At Silverstone this morning the somewhat truncated Cooper Tires British F3 International Series finally got underway, with a larger grid than many might have feared. As in previous seasons, the fastest lap time for each driver determined their position on the grid for Race 3, while the second fastest time set their places for Race 1. Invitation Class runner John Bryant-Meisner (Performance Racing Europe) proved to be a dominant force, outclassing last year’s champions Carlin, and for that matter Fortec Motorsport with apparent ease to claim pole position for Rounds 1 and 3.
For Round 3, Jordan King (Carlin) was 2nd fastest, ahead of William Buller (Fortec), the latter having jumped ship from T-Sport after disappointing results in the FIA European F3 championship. 4th (3rd in the International Class) surprisingly went to Sean Gelael (Double R Racing). For Round 1 the order was again Bryant-Meisner, from King, Nicholas Latifi (Carlin) and Felix Serralles (Fortec Motorsport).
The National Class pole went to Edward Jones for both races, the UAE-based driver in one of the many Team West-Tec cars, while Alice Powell (Mark Bailey Racing) was the sole National Class Class B entry, in a 2008 model Dallara, qualifying 16th overall for both races.
It was clear from the start of the session, in fact, that Bryan-Meisner was going to be a force to be reckoned with, as he was fastest from the end of the first flying lap, and he stayed there for the remainder of the session, despite the best efforts of all nine of the International Class boys. Latifi was 2nd in the early stages with King just behind him. Meanwhile Sun Zheng (CF Racing) led the National Class and was 10th overall.
One thing that was obvious was that Fortec were not yet on the pace, unlike Bryant-Meisner, who promptly went faster to open a 1.1 second gap to 2nd, while Jones demoted Zheng from the National Class pole and would never be challenged again. Fortec started to show signs of life about now, with Buller rocketing up to 3rd. Jann Mardenborough (Carlin) then found some time from somewhere to claim 4th at the expense of King.
And then most of the pack headed for the pits with Bryant-Meisner still comfortably ensconced at the top of the order, ahead of Latifi, Buller, Mardenborough, King, Felipe Guimaraes (Fortec Motorsport), Antonio Giovinazzi (Double R Racing), Serralles, Gelael and Jones heading up the National Class in 10th. 11th was Tatiana Calderon (Double R Racing) from Zheng, Chris Vlok (Team West-Tec), Powell, Sean Walkinshaw (Team West-Tec), Liam Venter (Team West-Tec), Roberto La Rocca (Team West-Tec) and Hu An Zhu (Team West-Tec).
As they gradually re-emerged it became increasingly obvious that no one had the answer to Bryant-Meisner, though King was still trying and improved for 2nd, while in the National Class la Rocca went ahead of Walkinshaw, though he didn’t get to stay there for long, Walkinshaw coming back at him immediately afterwards to go 16th.
At the front, Mardenborough shot up to 2nd though he was still 0.999 second off the pole pace, and anyway he was promptly displaced by Buller, who was pushed back a place in his turn when King went faster. Meanwhile, Serralles seemed to have woken up and was now the second fastest of the Fortec drivers, moving up to 6th and then a lap later to 5th. More surprising was the sudden appearance of Gelael in 4th, given his showing so far in European F3. Perhaps it’s just a matter of learning the tracks – he has, after all, been here before in said European series.
In the middle of the pack Calderon improved to 10th and thus moved ahead of National Class making the grid a lot tidier than it had been looking, while in the National Class la Rocca had moved up to 3rd in a late session charge, with Jones still leading from Vlok. As the session wound down it became clear that there would be something of a wait for the grids to be issued as the message came through that both Latifi and Mardenborough were to go immediately to race control along with their team manager.
Once the dust had settled, the starting order for Round 1 was decided. Bryant-Meisner would b on pole from King, Latifi, Serralles, Mardenborough, Buller, Guimaraes, Gelael, Giovinazzi and Calderon. 11th was Jones, from Zheng, Vlok, la Rocca, Twynham, Powell, Venter, Walkinshaw and Zhu.
For Round 3, the grid will be Bryant-Meisner, King, Buller, Gelael, Serralles, Mardenborough, Latifi, Guimaraes, Giovinazzi and Calderon. In 11th will be Jones, from Vlok, la Rocca, Zheng, Twynham, Powell, Walkinshaw, Venter and Zhu.
Weather: Cool, dry, sunny.