At Silverstone this afternoon history was made with James Calado (Carlin) taking his first victory in the British F3 International Series, in what was the first race ever run on the new Silverstone Arena circuit. It wasn't an easy win as he had to hold off Oliver Webb (Fortec Motorsport) for most of the 15 laps in what was a far more exciting race than we usually see at Silverstone. 3rd was Daisuke Nakajima (R?ikk?nen Robertson Racing). The National Class was won by James Cole (T-Sport) ahead of Luiz Razia (Team West-Tec). The Invitation Class went the way of rapid Mexican Esteban Gutierrez (ART Grand Prix), who was a long way ahead of team-mates Alexander Sims and Jim Pla by the end of the race.
At the start there was high drama and what could have been a very serious incident as the formation lap started. Felipe Nasr (R?ikk?nen Robertson Racing) failed to get off the line, his engine giving out a huge cloud of smoke. The rest of the field all veered to the right to avoid the stranded Brazilian, with one exception. Menasheh Idafar (T-Sport), on National Class pole back on row 7 seemed not to notice anything untoward and cannoned straight into the back of the Dallara, pitching the rear end up into the air. Luckily he didn't go right underneath Nasr's car, but both Dallaras sustained major damage and as the drivers were led away from the wreckage the marshals leapt into action. It didn't take long to get everything cleared away and eventually the remaining 24 cars settled back into place on the grid. The race was shortened by two minutes and the lights finally went out to start the first ever race on this new track.
His concentration not wavering, Calado made a great start while alongside the empty space left by Nasr Gabriel Dias (Hitech Racing) bogged down and dropped several places to Jean-Eric Vergne (Carlin) among others. He wasn't the only one not to get away well, with Rio Haryanto (CF Racing with Manor) stalling on the grid and Kevin Chen (Sino Vision Racing) starting from the pit lane. The excitement wasn't over either; Vergne promptly ran wide and that was all Nakajima needed, the Japanese seeing his chance and going through to claim 3rd from the Frenchman. Behind them there was a brawling, squabbling mob. The upshot was that Hywel Lloyd (C F Racing with Manor) got on the dirt and spun himself right out of contention. At the front, Webb was now all over the leader and looking for any possible way past Calado. These two know each other of old, and Calado was having none of it; it didn't stop Webb from trying though. Vergne was coming under pressure from Carlos Huertas (Raikkonen Robertson Racing), but luckily for the Frenchman, the Colombian had an ART car all over him for 5th, Gutierrez having made a stunning start. Meanwhile, William Buller (Hitech Racing) was trying to get back at Sims at Stowe under braking for 11th but couldn't quite make it.
Calado was pushing on at the front and was rewarded with a fastest lap, as Webb kept moving around behind him to in an effort to pressure him into a mistake. The 2nd placed man was trying all sorts but it just wasn't quite working and he kept having to slot back in to place.
At this point, despite various drivers' best efforts there was very little in the way of overtaking, through there were plenty of attempts. The one man making forward progress was Pla, though he was coming from an awful long way back in 19th. As the race progressed, Webb continued to push Calado, and Sims was now all over Buller to try and get 11th back. There was a small - if slightly pointless - scrap going on for 13th too, with Alex Brundle (T-Sport), Lucas Foresti (Carlin) and Daniel McKenzie (Fortec Motorsport) in a tight-knit group that would eventually go Brundle's way.
By half distance the leaders were closing on the backmarkers, and as those backmarkers included Chen there was a possibility that they might have problems getting through. However, that was still to come. Meanwhile, in the pack, Sims dived past Buller for 11th. Buller seemed to decide it was better not to make an issue of it. At the front Webb was still looking hard and making life very tough for Calado in the twistier sections of the track where he would close right up on the leader. All of this also meant that Nakajima was catching the two of them, and was dragging Vergne in his wake.
At Village Webb again got right up close, jinking to the outside at Brooklands, but Calado was always in the right place to block him. He would need luck as well as strategy if he was going to take the lead. As they came up behind Chen, Nakajima caught up with the lead pair and everyone watching held their breath. As it turned out Chen behaved impeccably and got out of the way, moving off the racing line to let the top four through. As soon as they were all clear of the Chinese driver, Webb was back on Calado's case, swarming all over him but it still wasn't enough. Calado wasn't the only one coming under pressure. Gutierrez was again all over Huertas with four laps left - they'd dropped back a little from what was now a 16-wheel train at the front, but it wasn't any less exciting for that.
With five minutes left some of the pressure eased, after Adderly Fong (Sino Vision Racing) went off with less than five minutes left. The resulting yellows meant that although Nakajima was right with Webb, he wasn't able to go for it. Fong eventually got going again and promptly found the leaders all over him on what would turn out to be the last lap of the race. He moved over and let them though and that was the end of the excitement, despite Calado finding that his engine was starting to stutter in the closing stages, and pretty much everyone ending up with worn left front tyres.
And so Calado claimed his first win in the category, 1 second ahead of Webb. Nakajima came in 3rd from Vergne, Huertas, Invitation Class winner Gutierrez, Jazeman Jaafar (Carlin), Dias, Adriano Buzaid (Carlin) and Rupert Svendsen-Cook (Carlin). 11th was Sims, from Buller, Brundle, Foresti, McKenzie, Pla, Cole (winning the National Class despite the over- excitement of the formation lap when "there were bits of car everywhere!"), Jay Bridger (Litespeed F3), Max Snegirev (Fortec Motorsport) and Razia. 21st was Rio Haryanto (C F Racing with Manor), ahead of team-mate Lloyd, Fong and Chen.
Fastest laps went to Calado, Cole and Gutierrez.
Weather: Sunny, dry, cold.
See also: Calado on pole twice at Silverstone