By Lynne Waite and Stella-Maria Thomas
- Felip Nasr wins two races and takes early championship lead
- Rupert Svendsen-Cook wins Race 2
- Bart Hylkema leads the Rookie Class
2011 Cooper Tires British F3 International Series
Rounds 1, 2 and 3, Monza, Italy, April 16th/17th 2011
Weather: Hot, sunny.
The opening weekend of the British F3 International Series, run on the Grand Prix circuit at Monza in Italy provided thrills and spills aplenty as 21 drivers fought for dominance on the track. The man who emerged from all the mayhem with his reputation massively enhanced was Carlin’s Felipe Nasr, who drove astonishingly well and ended the weekend with a substantial championship lead. In the Rookie Class, Bart Hylkema (T-Sport) had things pretty much his own way, after his only rival had a torrid practice session and first race and was forced to sit out the rest of the weekend.
On Saturday afternoon the opening round of the 2011 season went to Nasr after a dramatic race that so nearly produced a major surprise, and that did produce chaos and mayhem aplenty. He was followed home by Jaafar and Huertas for a Carlin lockout, the latter pair separated by a hair’s breadth when they crossed the line to take the chequered flag. The Rookie Class was won by Hylkema after an eventful 30 minutes that saw him get an unexpected view of Sakurai as the Japanese launched himself into a spectacular exit from the race.
Even before the start there was drama, with a number of drivers failing to make the grid before the pitlane closed. Among them was pole man Buller, who wasn’t exactly pleased about the mistake that effectively handed pole position to Magnussen, thus leaving the rookie to start his first British F3 Series race all alone from the front row. Buller and the other five (Lloyd, Cunha, Tincknell, Fong and Ilyas) would have to wait until the 15 cars that were lined up on the grid in good time had all gone before they could join in. As it turned out, that might have been the safest option. As the pack screamed away there were some over-optimistic moves, not least of them the one that saw Derani sideswipe Harvey, putting himself out on the spot and necessitating the first Safety Car deployment of the season before the field had even reached the first corner.
The leader as they settled in for a couple of laps was Jaafar, with Magnussen in 2nd, from Foresti, Christodoulou, Huertas, Nasr, Svendsen-Cook, Fantin, Pye and Idafar. Mendez was 11th, just ahead of Sakurai, Hylkema, Buller, Lloyd, Cunha, Tincknell, Fong and Ilyas. Harvey, meanwhile, limped into the pits and stayed there.
At the restart Magnussen threw caution to the winds and made a bid for the lead, passing Jaafar and towing Foresti with him, while Christodoulou also tried to make up ground, but couldn’t quite make it stick. With Fong setting an early and highly unlikely fastest lap, there was chaise once more in the middle of the field, Hylkema had passed Sakurai when the Japanese came back at him and made a nonsense of it, riding up over the Dutchman’s wheel and launching himself only to come back down in the gravel, The Safety Car was back out before it had even had a chance to come to halt. Hylkema dragged his T-Sport car back to the pits and the lads set to with a will to try and get him back out. He needed to complete 70% of the race distance to score any points and with his only rival out of the race, they were keen to get him back out there.
As Magnussen slowed down from the new fastest lap of the race, he was followed by Foresti, Jaafar, Huertas, Christodoulou, Nasr, Svendsen-Cook, Idafar, Fantin and Pye. Buller had recovered to 11th, ahead of Mendez, Lloyd, Cunha, Tincknell, Fong and Ilyas while Hylkema was still in the pits.
This time at the restart Huertas gave Jaafar a bit of a fright though he didn’t quite manage to get past the Malaysian, while at the front Magnussen attempted to break away from Foresti, and for a while it looked as if the Dane might manage it. However, Foresti wasn’t that easily dissuaded and he started to claw back the gap almost immediately, helped by the fact that Huertas and Jaafar now had Nasr to worry about, the Brazilian seemingly unfazed by the fact that his dash display had failed on the out lap so he had no real information to hand. With lots of chicane cutting going on, from Fong in particular though he wasn’t the only one, this race wasn’t calming down any, and Nasr soon barged past Huertas and set about Jaafar. Meanwhile, Christodoulou dropped a place to Svendsen-Cook and an unhappy Buller was finally in the top 10, up in 9th place, while Hylkema was back out in an ill-handling Dallara. On lap 9 Nasr was through for 3rd place and only had Foresti and Magnussen to worry about. They were so wrapped up in their own fight that they may not even have noticed the bright yellow presence just behind them, as Felipe lurked and waited for the mistake he was pretty sure was coming.
