Chequered flag falls on a vintage British F3 season
The Cooper Tires British Formula 3 International Series season was rounded off in fine style at Silverstone today, with Alexander Sims claiming victory in the reverse-grid sprint race and Carlos Huertas snatching a popular maiden win in the final race of the year, and the last of his British F3 career.
Championship second was settled in favour of Danish driver Kevin Magnussen, with third going to Huertas. Both will join champion Felipe Nasr next month in Spain for a prize test drive in a Renault World Series car.
Visiting driver Alexander Sims secured victory in the second Cooper Tires British Formula 3 International Series race of the weekend at Silverstone, mastering challenging circuit conditions to beat the series regulars to the top step of the podium.
The Motopark driver - joining the grid to aid his preparations for the end-of-season Macau Grand Prix - had started from the front row of the grid but saw a fast-starting Lucas Foresti blast into the lead on the opening lap. Sims fought his way up to second and then chased the Brazilian before moving ahead into top spot and was then untroubled on his run to the flag.
Rain overnight had left teams with a decision to take over what tyres to use, with all 23 cars heading out for two sighter laps on slicks - with a number then deciding to switch to wet rubber when drivers had had chance to examine the conditions.
Poleman Pietro Fantin and Sims were among those to go to wets, but it was Foresti from row three who made the best start to lead into Copse despite starting from the third row of the grid ahead of Fantin and Sims.
The Brazilian held the lead until the third lap when Sims - who had taken second from Fantin before the end of lap one - was able to make a move stick at Brooklands. That came after almost banging wheels with the Fortec man coming through Vale as the pair diced for the lead. A series of quick laps allowed the Briton to pull away to take victory by 7.897s, with Foresti settling for second place.
“We didn’t have much time on the grid to make the call on tyres but when I came round to the grid, my engineers felt the tyres and I’d not been able get any heat in them so it was clear wets were the way to go,” Sims said. “It was quite challenging initially as Foresti and Fantin were ahead of me at the start as they got away better than me, but I realised quite early that my pace was good and that we’d made the right tyre choice. It was all about managing the tyres and then when I got in front, pushing to build my lead.”
Foresti himself was comfortable in second, with fellow Brazilian Fantin seven seconds back in third place. “It was hard to decide on tyres and I was the first to go to wets, I thought I was going to be the only one at first,” he said. “I made a good start to jump to P1 and then used my head to get points. Alex isn’t fighting for points for the championship as it’s his first race of the season, but I am, so I didn’t want to do anything stupid.”
Unable to keep pace with the two cars ahead, Fantin settled for third for Hitech ahead of Menasheh Idafar, who made the most of his decision to fit wet tyres to storm through the field from the 10th row of the grid to fourth on the opening lap alone. The T-Sport driver would then hold the place through the finish ahead of Pipo Derani, who came through from eighth at the end of the opening lap to finish fifth for Double R.
Sixth went to Jack Harvey, who was the only Carlin driver to start the race on wet tyres, but championship winner Felipe Nasr ran him close, finishing 0.012s behind in seventh after a drag race to the line. Nasr had been one of the drivers to elect to stay on slicks for the race but then struggled for grip until the closing laps, when conditions finally started to run towards those drivers on dry tyres.
Race one winner Kevin Magnussen was eighth, taking the position from team-mate Carlos Huertas late on and then securing two vital bonus points by setting the fastest lap on the final tour, which has allowed him to extend his advantage over Huertas in the fight for second in the championship to 19 points ahead of the final race of the season.
Yann Cunha rounded out the top 10 for T-Sport while there were uncontested victories in the Invitational and Rookie classes for Hitech drivers Guilherme Silva and Kotaro Sakurai in 14th and 18th overall.
Hywel Lloyd and Bart Hylkema clashed at Copse on the opening lap and were forced to retire, while Fahmi Ilyas also failed to finish after spinning into the gravel on the third lap at Luffield.
Carlos Huertas brought the curtain down on his time in the Cooper Tires British Formula 3 International Series with victory in the final race of the weekend, securing his maiden victory in the series as he led a Carlin 1-2-3 in race three at Silverstone.
The Colombian started on the front row of the grid and beat team-mate Kevin Magnussen to victory, with his win also securing third, behind Magnussen, in the championship standings.
Starting alongside Magnussen in second place, Huertas made a strong start when the lights went out and seized his chance as the pair went into Copse for the first time.
Putting his car up the inside of his Danish team-mate going into the corner, Huertas emerged in the lead and then led all the way to the flag, trading tenths of a second with Magnussen throughout before the crossing the line with a winning margin of half a second.
“I’m very happy,” Huertas said. “I’ve been close a few times, especially last year when I lost two races I shouldn’t have lost. This year the opposition has been tough and I’ve been close a few times. I wanted more wins but it’s all part of the learning process and I’m very happy. I got a good start and had the inside line so I just kept it fair and then pushed to the maximum every lap.
“What I do now all depends on budget but the team working with me are looking at World Series, and that is a realistic option. I still have one more race in F3, at Macau, which is a special race with a lot of good drivers, but that’s the end for me now in British F3.”
Behind Huertas, second place was enough to allow Magnussen - son of former title winner Jan - to wrap up the runner up slot in the championship standings behind title winner Felipe Nasr. “I’m happy to be second after a tough year as I’ve had a lot of bad races this year,” he said. “I’ve learned so much and it’s been a great experience that I can take a lot from for next season. This is the first time I’ve finished on the podium without winning. That is a lesson I think: that everything counts and you need to take what you can and be patient.”
The top three was completed by Rupert Svendsen-Cook, who climbed up to fourth on the opening lap and then took third from Lucas Foresti exiting Club on the third lap. With the top two having already broken away out front, Svendsen-Cook found himself running alone on track and took the flag in a lonely third to end the year on the podium.
“I started fourth and the pace showed we could win the race,” he said. “When I got past Lucas I was closing on the guys in front but I lost too much time at the start. Considering we didn’t score points in the first two races when I qualified fourth, it had been a disaster this weekend, so to come back and finish with a podium is good.”
Fourth place in the race went to Double R’s Mitch Evans, with the championship visitor ending his weekend with a first points finish. Evans got himself into fourth when Foresti made a mistake on lap four and then saw off the challenge of Fortec’s Will Buller through the early laps, Buller even taking to the grass on the run down towards Stowe in an effort to find a way through.
Fifth for Buller was good enough to wrap up fourth in the championship standings, with the second-year driver ending the season as the top Brit in the title race and the best Mercedes-powered driver. Will’s team-mate Foresti crossed the line sixth despite damage to the nose of his car after contact early on. Foresti was handed the Sunoco Driver of the Weekend for his sterling efforts in this and the earlier races. Race two winner Alexander Sims led home Pietro Fantin, Jazeman Jaafar and Hywel Lloyd to complete the top ten.
Championship winner Felipe Nasr saw his hopes of ending the season with a win end on the opening lap when he slowed with a puncture and then clashed with Max Snegirev, putting the Russian out on the spot and forcing the Brazilian to return to the pits. Although he rejoined, the Carlin man returned to the pits to retire after eight laps.
A raft of drive-through penalties for exceeding the track limits saw a number of drivers tumble down the final order, with Scott Pye and Jack Harvey among those to fall foul of the stewards. Kotaro Sakurai, another man to serve a drive-through penalty, took an uncontested Rookie class victory, but Invitational Class driver Guilherme Silva failed to finish after spinning off on lap 13.
British Formula 3 enjoys the headlining support of Cooper Tires and is additionally backed by Sunoco Racing Fuels, Anglo American Oil Company and OAMPS.