Weather: Grey, dull
After the morning's mayhem we were down a car, because although Will Power (Menu Motorsport) had been passed fit and released from the medical unit, his Dallara was not in any state to qualify. He at least knew his grid position for Round 24 in advance. He would start last of all. Unfortunately, others seemed far too keen to join the Australian on the casualty list. The session was less than three minutes old when Lewis Hamilton (Manor Motorsport) made a mistake, as he later admitted, probably in a classic example of trying too hard too soon. The resulting accident was enough to bring the session to a red-flagged halt while the youngster was retrieved and the tyre barrier rebuilt yet again. The timetable had now gone to hell in the proverbial handcart, largely because there wasn't a full contingent of marshals. This means that every time there was a problem, the officials had to red flag the session while reinforcements were moved to the scene of the incident.
After a couple of flying laps, Andrew Thompson (Hitech Racing) was on pole from Billy Asaro (P1 Motorsport), Eric Salignon (also Hitech), Steven Kane (T-Sport), Ernesto Viso (P1 Motorsport) and Rizal Ramli (Team SYR). There was very little that looked normal about that top 6! The secret to getting Thompson to go faster seems to be to shout at him - or at least to get us to shout at him.
At the restart Viso was straight back out, the Venezuelan doing everything he could to try and get the edge in the Scholarship Class title battle. He was closely followed out of the pits by the Menu drivers, Robert Doornbos and Will Davison, with Doornbos keen to make up for his disappointing morning session, and Davison after another front row slot. While they were pressing on determinedly, Ronnie Bremer (Carlin Motorsport) was also showing strongly, though he seemed to have an alarming twitch. Thompson was still hanging on to pole position, while Viso was 3rd overall, which he really had no business being. There was a quick reshuffle when Doornbos went fastest of all, but Thompson took it back again almost immediately. With Salignon alongside him, things were looking good for Hitech. Asaro was keeping Nelson Piquet Jr. (Piquet Sports) out of 3rd place, and Viso and Bremer had the 3rd row to themselves. Things started to look even better for Hitech when their 3rd driver, Danny Watts, moved into 3rd place. However, it didn't last long. Robert Dahlgren (Fortec Motorsport) grabbed pole, while Viso temporarily occupied 2nd only to have Doornbos take it away from him. In his turn Salignon raised the pace, but he had reckoned without Doornbos. The Dutchman wasn't finished and moved back into the top slot, being joined by Alan van der Merwe (Carlin), who had finally decided to join in. This was briefly to the detriment of teammate Jamie Green, who managed to get in the way of the South African and was pushed aside roughly for his pains.
It now looked as if you needed to be a Dutch speaker to be on the front row, rather than a Hitech driver. Perhaps Piquet could make up the full set (his mother is Dutch and he has a Dutch passport as well as a Brazilian one)? He certainly wasn't showing much sign of it at present though. At the moment it was still Doornbos from van der Merwe, Dahlgren, Salignon, and - inevitably - Richard Antinucci (Promatecme F3) and Ronnie Bremer. The mystery of why those two insist on sticking together has never been solved, but as it usually ends in disaster they ought to stop it. Matters were made worse this time by the insistence of Michael Keohane (Carlin Motorsport) that he too belonged in that cluster. The potential for mayhem was immense.
Piquet must have got wind of the Dutch-speaking criterion now, because he moved back to 3rd, behind Doornbos and van der Merwe. Salignon was now 4th, with Clivio Piccione (Manor Motorsport) in 5th ahead of the Richard and Ronnie Roadshow.
It wasn't long before the linguistic pattern fell apart. It was all down to Davison, who presumably only speaks Strine and English. The Menu man was now 3rd, Will really wanting to prove that the morning's effort was no coincidence.
Watts was still attempting to get himself back up there, but he seemed very ragged through most of the corners. It really wasn't looking good, but then neither was Green. Perhaps the trouble with Green is that he has the talent but sometimes doesn't have the head for the level of competition that's found in F3. Or maybe he just needs to stop allowing too many people to mess with his head and tell him what to do. His concentration seemed to come back as the session drew to its close though.
With less than 10 minutes to go, Doornbos was still heading up the list, while Piquet was now 2nd, from Davison, van der Merwe, Asaro and Antinucci. Asaro was obviously back in the hunt and was looking to impress anyone who might consider giving him a drive or even a budget for next year. However, having been up to 4th he lost places first to van der Merwe and then to Bremer, who was now 5th and actually looking pretty good this weekend.
Trying to break up the party now, Watts was really on the edge as he went for a time, while Green finally got his head down for 3rd. Davison now edged Piquet out to make it an all Menu front row, while van der Merwe and Green were 3rd and 4th. Further changes were put on hold temporarily when the red flags had to be waved one more time. The guilty party this time was T-Sport's Karun Chandhok. At least this time the clean up operations didn't take too long and the final section of the session was able to begin without a really serious delay. With very little time left now it was highly unlikely that there would be much in the way of change, and so it proved. It didn't stop Piquet from snatching his second pole of the day though, while Thompson was briefly 5th. He couldn't quite hang on to it but he was still in the top ten when the flag dropped at the end of the session.
Justin Sherwood (Performance Racing) was the next driver to have a major spin, but at least all that happened was that he went right through the Paddock gravel and emerged at the far side of it without hitting anything. As he was able to get going again, there was no need to stop the session. Keohane was also looking very wild, but he too was able to avoid hitting anything. It really was the end of the changes, with the exception of Asaro, who put in a last ditch dive for it and grabbed 3rd place.
And so, for the final race of the season, the order was Piquet, from Doornbos, Asaro, Green, Salignon, van der Merwe, Davison, Thompson and Dahlgren. 10th was Bremer, with his best friend in the whole world (!), Antinucci right behind him, and Keohane in 12th. Watts, despite his best endeavours, ended up in 13th, just ahead of Fairuz Fauzy (Promatecme F3). 15th, and in Scholarship Class pole position, was Viso, with Piccione and Robbie Kerr (Alan Docking Racing) separating him from Kane and Chandhok. 19th was Scott Speed (Alan Docking Racing) and Tor Graves (Manor Motorsport) was 20th. Sherwood was 21st from Ramli, Masato Shinoyama (Team SYR), and Hamilton, of course, was last.
-Stella-Maria Thomas and Lynne Waite