and rejoined at the back of the pack, and then finally they went racing again. At the restart Magnussen backed them up massively to control things as he saw fit. As they screamed over the line again, Buller had a go at Harvey who tried to resist, staying ahead at Turn 1 but unable to hang on into Deene while in the mid-field Svendsen-Cook had gone off terminally. As a result Fong had to take the long way back onto the racing line, while ahead of them Jaafar nipped by to demote Harvey to 5th, a move that seemed to prompt Derani to throw himself off at Gracelands. The track side was starting to look more like a car park, a situation that was made worse by Cunha falling into the gravel at Tarzan and ending up stuck.
That meant a second Safety Car period, with Magnussen losing all the ground he’d made up over Nasr. Fastest lap or no fastest lap he had to slow right down again and lead the pack round patiently. Nasr was still 2nd from Fantin, Buller, Jaafar, Harvey, Tincknell, Pye, Huertas and Hylkema. 11th was now Foresti from Fong, Ilyas, Sakurai and Orlandi. There were no other survivors and we still had a good 25 minutes of the race left to run. At this rate there might be no one left by the chequered flag.
Magnussen again forced them all to back right off at the restart and again led easily into the first flying lap. The only move that occurred was when Pye took a good hard look at Tincknell, who defended hard at Deene but then slid wide and let Pye through. The Australian pulled away and started to close on Harvey while Huertas now moved into position on Tincknell’s rear wing. At the front Fantin was close to Nasr but not quite close enough.
A lap later though and Nasr went wide at Deene, letting Fantin through. Nasr clearly couldn’t see the point of making a fight of it and risking not scoring enough points to guarantee the title. Meanwhile, team-mate Huertas was in trouble, missing the hairpin completely and ending up halfway to Turn 2 down the escape road before he was able to turn it round and rejoin. He wasn’t having the best of days and it was looking pretty definite now that he had no chance of stopping Nasr’s title run. Now Fantin was no longer bottled up behind the yellow car he was flying, setting a new fastest lap of the race as he chased down Magnussen to try and challenge for the lead.
With ten minutes left, Jaafar was also getting close to Buller, while Foresti was starting to look quite wild as he tried to find a way – any way - passed Hylkema. In contrast Nasr was beautifully controlled and calm in 3rd. Someone who wasn’t at all calm was Fong, who pulled off at the entry to Graceland. For a brief moment it looked like we might have yet another safety car, but as it turned out there didn’t seem to be an immediate problem, so the race continued to the relief of all concerned. Foresti was still looking very wild, and a spin at Deene that cost him two places didn’t do anything to improve his day. Instead of scoring a point or two he was now pointless and less than happy. To continue on the charging Brazilians theme, Fantin was now really close to Magnussen but he then ran wide at Tarzan and dropped back, having to do it all again a lap later. Even catching and lapping Orlandi at Brook didn’t cause too many problems for the leaders, but on the last lap Fantin again caught Magnussen on the run to Deene and again lost ground on the way out, finally admitting defeat and settling in to 2nd.
Magnussen was an almost overlooked winner, with Fantin behind him as the celebrations broke out around them, 3rd placed Nasr, now champion for 2011. Buller held onto 4th despite a last lap lunge from Jaafar, while Harvey was 6th from Pye, Tincknell, Hylkema and Ilyas. Huertas was 11th, just outside the points, from Foresti, Sakurai and Orlandi who finished a lap down.
Fastest race laps went to Fantin and Sakurai.
Weather: Drying but with more rain threatening.
Next Rounds: Rounds 25-27, September 24th/25th, Donington Park, Leicestershire.