It was a warm day on the historic Brands Hatch circuit when the British Formula 3 teams fought it out for the coveted Pole positions.
At Brands Hatch this morning returnee Jazeman Jaafar (Carlin) claimed two pole positions for Rounds 7 and 9 of the 2013 British F3 International Series. The Malaysian needs to race a contemporary F3 car in order to qualify for this year’s Macau Grand Prix, and has selected this meeting to reacquaint himself with the category. Jordan King (Carlin) starts 2nd in both races, with Nicolas Latifi (Carlin) in 3rd making it a Carlin lockout. Ed Jones (Team West-Tec) qualified on pole in the National Class for both races.
Friday’s free practice suggested that the Carlin cars were the ones to watch, and so it proved, although William Buller (Fortec Motorsport) was the early pace setter, ahead of his team mate Felipe Guimaraes. Tatiana Calderon (Double R Racing) was 3rd initially, but it wasn’t long before the Carlin steamroller cranked into gear and Jaafar went fastest, only to be promptly demoted to 2nd ahead of Jann Mardenborough (Carlin).
Thirteen cars were now circulating with 24 minutes left on the clock. Only Jones was still in the pits, which meant Chris Vlok (Team West-Tec) was leading the National Class. That wouldn’t last though; Jones finally joined in and immediately went fastest in class. He would stay there for the remainder of the session.
Meanwhile, in the International Class Latifi had clawed his way to 4th, while Guimaraes was proving the fastest of the Fortec pair and was up in 3rd. Things stalled then, with the first set of tyres pretty much out of commission now, and the mid-session drift to the pits began. At this point, Sun Zheng (CF Racing), the National Class championship leader was the slowest man out, which seemed a bit odd. However, he’s very new to Brands so perhaps that was the cause.
He was doing better than his fellow Chinese driver, Zhi Cong Li (Carlin) as he’d ended up in the gravel trap. Not much damage resulted but it was going to take some cleaning out afterwards. Not much was expected of him in his first time in an F3 car though. The same could not be said for the other Carlin drivers. King was now in the pits, so Latifi snatched the opportunity to push forward, improving his time to go 2nd, while Jaafar moved up to 3rd, before they too pitted for fresh rubber.
At the halfway stage of the session, only Vlok and Zheng were still on the track, and King appeared to be firmly entrenched in pole position. Eventually, as the others slowly drifted back out onto the track, he too headed back onto the black stuff with intent to defend his position. Even then he didn’t look overly concerned and was presumably saving his tyres as much as possible.
Finally, with eight minutes left they were all out again, and suddenly the improvements came, with Antonio Giovinazzi (Double R Racing) improving to claim 6th ahead of Buller, who was not having the best of qualifying sessions in much the same way he had struggled at Spa two weeks ago. Maybe he’s lost interest in the whole qualifying process, but more likely the team as a whole were having issues.
Meanwhile Mardenborough went faster too, though he stayed 5th, while Latifi also found some extra speed and improved him time. It didn’t avail him anything though and he too was unable to move up the order. Jaafar was the next to improve his time, but guess what? He too stayed exactly where he was on the grid. It was only when Mardenborough came round again that there was any movement, with the youngster moving up a place for 4th.
The next improver was Giovinazzi who also gained a place, making him 5th. However, the real improvement was Jaafar, who swept round to go faster yet and nailed 2nd for at least one race. There were three and a half minutes left. Could the Malaysian do it or was he going to be beaten on his return to the category? We would soon know.
While Calderon pulled a late fast lap for 9th, Vlok retreated to the pits, as did the Colombian woman. That left the track clearer for Jaafar, who made the most of it. A new lap was quicker yet, and was enough to put the World Series Renault star on pole for one of the weekend’s races. His advantage was 0.078 seconds, but it just might be enough.
With most people now saving tyres, and Buller still off the pace, King and Jaafar continued the fight. Jaafar set the fastest time in sector one, while King set the fastest time in the second sector. All eyes were now riveted to the timing screens. A new fastest lap of the session just ahead of the flag was Jaafar’s reward, which meant he now had two provisional poles, and the chance of one more lap in the session. King came round next, but stayed second, and took the flag, which meant it was all over.
Jaafar would start both races from pole, with King alongside him. Latifi starts 3rd in both races, and Mardenborough qualified for both races in 4th. He would, however, be dropped five grid places for Race 1 because of the incident at Spa when he ran into Giovinazzi after the flag. The Italian was 5th from Guimaraes, Buller, Sean Gelael (Double R Racing) and Calderon. Ed Jones claimed both National Class poles (and 10th place in both instances), ahead of Cong Li, Zheng, Cameron Twynham (Team West-Tec) and Vlok.
Weather: Warm, overcast.