In the midfield Fantin tangled with Pye and was gone, while the Australian dropped down the order, and lo and behold we had yet another Safety Car. This was getting more than slightly silly, although Magnussen may have welcomed the break given he had Foresti and Nasr all over him now. Of the survivors, Magnussen was still leading from Foresti, Nasr, Jaafar, Huertas, Svendsen-Cook, Christodoulou, Buller, Idafar and Mendez. 11th was Lloyd, holding off Ilyas, Tincknell, Cunha, Fong, the stricken Pye, and Hylkema who was a long way distant from the pack now and probably happier - as well as safer - that way,
Yet again the restart provided more excitement than might strictly considered necessary when Nasr made a dive up the inside of Foresti and it all got a bit fraught at the front as they sorted themselves out. It seemed to cause Foresti to panic a bit and he had another go at Magnussen, only for it all to go badly wrong. This was the moment when Nasr’s waiting game paid off as the pair ahead of him speared off the track, Foresti managing to slot back into the mid-field while Magnussen coaxed his damaged Dallara round to the pits for a short repair stint. All of that let Nasr into the lead and he wasn’t about to let it go again. Behind him Jaafar and Huertas were still slugging it out, more like mortal enemies than team-mates. It was all highly entertaining stuff for everyone apart from the team members. Buller was also providing solid amusement for the watching masses, and battled his way through to 4th before the end of the race, a sterling effort considering how badly wrong his race had gone in the early stages.
Meanwhile, a delighted Nasr came home to claim the maximum available points, with Jaafar and Huertas crossing the line so close together it took the computerised timing system to confirm that Jaafar had just pipped the Colombian to the place by 5/100ths of a second, the nearest thing to a dead heat it’s possible to imagine in F3 these days. Buller hung onto 4th from Svendsen-Cook, Christodoulou, Lloyd, Idafar, Foresti and Mendez, 11th was Tincknell, from Ilyas, Fong, Cunha, Magnussen and Hylkema.
Fastest laps went to Nasr and Hylkema.
The winner of Round 2 of the 2011 British F3 International Series was Svendsen-Cook, from Nasr and Buller. The Rookie Class winner was Hylkema.
The early morning sprint race (20 minutes) proved to be slightly less of a crash fest than Round 1, though it still had its moments. At least this time all but two of the 20 cars that started the race made it to the chequered flag, although some of them looked more than a little second hand by the time they got there. Not as second-hand as that of Sakurai though, the Fortec Motorsport Rookie Class runner having cracked the tub in Saturday’s flying display. The remaining cars lined up to take the start and it was pole man Christodoulou who pulled away into the lead, despite some fairly spectacular bumping and barging that went on in his slipstream. Svendsen-Cook managed to hang onto 2nd while Buller made up for his earlier disappointment by grabbing 3rd with both hands. It didn’t take Svendsen-Cook long to dispense with Christodoulou however, and the blue and white car was soon edging away from the squabbling mob behind him. Buller had a go too, and was briefly up to 2nd but a short cut across the chicane saw him drop back again, as well as letting Jaafar through. The Malaysian seemed to be carrying some front end damage but it didn’t seem to be slowing him down too badly. He did lose out to Nasr though and that allowed the Brazilian to set about Buller. Meanwhile, Foresti made a move on Jaafar but it didn’t quite stick, while behind them Magnussen was up to 11th and working hard. In front, though, Svendsen-Cook was making the most of having no distractions and was pushing to open a gap, setting an early fastest lap of the race as he did so. Back in the pack though, Foresti’s attempt to pass Jaafar led to Huertas slipping through, while up ahead Buller had wrestled 2nd from Christodoulou, though he still had Nasr right behind him. He tried hard to shake off the yellow Carlin car, but Nasr wasn’t having any of that, and although Buller set a new fastest lap, he just couldn’t get rid of the menace in his mirrors. In all the excitement on the track, it would have been easy to miss the sight of Ilyas being craned away after he buried his car deep in the gravel.
While Mendez was being warned for chicane cutting, there was more excitement on track as Idafar got the better of Huertas, who was bottled up behind Foresti. Huertas came back at the Bahraini but had to work extremely hard to hold him off and couldn’t concentrate on getting past Foresti as a result, As a result Tincknell, Lloyd and Magnussen were just behind them and scrapping fiercely, Lloyd in particular seeming to enjoy this circuit immensely. None of that stopped Magnussen having a good look at a variety of possible ways past Lloyd but he couldn’t quite pull it off and had to settle in to play a waiting game.
