The weather was not looking at all good for the second qualifying session of the day at Donington. A short, sharp shower beforehand had served to make the track slippery but not actually wet, and with more rain seemingly headed for us at high...
The weather was not looking at all good for the second qualifying session of the day at Donington. A short, sharp shower beforehand had served to make the track slippery but not actually wet, and with more rain seemingly headed for us at high speed, there was a feeling of urgency in the pit lane. Ernesto Viso (P1 Racing) went out early, took one look at conditions and dived straight back into the pits! He could hardly be blamed for that. Mind, getting into the pits wasn't that easy either; a Ferrari had expired during the GT session, and for some reason had not been removed. The result was that everyone had to jink round it. It hardly seemed a safe thing to do.
His teammate, Adam Carroll, was not so shy. He was keen to repeat his pole claiming exploits of the morning, and was very soon on the pace again. Nelson A Piquet (Piquet Sports) didn't get into his stride quite as effectively, which left Carroll occupying pole, from di Grassi (Hitech Racing). He was soon displaced by Will Power (Alan Docking Racing), but Piquet wouldn't let things lie. He started his next lap in 15th place and ended it on the 2nd row. Scholarship Class pace setter, Ryan Lewis (T- Sport) was well and truly on the pace, in 3rd overall, though there would be many reshuffles before it was all over. Clivio Piccione (Carlin Motorsport) was the next to try for pole, taking Will Davison (Menu Motorsport) with him. Fairuz Fauzy, in the second Menu car, was 3rd with Alvaro Parente (Carlin) now 4th. Danilo Dirani (Carlin) was again looking wild, as he had in the morning, but he set temporary pole. Dirani's time was only a 1.04, though, so there was clearly far more to come yet. Just to prove it, Piquet edged ahead again, from Carroll, while Danny Watts (Promatecme F3) dragged the Lola-Dome up to 3rd after the team found and replaced a broken hub, which had been badly affecting handling. Viso was showing every sign of wanting to join in again, and was now attacking ferociously, while Carroll demoted Piquet again. Lewis was keeping out of it, perhaps wisely deciding that the Championship Class struggle was none of his business. He was probably right; he dropped down to 9th.
The weird thing about this session was that although there were only 23 cars out there, they were all bunched up and complaining of traffic. At least it proved that nothing much changes in Formula 3. And then we got close to another stoppage when the Fortec car of James Walker got stuck somewhere it shouldn't have been - at least this time the officials waited to see if they could shift the car first before red-flagging the session. And then the threatened rain started to fall, except that once again it wasn't raining properly, just spitting. The clouds looked unbelievably ominous though. Watts was taking no chances and dived straight into the pits, leaving others to wait it out.
The Australians were scrapping over 5th, the decision just going to Power over Davison at this point, while Parente was still pressing on regardless. Piquet had moved back to 2nd, while Carroll pitted for new tyres. This would turn out to be the wrong decision, but he had to try. The rain was still threatening, but not actually hitting properly, though it was making life difficult. Stephen Jelley (Performance Racing) was now 2nd in the Scholarship Class, though he couldn't quite get on terms with Lewis, despite the latter dropping his wheels in the dirt regularly. Elsewhere, T- Sport's Karun Chandhok had to pit for a new damper spring. All of this didn't seem to bother Piquet, who saw his chance and took it, seizing pole from Carroll at the halfway stage. However, this was not over yet. Judging by the fact that Power was now 5th, from Parente, it was beginning to look as if you needed a name starting with P. Marko Asmer (Hitech) wasn't blessed like that, but the Estonian was looking steady and getting on with the job, slotting into the top 10 as if he'd been there all his life. At the very top, Viso enjoyed a brief tenure on pole, but Piquet wasn't going to give ground to any South American. At least the Venezuelan was briefly the faster of the two P1 drivers, heading Carroll. Parente, Dirani, James Rossiter (Fortec), Power, Piccione, di Grassi and Fauzy.
In the Scholarship Class, Barton Mawer (Performance Racing) took a turn in the lead but didn't get to keep it for long before Lewis took it back.
After pitting for tyres, Carroll was soon back on the pace, as was Watts. Neither of them seemed to be a match for Parente, however, the Portuguese raising the bar significantly. Piquet didn't like that one little bit and, after a stop for fresh rubber, went out to try and take it back. With clumps of cars rushing round together, it wasn't easy to emerge safely from the pits, and Viso was stuck for quite a while just for the opportune moment. When he didn't find it, he settled for barging his way out, which is not the way to make new friends!
With time running out, and the threat of a downpour ever-present, Parente increased his pace and started to really press on, only to end up skittering through the Redgate gravel as a result. Meanwhile, Watts was up to 7th, which was an improvement, over the morning's results. Although he's scheduled to be in the car until Knockhill, Watts needs to get results to keep the people at Lola interested.
With 10 minutes left to run, the rain was still falling but it was also still negligible. Parente was still leading from Piquet, di Grassi and Carroll, but Carroll was showing signs of being about ready to slam in another very fast lap. However, he timed it badly, as the rain chose that moment to intensify. At the front, the Carlin boys were still on the same rubber they'd started the session with, which was beginning to look as if it could be an excellent strategy for them. Piquet, meanwhile, picked up the pace, while Davison also improved. No one was getting close to Parente though, and it seemed the weather was playing into the Portuguese's hands too. Viso was getting desperate now, and he dived into the pits for a change in tyre pressure and a wing adjustment, before returning to the fray to try and get on terms with Parente. It isn't going to be easy because Parente looks very comfortable and confident where he is, despite suggestions that he's more than a bit nervous. With less than 5 minutes to go, Fauzy hauls himself into the top 10 at last. Davison manages to move up the order too, as does Watts. It's all down to when they changed tyres. In 3rd place, Carroll pitted, giving up the attempt (whether of his own volition or on team orders) and promptly lost out to Piccione, and then to Piquet. He'd been 2nd when he pulled in and was now 4th. It wasn't a good decision. Watts, meanwhile, improved again to go 5th, only to end up getting pushed out by Piccione on the same lap that cost Carroll his place. With Dirani now 5th, Piquet snatched 2nd from Piccione, and immediately afterwards slowed right down, clearly deciding there was nothing left in his Avons. The P1 pit call was not looking so clever at this point, with Carroll stuck in 4th and Viso a disappointing 10th. And that was it.
Parente was on pole, from Piquet and Piccione, ahead of Carroll, Dirani, Fauzy, di Grassi, Power, Watts and Viso. Rossiter was 11th, from Davison, Chandhok, Andrew Thompson (Hitech), Asmer and Walker. Lewis had the Scholarship Class pole Jelley, while Ronayne O'Mahony (Fortec), Mawer, Adam Langley-Khan (Alan Docking Racing), Vasilije Calasan (Promatecme F3), and last - but not least - Ajit Kumar (Mango Racing).
By: Stella-Maria Thomas and Lynne Waite