By Lynne Waite and Stella-Maria Thomas, BF3 correspondents
- Magnussen snags his first series victory
- Carlin sweeps podium
- Nasr put up a good fight
At Snetterton this afternoon, after a run of bad luck at the start of the season, Kevin Magnussen (Carlin) scored his maiden British F3 International Series victory after he got the better of series leader Felipe Nasr (Carlin) at the restart after a 3 lap Safety Car period. Third went to Carlin’s Carlos Huertas to lock out the podium yet again for the Aldershot-based team. The Rookie Class, as now seems increasingly inevitable barring something really bizarre occurring, was Bart Hylkema (T-Sport) after his only rival, Kotaro Sakurai (Hitech Racing) managed to spin on his own at the back of the pack.
At the start it looked as if victory would go to Nasr again, the Brazilian getting a good start to lead off from the lights. Magnussen was horribly slow off the line, and that was all the invitation Riki Christodoulou needed to go through as they streaked down towards Riches. In the middle of the pack there was a lot of arm waving from Harry Tincknell (Fortec Motorsport) prior to the start, but he got away OK in the end, while around him there was some jockeying for position. As the pack came round for the end of the first lap the top three were already breaking away, leaving Huertas to bottle up the pack. Certainly Nasr was starting to open up a gap and was looking incredibly confident at the front. In the mid-field William Buller (Hitech Racing) had lost out, while Lucas Foresti (Fortec Motorsport) had gained three places and was up to 12th, looking to make up for a singularly poor qualifying session (“We don’t talk about this morning!”). He’d got the drop on Jazeman Jaafar (Carlin), after the Malaysian made a complete nonsense of the start to end up back in 13th. In the Rookie Class Hylkema had finally managed to get away well and thus didn’t have to work to pass Sakurai, the latter tending to use weaving to keep his rival behind rather than relying on driving ability and experience.
At the end of lap 1 Nasr was already almost a second ahead of Christodoulou and was probably hoping that no one would do anything silly. Unfortunately, the gods were not on his side today, and the first incident came when Sakurai went off at Oggies, though the Japanese did manage to drag himself back on. Meanwhile, Pipo Derani (Double R Racing) was awarded a drive through penalty for an out of position start. At the front, Magnussen had decided he wasn’t keen on being 3rd and on lap 3 he went for it, diving round the outside of Christodoulou at Riches in a singularly audacious move reminiscent of what his father, Jan, was known to do. He immediately started to pull away from Christodoulou but he had a lot to do with Nasr already so far ahead and setting fastest lap after fastest lap.
Meanwhile Huertas was holding up Derani (who had yet to serve his penalty), Rupert Svendsen-Cook (Carlin), Pietro Fantin (Hitech Racing), and Hywel Lloyd (Sino Vision Racing). Just outside the top ten, Foresti passed Jaafar for 12th which might not have been significant were it not for the fact that the two of them were joint 2nd in the points table going into this race, though there weren’t looking too clever right now.
With the sun coming out, the track started to dry, which was all Nasr needed to set another new fastest lap and then another. He looked unstoppable. Behind them, Huertas was now catching Christodoulou for a podium place and, as Derani came in for his drive through, the Colombian was now towing Svendsen-Cook along with him. As Derani rejoined, Menasheh Idafar (T-Sport) was next to hit trouble, having a moment that dropped him right out of contention, the Bahraini ending up 19th. At much the same time Christodoulou got it wrong at Oggieds and took a trip through the gravel trap, emerging in 6th place and handing 3rd to a grateful Huertas. Magnussen was still pushing hard in pursuit of the leader, and beat Nasr’s fastest lap by quite a margin, while further back Foresti inherited 11th though he still needed to pass Scott Pye (Double R Racing) if he wanted to get into the points. At the back, the numbers were diminishing, with Fahmi Ilyas (Fortec Motorsport) going missing somewhere in the boonies, and then just to mess it up further Pye stopped out on the track. It let Foresti into the top ten but it also meant the Safety Car needed to be scrambled while the marshals removed two cars. Initially they failed to pick up the leaders, but things soon got sorted and Nasr settled in at the head of the now bunched up field. Magnussen was still 2nd, from Huertas, Svendsen-Cook, Fantin, Christodoulou, Lloyd, Tincknell, Buller and Foresti, Jaafar was now 11th, with Adderly Fong (Sino Vision Racing), Yann Cunha (T-Sport), Jack Harvey (Carlin), Derani, Hylkema, Idafar and a very distant Sakurai.
At the restart Nasr must have been cursing that Safety Car because Magnussen had got a sniff of victory and was not to be denied. He pulled alongside Nasr as they ran down towards Riches and again simply drove round the outside of his opponent, snatching the lead in a superbly brave move. Nasr chose not to make an issue of it there and then, but as a racer he wasn’t happy to lose out like that. However, he is intelligent enough to know that consistency wins championships and he doesn’t need to win every race, especially as consistency is the thing that seems to be eluding the rest of them. Christodoulou also took advantage of the restart to claw back a place and forced his way past Fantin for 5th.
With the sky getting ever darker, it looked as if the race would run for the full 30 minutes rather than 17 laps now, though the weather might still prove a factor. Certainly some of the teams thought it might as they scrambled to ready wet weather tyres in case the clouds dumped more than the odd drop on the track. It was going to take a major downpour to get Magnussen or Nasr to come in, that was for sure. Meanwhile, Buller nearly pushed Foresti off after the latter tried to gain a place in the closing stages of the race. Foresti wisely backed off from a move that might charitably be described as extremely robust, while behind him Fong was temporarily up to 11th until he ran wide at Palmer and threw it all away, letting Cunha past to claim the place. Just behind them, meanwhile, Jaafar, Derani, Harvey and Idafar were all trying to be 13th, with the latter three running three abreast at one point. Idafar got the better of Harvey in that situation but Jaafar continued to lead the foursome, with Derani having to settle in behind him. It all went pear-shaped at the end for Jaafar though, and he would finish up playing tail-end Charlie to the group.
At the front though, it was all still to play for, with Nasr closing up on Magnussen as the race wore on. He reclaimed the point for fastest lap, and was on the Dane’s rear wing as they came round for what would be the final lap of the race. Just possibly the Brazilian’s tyres were in better shape, and they needed to be with the slippery surface flag being shown at Palmer. However, the threat of rain had passed now, and Magnussen responded as the track dried up, pulling away enough to be safe all the way to the flag and his first victory in the series, despite Nasr getting a final fastest lap as he crossed the line in 2nd. It’s fair to say he wasn’t too pleased at this turn of events, though he still has a healthy lead over the competition as Jaafar failed to score any points and Foresti finished in the final points’ scoring position. 3rd was Huertas, from Svendsen-Cook, Christodoulou, Fantin, Lloyd, Tincknell, Buller and of course Foresti. 11th was Cunha, from Fong, Derani, Idafar, Harvey, Jaafar, Hylkema and Sakurai.
Fastest laps went to Nasr and Hylkema.
Weather: Sunny, dry.