With seven minutes still to go, Nasr set a new fastest lap and powered his way past Buller for 2nd. He then started to close the gap on Svendsen-Cook, though it seemed likely he would run out of time before he could get on terms with his team-mate. The battle for 5th was still raging though, and Huertas finally forced his way past Foresti while Tincknell lost 9th to Lloyd, only for the latter to cut the chicane but hold his place. Magnussen followed through in the scramble to stay on track, and got a front row seat as Lloyd swarmed all over Idafar. At the same time, there was a blink and you’d missed it moment where Foresti got back in front of Huertas.
Meanwhile, the gap was still coming down at the front, though this time Nasr couldn’t dislodge Buller and thus his pursuit of Svendsen-Cook wasn’t going as well as he might have hoped or expected if he could have got some clear air.
In the mid-points battle things had shuffled again too, with Huertas coming back at Foresti, only to assist Lloyd to gain another place instead. After Foresti nerfed Huertas up the rear as he tried to fight back, the Brazilian came off worst, his rear wing skewed beyond usefulness and he then lost control and smacked into Idafar. The main beneficiaries apart from Huertas, who survived despite a very wobbly moment, were Lloyd who ended up 7th, and Magnussen who gained 3 places in one go to finish 8th.
Svendsen-Cook came home to claim his first win of the year, while Nasr finished second but lost the fastest lap to Buller on the final lap of the race. Christodoulou ended the morning in 4th, ahead of Jaafar, Huertas, Lloyd, Magnussen, Fantin and Foresti. Harvey finished 11th and was later promoted to 10th after Foresti was hit with the equivalent of a 25 second penalty for hitting Idafar. 11th therefore was Tincknell, from Pye, Cunha, Mendez, Rookie Class winner Hylkema, Fong and Idafar, looking more than slightly battered.
Fastest laps went to Buller and Hylkema.
The final race of the weekend at Monza saw Nasr go a long way to stamping his authority on the 2011 championship battle after a stunning drive from 11th at the end of the first lap. Second went to Foresti after a fierce defensive effort that ultimately failed to stop Nasr claiming victory, while 3rd was early stage leader Jaafar. The Rookie Class went to Hylkema.
What was supposed to be a 40-minute race turned out not to be, but not for any particularly problematic reason. As the field lined up, Tincknell hit trouble and stalled. The rookie sat there with his arm in the air, the marshals desperately waved yellow flags and the start was aborted. However, the clock had started and it continued to tick down from 40 as the remaining 19 cars circulated round to reform on the grid, and Tincknell was unceremoniously dragged into the pit lane, from where he would start the race after the others had all departed. By the time they sorted that out, there were just over 35 minutes left of the race. Buller finally got to start a race from pole position though it didn’t actually do him a great deal of good, given he went so far wide at the first corner that by the time he had recovered the early lead has passed to Jaafar and was long gone with Foresti in 2nd and Huertas 3rd. Added to that, a number of drivers failed to get away especially well including Lloyd, which meant it all got rather messy down towards the rear. Magnussen had also lost out at the start and was now 4th but he wasn’t as far adrift as Nasr who dropped to 11th in the chaos of the first couple of corners. However, nothing daunted, the Brazilian started pushing very hard as he had done in both the previous races. Meanwhile Magnussen was fighting back too and was through for 3rd, at least for now, setting the fastest lap of the race in the process. The race was a long way from over, however. While the Dane was edging back, Buller was suffering badly and was back down in 7th with a lot to do. He found his way past Christodoulou quite quickly, but the way he was smoking his tyres didn’t bode well for the rest of the race.
Someone with no apparent concerns about tyre wear was Nasr, who had scythed past Svendsen-Cook and now had his next victim, Pye, all lined up in his sights. That didn’t take long either, and he was soon past Derani as well and was thus 8th, at the back of a tight train of cars. At the front it was all to play for too, with Huertas setting a new fastest lap, while Foresti swarmed all over Jaafar to try and take the lead from the Malaysian, while Huertas was snapping at Magnussen’s rear wing.
