This afternoon at Rockingham, returnee Marcus Ericsson (Raikkonen Robertson Racing) scored pole position in his second session of the day. The Swede, who is currently leading the Japanese F3 championship, made it perfectly clear why the team brought him in for this race. Just behind him on the grid were Riki Christodoulou (Fortec Motorsport) and Renger van der Zande (Hitech Racing). The National Class pole once again went the way of Gabriel Dias (T-Sport), from Daniel McKenzie (Fortec Motorsport) and Victor Correa (Litespeed F3).
Although the end result proved interesting enough, it's fair to say that if the morning session was dull, this was even worse, with everyone showing a pronounced reluctance to get out and try for a time. There were one or two exceptions, among them Christodoulou who had been notably tardy in the first session. He shared the track for some time with just four others, Adriano Buzaid (T-Sport), Jay Bridger (Litespeed F3), the inevitable - and inevitably very slow - Max Snegirev (West-Tec) and Henry Arundel (Carlin Motorsport). Buzaid wasn't hanging about, getting ahead of the rest straight, getting ahead while he could. It was Buzaid from Christodoulou and Arundel now, but then Max Chilton (Carlin Motorsport) ventured out to play and shot straight to pole with a time in the 1.12s. He was about half a second slower than in the morning session, which gave some idea of how much hotter it had become.
Correa was the next to join in, appearing on National Class pole after his first proper timed lap. Boyd moved up to 2nd and half the cars on the track dived into the pits. We now had just three cars circulating, which allowed Buzaid to move up to 2nd while Dias bumped Correa off class pole. And for what felt like the longest time imaginable, nothing at all happened and everyone sat under umbrellas in the pits.
Finally nerves cracked and they headed out, and with 13 minutes left everyone except Hywel Lloyd (C F Motorsport) was out and running. With so little time left there was a great deal of effort being put in. Dias was certainly trying hard, and was soon firmly ensconced on National Class pole and to emphasise his speed was now 4th overall, which was likely to upset some of the Championship Class runners if he stayed there. Bridger, meanwhile, was working his way through a series of technical problems, and could consider himself to be lucky to be as far up as 7th. It probably wouldn't last either.
Someone who now seemed to think he'd done all he could with the available tyres was Chilton, who dived into the pits and clambered out of the car. While he was doing that, Victor Garcia (Fortec Motorsport) pulled a bit of a surprise by grabbing 5th overall. The Spanish youngster seemed to struggle at Oulton and at Silverstone, but now at Rockingham he looked far more comfortable and the times seemed to reflect this. Of course there were various dangerous individuals still to record competitive times and they would almost certainly push him down the order, but even so it was progress.
Leading the dangerous individuals charge was Nick Tandy (JTR), whose first proper lap put him 11th with less than nine minutes of the session left to run. Ericsson was another and shortly after Tandy's appearance the Swede snatched 2nd.
Of the less than dangerous individuals, Stephane Richelmi (Barazi Epsilon) appeared just inside the top ten, which was a bit of a shock. However, he would start to slip down when the likes of van der Zande recorded times. As in fact it proved. Van der Zande moved to pole, though he was demoted by Arundel of all people. Rockingham often throws up odd results, and maybe this would prove to be one of them...
Pole seemed unlikely though, especially if Ericsson had anything to do with it, and he did. A lap later he was back on pole, just as Buzaid had an off at Turn 3 and had to call in to the pits for a new nose. There was further activity from Daniel Ricciardo (Carlin Motorsport), the championship leader having claimed his first F3 pole in the morning session. However, things didn't seem to be going so well this time round and his first real flying lap moved him to 10th, which would not please the Australian. Especially as his main rival in the points table Tandy, was now 5th, while van der Zande, the only other man to win a race so far this season, was 2nd. A lap later and Ricciardo had improved to go 6th, but it was all still very close at the top, and he wasn't yet quite quick enough.
Meanwhile, Buzaid rejoined the fray but not before one of the T-Sport guys had to jump up and down on the new bodywork to get it to fit. The wonders of modern technology, eh? It wasn't doing much for his grid position either.
Now only Christodoulou seemed to be on the move, first claiming 7th, and then, a lap later, 2nd, while most of the rest of the field were in the pits. He wasn't the only one moving up the order but he was the one doing it most effectively. Tandy reclaimed 5th having been pushed back down the order, while Daisuke Nakajima (Raikkonen Robertson Racing) again benefited from Ericsson's knowledge to grab 6th. And that was it really. Ricciardo continued to circulate but it wasn't doing him any good, and you got the feeling that Carlin may have been trying to be clever but had ended up shooting themselves in the foot instead. When the flags finally fell to end the session, Ricciardo was rather more distant than you might have expected.
And so Ericsson claimed pole, from Christodoulou, van der Zande, Arundel, Tandy, Chilton, Nakajima, Ricciardo, Buzaid and Boyd. Walter Grubmuller (Hitech Racing) was 11th, ahead of Lloyd, Dias, Carlos Huertas (Raikkonen Robertson Racing), Garcia, McKenzie, Richelmi, Bridger, Correa and Snegirev.
Fine, hot, sunny.
Track 40.6C, Air 20.7C.