Weather: Windy, cold, cloudy. With Nelson Piquet Jr. (Piquet Sports) and Richard Antinucci (Carlin Motorsport) sharing the front row of the grid, the paddock was full of people who were certain that Antinucci would emerge the winner. However, ...
Weather: Windy, cold, cloudy.
With Nelson Piquet Jr. (Piquet Sports) and Richard Antinucci (Carlin Motorsport) sharing the front row of the grid, the paddock was full of people who were certain that Antinucci would emerge the winner. However, to win an F3 race, you need to make a good start. The lights turned green and it was as if both of them had gone to sleep. Piquet made an awful start, with heaps of wheelspin and nothing much in the way of forward motion. Luckily for the Brazilian, Antinucci wasn't any sharper off the line, and so the American had to settle for 2nd. It seemed to be contagious, as Jamie Green (Carlin) didn't exactly make a great start either. That was left to Will Davison (Alan Docking Racing), but he was impeded by Green and Alan van der Merwe, who were both fighting to occupy the same bit of tarmac. As a result, Davison ended up stuck behind Steven Kane (T-Sport), who was again leading the Scholarship Class. Davison's mind was further concentrated by the fact that Ernesto Viso (P1 Motorsport) was behind him, champing at the bit because he wanted to get past and get at Kane. In addition, Clivio Piccione (Manor Motorsport) had gone from hero (winning Round 7 earlier in the day) to zero, when he went off at McIntyres and fell back a long way before he was able to get moving again.
As they settled in for the long haul, van der Merwe managed to get ahead of Green only to have Green take it back. He retook the place but then it got messy. At Taylors, Green regained his place from van der Merwe by diving up the inside of his teammate, while Michael Keohane (Promatecme F3) nearly hit the pair of them. As the Carlin pair headed towards Duffus Dip, van der Merwe was pushing Green hard, the nose of his Dallara just about in the exhaust of Green's car. Into McIntyres the South African tried one more time to get his place back, only to lose it straight away, before also losing a place to Keohane, who is never one to turn down an invitation to overtake.
And so this time Piquet was the one to pull away, Antinucci having to concentrate on staying ahead of Green, whom Keohane was tracking. Van der Merwe once again had the advantage of Kane sitting between him and anyone who could take a Championship Class place from him. In fact the Scholarship Class was again providing more excitement than could have been expected with only five participants, as Christian England (Promatecme F3) set about Karun Chandhok (T-Sport), with intent to take 3rd in class from him if he could. This meant he was harassing the Indian driver at every possible opportunity, but he couldn't quite find the answer.
If the two of them looked wild, that was nothing compared to Antinucci, the American looking very wild. He wasn't the only Carlin driver in trouble. Van der Merwe was now coming under increasing pressure from Davison, the Australian having finally found a way past Kane. This was bad news for van der Merwe, but it was also bad news for Kane, as he now had to try and hold off Viso if he wanted to keep his lead. And Viso was proving very persistent indeed. Life suddenly got a lot easier for Piquet after Antinucci vanished from his mirrors, the American spinning out of contention. That left Green in second place, though he had Keohane looming ever larger in his mirrors. Meanwhile Viso was renewing his attack on Kane, while behind him Robert Dahlgren (Fortec Motorsport) and Ronnie Bremer (Carlin) were fighting for position, with Rob Austin (Menu Motorsport) also trying to join in. In all the excitement, Viso lost ground, though not enough to allow Kane to relax just yet. That only happened once Bremer and Dahlgren got past the Venezuelan.
As if all that wasn't enough, Stefano Fabi (Manor Motorsport) and Billy Asaro (P1 Motorsport) were reprising their Round 7 battle; the two of them seemingly welded together into an 8-wheel Dallara. It was exciting stuff, with Fabi getting ahead briefly only to have Asaro come back at him. Another attempt to take the place from the Canadian at Taylors saw the battle resolve itself in Asaro's favour, largely because Fabi went off into the gravel. A side effect of this was that Ernani Judice (Promatecme F3) was also out, as he couldn't avoid the accident happening just in front of him. There was an outbreak of waved yellow flags, and there probably should have been a Safety Car, but this time it was deemed unnecessary, and the field continued round while the debris was cleared.
A lap later Austin was gone too, into the pits and out of the race, his weekend netting a total of two DNFs and no points at all. Considering how well he had been running, this was a serious blow to his championship chances. At least he could console himself with the idea that he wasn't the only one who wasn't running as well as could have been expected. Piquet was now a long, long way ahead of Green, who was still being pursued by Keohane, the Irishman getting closer lap by lap. Van der Merwe was also fully occupied with Davison, though the Australian didn't quite have the power to get past the Carlin car. Kane now had Dahlgren and Bremer filling his mirrors, the battling Scandinavians hardly presenting a reassuring sight. On the other hand, Kane knew that if he had to he could let the two of them go without sacrificing anything in the way of points.
The Scholarship Class podium battle took on a new twist when England tried to take 3rd in class from Chandhok. First he tried around the outside, and when that didn't work he opted for the inside line instead. It was enough, especially as Chandhok lost more ground when both Andrew Thompson (Hitech Racing) and Piccione got past him, leaving him to try and deal with Ivor McCullough (Meritus Racing) if he didn't want to be last in class.
Conditions were beginning to get interesting too, as spots of rain were now making the track greasy. It seemed to work to the advantage of Dahlgren who was able to pass Kane when the latter sensibly decided not to make an issue of it. If Viso wanted to get him, he would have to go through Bremer to do it, and he had no intention of taking on the Championship Class guys. A healthy championship lead was Kane's for the taking and he wasn't about to make any mistakes; if he did the team would probably have lynched him! And he was safe from Viso, as Viso was having some trouble with Bremer, the two battling for position despite running in different classes.
While Piquet cruised onwards, his father was busy wearing out a patch of grass on top of the hill, pacing backwards and forwards and chewing his lower lip. Not that he wanted anyone to think he was nervous. Behind Piquet Junior, Keohane was still closing on Green, and had now got close enough to take a look as they entered Taylors. How this might have panned out is anyone's guess, but the next time round Keohane had a real go. Once again he was repulsed, but not before he had given Green a hefty nudge. It might well have ended in gravel. However, further down the order, Chandhok had come to grief and was out of the race. The marshals tried to clear his car out of the way but couldn't. It would need a breakdown truck, which meant either a Safety Car period or a red flag. With only two laps left to run, the sensible alternative was to stop the race and declare the result as at the end of lap 21.
The result was a first victory for Piquet, making him the youngest ever winner of an F3 race, at least in Britain. He was delighted afterwards, even though he had managed to throw the car off the track at Taylors on his slowing down lap. With all his relatives to hug and kiss before he could get to the podium, it took quite a while for him to make his way to the top step. It certainly looks unlikely to be his last win either, especially if the Carlin boys continue the infighting that broke out at Knockhill. They need to learn that it isn't acceptable to hit your teammates. perhaps someone needs to give them a good talking to and remind them of this fact.
-Stella-Maria Thomas and Lynne Waite, Guest Writers