The unstoppable progress of Nasr continued all the while, which would probably have worried the lead quartet if they had not been so busy fighting among themselves. Nasr had dealt with Christodoulou for another place, and now it was Buller’s turn to have something yellow and very fast looming in his mirrors. It was no surprise when Nasr set a new fastest lap, while Huertas took another swipe at Magnussen, the latter defending in a cloud of tyre smoke. The top four were now so close you couldn’t get a credit card between them and they were starting to impact on the next gaggle, slowing them down severely. And all the while Nasr was closing them down like a shark scenting blood. It only needed one small mistake and he’d be there. That mistake came first from Buller, and Nasr pounced, holding off any attempt by Buller to take it back. Meanwhile Foresti also got the error he needed and snatched the lead from Jaafar, while Huertas was able to take advantage of the resulting wobble to nab 3rd from Magnussen. He did try to follow all the way through to edged Jaafar out, but it didn’t quite work. Behind them Fantin was in 5th and had been having a quiet time of it, at least until Nasr caught and passed him, dragging Buller and Svendsen-Cook with him. Just ahead of them, Forest was still leading but Jaafar managed to get a tow and tried to draft past. He ended up cutting the chicane instead and thus had no choice but to drop back into 2nd again, losing momentum as a result. Meanwhile, Fantin was looking for a way round Magnussen, but he just wasn’t close enough and anyway he had Nasr to worry about now. The inevitable finally happened and Nasr barged past, and then despatched Magnussen as well, before starting to look at Huertas as he formed part of what was in effect an eight car train battling for the lead, No one could afford a mistake and provided Nasr didn’t make one, it was looking increasingly likely that he might end up the victor. Huertas was his usual impetuous self, and had another go at Jaafar, which ended in him dropping to 4th behind Nasr. That only left Jaafar between the Brazilian and his ultimate quarry, Foresti, who has now opened something of a gap because the others had slowed themselves down as they jockeyed for position, Magnussen falling back to 7th as the more experienced guys took advantage of the close quarters battle.
It wasn’t the only fierce fight going on, but the other one was at the back of the pack, where Hylkema was embroiled with a bunch of International Class runners and trying his level best to avoid getting wiped out in a scrap that was no concern of his. The trouble was that one of those involved was Fong, and the Chinese was certainly no faster than the Dutchman in the older and supposedly slower car, and no matter what Hylkema did, Fong would insist on joining in. The rest of the drivers in the melee were Lloyd, Mendez and Tincknell, who was trying to recover from his poor start. Lloyd eventually showed Fong who was boss, while Mendez got a warning for chicane cutting. He was in good company though; Svendsen-Cook was also warned for the same offence.
Someone who hadn’t yet put a foot wrong though was Nasr. He had made short work of Jaafar and was now second. Foresti was almost two seconds ahead at this stage, but it was good odds he wouldn’t be for long. With Huertas still fighting Jaafar, Nasr was free to push on. In the space of a lap he had halved the gap, and it wasn’t long before he was within striking distance. However, with the honour of Brazil at stake for both of them, Foresti was never going to make it easy for his compatriot; and so it proved. With 10 minutes left of the race, Nasr was right in the slipstream but Foresti defended ferociously, chopping off any attempt by Nasr to gain the advantage. It became quite heated out there and it was hard to know which way to look, with Jaafar still holding off Huertas, Fantin and Magnussen, although Huertas temporarily got ahead by the simple but illegal expedient of cutting the Chicane but he gave that back soon afterwards.
By now though all eyes really were on Nasr as he made attempt after attempt to pressure Foresti into a mistake. The lead car was weaving fiercely as Foresti resisted the attack, but finally Nasr got close enough. After a brief spell of wheel-banging it was all over and Nasr was the new leader, never to be threatened again. To add insult to injury for Foresti he came close to losing a second place to Jaafar as he fought to bring the car back under control. As a result, behind them, Huertas lost out to Buller, presumably because by now his tyres were truly shot. That left Buller free to take a pot shot at Fantin on the main straight, with Svendsen-Cook taking advantage of the unsettling effect on the aerodynamics to dive through too. It looked as if Buller was now in pursuit of his “lost” podium slot as he also passed Jaafar before making the mistake of tackling Foresti himself as they went three abreast through the Ascari bend. Only one of them was going to come out ahead and it was Jaafar whose nerve held, reclaiming 3rd and leaving Buller to fend off Svendsen-Cook, until the latter found himself under pressure from a resurgent Fantin. Magnussen, meanwhile, spent the closing minutes trying to get back on terms from 8th, the Dane locking up with reckless abandon. He’d left it too late though.
And so Nasr crossed the line, a delighted winner (and championship leader), to claim the maximum available points as well as the man of the weekend award from Anglo American Oils. It was a dominant performance and after 2010 it suddenly became apparent that the hype that preceded his appearance in the series may actually have been justified. The others are going to have to work hard to keep up. Second was Foresti, from Jaafar, with Huertas, Svendsen-Cook, Fantin, Magnussen, Derani and Ilyas rounding out the top ten. Pye was 11th from Christodoulou, Idafar, Cunha, Lloyd, Tincknell, Harvey, Mendez, Rookie Class winner Hylkema and Fong.
Fastest laps went to Nasr and Hylkema.