Marko Asmer was out early in the British Formula 3 championship qualifying session, and the young Estonian took the pole for Hitech Racing by a half-second margin over Sebastian Hohenthal and Atte Mustonen. As in the morning's session, the ...
Marko Asmer was out early in the British Formula 3 championship qualifying session, and the young Estonian took the pole for Hitech Racing by a half-second margin over Sebastian Hohenthal and Atte Mustonen.
As in the morning's session, the Raikkonen Robertson Racing boys led the pack out to play, this time with Jonathan Kennard and Atte Mustonen setting the initial pace, only to see team-mate Stephen Jelley leapfrog ahead of both of them. At least until Mustonen crossed the start/finish line and took it back again. Kennard was no slower either, and it looked for a short while as if it might turn into a Double R whitewash. However, that wasn't going to happen if Rodolfo Gonzalez (T-Sport) had any say in the matter as he claimed 2nd, seemingly galvanized into looking as good as he did last season by something. It could possibly be down to the presence of another Venezuelan in the paddock. However, Johnny Cecotto (Raikkonen Robertson Racing) wasn't likely to turn a wheel in this session, the Dallara so heavily damaged in qualifying for Round 11 that it was still being repaired. That's five heavy crashes in 5 sessions for Double R - they must be getting rather fed up with it by now!
A little further down the order, Sam Bird (Carlin Motorsport) was 5th ahead of National Class leader Sergio Perez (T-Sport), the Mexican again showing well in the early stages of the session. However, none of this was enough to overturn what now seems to be the natural order of things, as Marko Asmer (Hitech Racing) put in his first flying lap and claimed provisional pole.
A shuffle of the order behind the Estonian saw Bird get ahead of Mustonen, which dropped Gonzalez to 4th, while Kennard was 5th, and Niall Breen (Carlin Motorsport) went 7th, just ahead of team-mate Mario Moraes.
Asmer wasn't resting on his laurels, however, and started to really push now, going faster. The improvement in Gonzalez's performance continued, and a lap later he was 2nd. Someone normally in the top ten is Sebastian Hohenthal (Fortec Motorsport), the Swede nowhere in sight at this stage. However, of late he has tended to wait until later to push, and so it now proved, as he suddenly appeared in the top ten from almost last. It remained to be seen if he could get on terms with Asmer, who was now going even faster. It was just as well for him that he was, though, because a determined effort from Gonzalez improved on the Estonian's original time, though it wasn't enough for the Venezuelan to claim pole.
In the National Class there'd also been a change and once again "Frankie" Cheng (Performance Racing) had leaped ahead of Perez, the Chinese driver seemingly having recovered from the serious wobble in form that he suffered in Bucharest. Someone still wobbling was Moraes, though, the Carlin driver continuing as erratically as ever and heading into the gravel with what looked like suspension damage. Luckily, the other Carlin drivers tend to be far more consistent than their Brazilian team-mate (though Alberto Valerio still has his moments). Bird was still pushing on as hard as ever and was able to improve to go 2nd. That dropped Gonzalez down a place, and then Kennard went 4th. Interestingly John Martin (Alan Docking Racing) was in the top ten, his performances improving steadily as the year goes on.
Elsewhere in the order, the Ultimate Motorsport pair of Michael Devaney and Esteban Guerrieri were scrapping over 10th place, with the upper hand going to Devaney at present, but with Guerrieri then going better. At the sharp end, Mustonen went 3rd, while Greg Mansell was now 9th, having spent the greater part of the session so far in danger of dropping onto screen 2, which showed 21st and lower.
At the halfway mark Asmer was again heading the times, with Bird, Mustonen, Gonzalez, Kennard, Jelley, Hohenthal, Maro Engel (Carlin Motorsport), Walter Grubmüller (Hitech Racing) and Greg Mansell completing the top ten. Breen was now 11th, from Martin, Guerrieri, Devaney, Cheng, Max Chilton (Arena International Motorsport), Ricardo Teixeira (Performance Racing), Sean Petterson (Fluid Motorsport), Moraes and Perez.
The second half of the session was something of an anti-climax, although there were one or two improvers. The most notable of those were Kennard and Hohenthal. Kennard improved to 4th, while a determined effort on the part of Hohenthal saw the Swede on the front row, though he was still almost half a second slower than Asmer. The Estonian was sufficiently confident that he'd done all he needed to and so he pitted to wait out the remaining 10 minutes of the session rather than continue to wear out his tyres. It was a well-judged move as it turned out. Although Devaney managed to claw his way back into the top 10 (in 9th) only to be bounced down a place by Breen, that was the end of any changes in the top ten With most of the field now sitting in the pits, there were few changes left to come. One of the few came from Petterson, who managed to edge ahead of Moraes, to go 19th. A second improvement a lap later made no difference to the South African's grid position, but it must have improved his mood and confidence in his ability to sort the Lola.
Asmer claimed another pole then, from Hohenthal, Bird, Mustonen, Kennard, Gonzalez, Jelley, Engel, Breen and Devaney. Grubmüller was 11th, from Greg Mansell, Martin, Guerrieri, Valerio who got a late improvement to go 15th, Cheng in his second National Class pole of the weekend, Teixeira (also a late improver) Chilton, Petterson and Moraes. Perez was 21st, ahead of Leo Mansell (Fortec Motorsport), Francesco Castellacci (Alan Docking Racing), Michael Meadows (Raikkonen Robertson Racing), Hamad Al Fardan (Performance Racing), Alex Waters (Promatecme F3), Alistair Jackson (Raikkonen Robertson Racing), Salman Al Khalifa (T-Sport), Viktor Jensen (Alan Docking Racing) and Juan Pablo Garcia Samano (Fluid Motorsport). To nobody's surprise Cecotto didn't set a time.