At Spa this morning Adriano Buzaid battled stiff opposition and unbelievably difficult weather conditions to give T-Sport their first ever International Class pole position. He had to deal with both the usual British F3 International competitors...
At Spa this morning Adriano Buzaid battled stiff opposition and unbelievably difficult weather conditions to give T-Sport their first ever International Class pole position. He had to deal with both the usual British F3 International competitors and the Invitation Class runners. As these came in the shape ART Grand Prix, one of the most successful teams ever in the Euroseries F3 championship, and their two stars, Valtteri Bottas (winner of the recent annual Masters of Formula 3 event at Zandvoort) and Jules Bianchi (currently leading the series) everyone was very keen to beat them. 2nd was Daniel Ricciardo (Carlin Motorsport), the Australian clearly loving being back on a circuit he knows well, while recent new race winner Wayne Boyd brought the other T-Sport car home for 3rd. National Class pole went to Daniel McKenzie (Fortec Motorsport), the Englishman just edging out Gabriel Dias (T-Sport), the Brazilian battling himself as much as anyone else, considering that the last time he raced here the event ended in disaster and he was out of action for months with a broken back. 3rd in class was Victor Correa (Litespeed F3).
After a session where the rain was pelting down in torrents one moment and then completely stopped the next (repeat as necessary to fill half an hour) there was plenty of drama for everyone. The biggest drama was probably what happened afterwards though, and that all hinged on a small piece or two of carbon fibre. At the end of the session Bottas was fastest of the Invitation Class runners and 2nd overall, ahead of Bianchi, and Esteban Gutierrez, also driving for ART Grand Prix. However, afterwards scrutineering revealed that the gurney flaps ART were using on their front wings were not eligible under the regulations, so all three had their times disallowed and will start Sunday's race from the back of the grid. That promoted Jake Rosenzweig (Carlin Motorsport) to class pole, a long way ahead of Nico Marroc (Racing Experience) in a four year old car that usually runs in the German ATS Formel 3 Cup and left Bottas 3rd in class and 22nd overall.
Additionally we were down a car before the session even started, slow Russian Max Snegirev having decided to take no further part in the event. He crashed his Team West-Tec Dallara heavily in qualifying for the first race of the weekend and although the team were able to rebuild it, their driver appeared to have scared himself very badly in his encounter with one of the world's toughest race tracks that he went home shortly afterwards. Hopefully this may prompt a rethink about his desire to be a racing driver; he's appeared so far out of his depth this year as to be almost invisible until his usual inevitable off somewhere. It would be better (and safer) for all concerned if he didn't return.
4th at the end of the session was Renger van der Zande (Hitech Racing), the Dutchman unable to assist team-mate Walter Grubmuller to a position higher than 9th at the end of the session. 5th place went to Carlos Huertas (Raikkonen Robertson Racing), despite the Colombian managing to go off on the last lap when the weather took yet another of its unpredictable turns and started to douse the track in rain again. He'd been fighting with Riki Christodoulou over the place nearly all of the session, the Fortec Motorsport driver losing out at the last to the Double R man - at least it wasn't his "friend" Daisuke Nakajima, also of Raikkonen Robertson Racing, causing him grief this time. 7th overall was Henry Arundel (Carlin Motorsport), who was having a much better run in this session than he had in qualifying for Round 13. He ended the morning just ahead of Rosenzweig, Carlin's American (who doesn't sound anything but English) having a decent run in the Invitation Class, though he was steering clear of the "British" series side of the awning, claiming it was not so crazy in the Euroseries arm of the team.
9th was Grubmuller, while lining up behind him would be Jay Bridger (Litespeed F3/Bridger Motorsport), despite the stewards wanting a word about his lack of a rear light. It's to be assumed it was accidental because no one in their right minds would have gone out at the start of that session without all the lights they could lay their hands on. In the spray it was hard to tell if there was one car, two cars or no cars ahead...
In 11th, and continuing his run of wildly inconsistent form, was Max Chilton (Carlin Motorsport), the teenager having finished the previous session 2nd. It's somewhat mystifying, but there are days when you wonder if it's the same guy in the car from one session to the next, and clearly this was one of those days. 12th was McKenzie, ahead of Nakajima, the Japanese getting between the National Class pole man and his nearest rival, Dias. Again, Nakajima does not seem to be able to put it all together consistently, which is somewhat baffling given that he's now in his second year of F3. 15th was another enigma, this one being Stephane Richelmi (Barazi Epsilon), the Monegasque turning out to be something of a makeweight. You have to wonder whether it's him or the team, but it seems likely to be a combination of the two. Not turning up to Donington suggests a lack of commitment - not showing up till Thursday morning at Spa because he was too busy in Italy also suggests the same.
16th was Hywel Lloyd (C F Racing), which was disappointing given his surprise second row time in the earlier session, and it seems the family run team are not out of the woods yet. Whatever they'd changed on the car for the initial run here, didn't seem to be helping in the vile conditions. Just beside him on the 8th row was Marroc, the Invitation Class runner not really having much hope against the top league opposition he now found himself dealing with. The ATS Cup is regarded as a junior F3 category in comparison to the British and Euroseries, so it was brave of them to come, even if it was just to give their driver some experience round Spa for later races in his own series. Still, he did better than Victor Garcia (Fortec Motorsport), the Spaniard really struggling this time out. In 19th was Canadian Philip Major (Carlin Motorsport), only recently returned to the series and needing to build up his confidence. This might not have been the best place to be doing that. In 20th was Correa, the SLC R1 looking like a major handful in the slippery conditions, and with Correa still driving it as if it was a Formula Ford rather than giving it the smooth handling F3 cars usually need to extract the best from them. The final time went to Kevin Chen (Raikkonen Robertson Racing), the Taiwanese driver proving hopelessly off the pace, even given that he shunted midway through the session and brought out the yellows just as the track conditions improved slightly. Even had he stayed on it's unlikely he would have improved much, since at the point where he crashed out he was 13 seconds off the pace and not looking as if he had the slightest idea what to do about it.
22nd after all his times were disallowed, was Bottas, from Bianchi and Gutierrez. They weren't exactly happy about it, but the rules must be applied and although it's unlikely the illegal flaps made a huge amount of difference, their loss is the spectators gain; watching the three of them make up ground should provide plenty of entertainment for all concerned.
Weather: Extremely changeable.