Lynne Waite and Stella-Maria Thomas, F3 Correspondents
Nasr and Svendsen-Cook share pole honours at Donington
- Red Flag derails chase for positions
Changes: This week we have Max Snegirev returning to Fortec Motorsport for another run round near the back of the pack, and more significantly 2011 GP3 Series champion Valtteri Bottas jumping in at Double R Racing, as he needs to do an F3 race in order to qualify for an invitation to the Macau F3 Grand Prix this year, a race with which he feels he has unfinished business.
At Donington Park this morning Felipe Nasr (Carlin) and Rupert Svendsen-Cook (Carlin) shared the honours for pole after the session was curtailed by a red flag with a little over 3 minutes left to run. With this year’s newly crowned champion Nasr on the front row for Race 3 tomorrow will be Jack Harvey (Carlin), who will also sit alongside Svendsen-Cook on the Race 1 grid. Svendsen-Cook starts 3rd for Race 1, while Kevin Magnussen (Carlin) has the other top three slot for Race 3. The Rookie Class pole goes – as there is no competition – to Kotaro Sakurai (Hitech Racing) for both races, though as he’s also dead last on the grid in 21st this is not much of a feat.
The session started very much on time with a Carlin rush for the track. Magnussen was certainly keen, but then he’s in contention for the runner up slot and there are still six races left, to be run over two weekends. With William Buller (Fortec Motorsport) only 3 points behind, and Carlos Huertas (Carlin), Jazeman Jaafar (Carlin), Svendsen-Cook and Lucas Foresti (Fortec Motorsport) all still in the running as well, it’s all to play for.
Certainly Magnussen seems to want that 2nd place as his initial assault on pole proved. However, he was rapidly displaced by Scott Pye (Double R Racing), the Australian seemingly responding to Bottas’ presence in his team. However, it was still early days, as was demonstrated by Sakurai’s presence in 2nd. Not long after that Harvey bounced up to the top of the order, at least until Jaafar and Svendsen-Cook broke the timing beam. Huertas was next on the move and was 3rd ahead of Foresti and Bottas who leapfrogged from 20th to 5th in the course of a single lap. A lap later and Pye was back to 2nd, with Jaafar hanging on to his coat-tails. Just to emphasise that we were a long way from finished yet, Bart Hylkema (T-Sport) was 3rd, which was unlikely to last. To reinforce the point Harvey was next to go to pole from Svendsen-Cook, while Foresti put in a flying lap to go 3rd, and Sakurai sank back down the order to 19th.
Times kept on coming down, and Magnussen was again back on top with a time in the 1:23s, just ahead of Svendsen-Cook, who lost out to Buller shortly after that. Bottas was having none of it, and his effort was enough for 2nd. Pye remained in 4th, while Nasr was down in 8th, but highly unlikely to remain there for long. And to prove it scant seconds later he was on pole, followed round by Jaafar.
Next it was Pye to pole again, edging ahead of Nasr by 0.002 seconds, with a 1:23.493 as opposed to 1:23:495. Bottas had slotted into 3rd now and it looked as if we were shaping up for a good battle. Hostilities temporarily abated while Menasheh Idafar (T-Sport) had a spin and caused several of the front runners to abort what should have been flying laps as he sorted himself out and got pointing the right away again. Possibly as a result the usual mid-session dive for the pits got underway immediately afterwards with Pye and Bottas coming in followed by a good dozen others. At this stage Pye was still on provisional pole, just ahead of Nasr, from Bottas, Jaafar, Magnussen, Pipo Derani (Double R Racing), Foresti, Buller, Harvey and Svendsen-Cook. 11th now was Pietro Fantin (Hitech Racing), Huertas, Snegirev, Hylkema, Yann Cunha (T-Sport), Adderly Fong (Sino Vision Racing), Idafar, Harry Tincknell (Fortec Motorsport), Hywel Lloyd (Sino Vision Racing) and Fahmi Ilyas (Fortec Motorsport). Sakurai was 21st and last – but he was the Rookie pole man!
Magnussen meanwhile was taking advantage of the relatively empty track to put in a series of rapid laps, starting with one that was good enough for 4th – he was clearly not about to pit when he’d got a nice clear track to play on. A lap later he’d snatched pole while Pye was in for tyres. Harvey improved on that though and Svendsen-Cook slotted in to 3rd, with Jaafar now 7th. A further effort from Magnussen saw him retake pole for both races but he was forced to cede one of them to Svendsen-Cook, who was again pipped to pole by Harvey just as Ilyas threw himself into the gravel at Coppice. He was so far off that it didn’t even warrant a yellow flag, and so the session continued unabated and lots of drivers emerged from the pits with lots of lovely new rubber.
The first of the improvements came from Lloyd, who moved up to 16th, just as his team-mate Fong joined the list of casualties when he bounced through the gravel at Cascades and into the wall, resulting in a briefly waved yellow at the exit from the corner. Again it was not enough to impede progress, and so everyone else settled down to push for improvements. Huertas managed to haul himself up to 8th while Nasr again went fastest of all. At this stage it was – as it has so often this year –looking like a case of “if you’re not in a Carlin car, then you’re nowhere”. Or at least not in top five anyway. Buller got an improvement but only enough for 6th, with Derani managing 9th. Bottas, on the other hand, hasn’t been paying attention to British F3 this season, so he doesn’t know about the Carlin rule, and he was able to break into the top five, at least temporarily.
A further improvement from Svendsen-Cook was enough for 3rd overall, which was pole for race 1 at this stage. Derani was another starting to show, and he barged his way up to 5th with Huertas in 4th. Meanwhile, Harvey had the hammer down and was tearing through the first two sectors, when it all came grinding to a halt when Sakurai came a cropper at the Old Hairpin, damaging the front of the car and apparently hurting his knee. Third time unlucky, the officials red flagged the session with 2:45 left on the clock, but that clock kept ticking down as the ambulance arrived and the marshals extricated the Japanese from the stricken Dallara. That was the end of a lot of people’s plans for a last minute improvement, which meant the grids were a bit odd in places.
Race 1, today, sees Svendsen-Cook on pole, from Harvey, Magnussen, Huertas, Pye, Nasr, Bottas, Jaafar, Derani and Buller. 11th will be Fantin, from Foresti, Snegirev, Tincknell, Cunha, Idafar, Lloyd, Hylkema, Fong and Ilyas. Sakurai will start 21st. For Race 3 tomorrow afternoon Nasr starts from pole, with Harvey 2nd, Svendsen-Cook 3rd, and the rest of the top ten comprising Huertas, Magnussen, Derani, Bottas, Jaafar, Buller and Pye. 11th went to Fantin, from Foresti, Snegirev, Idafar, Cunha, Tincknell, Hylkema, Lloyd, Fong and Ilyas. Sakurai will again start from 21st.
Weather: Cool, dry.