Lynne Waite and Stella-Maria Thomas, BF3 Correspondents
At the Norisring this morning, in a race that was drastically shortened by rain, Raffaele Marciello (Prema Powerteam) finally got a good result from a weekend that he will otherwise want to forget when he won after 8 laps of racing and 13 laps behind the Safety Car. 2nd place went to his team-mate Daniel Juncadella, who really does not like this circuit. 3rd on the road and 1st in British F3 was Felix Serralles (Fortec Motorsport) after a sure-footed performance in frankly horrendous conditions. 4th (and thus 3rd in the Euroseries classification) was Emil Bernstorff (ma-con Motorsport), while 2nd and 3rd placed British Series runners were Hannes van Asseldonk (Fortec Motorsport) and Pietro Fantin (Carlin), 5th and 6th overall. The National Class was won for the third time this weekend by Richard “Spike” Goddard (T-Sport).
After two days of blisteringly hot weather, conditions changed during Saturday night, and Sunday dawned overcast and cool. By an hour before the race the skies had darkened considerably and with less than half an hour to go, as the cars lined up in the collecting area, the heavens opened and a massive storm rolled in, soaking everything and everyone at a packed to capacity Norisring. There was talk of cancelling the race as rescheduling for later in the day or waiting for conditions to improve was not an option, not with the tight DTM TV schedule to be adhered to anyway.
Eventually it was announced that the race would start behind the Safety Car and would go live eventually when the race director saw fit. The result was 6 laps behind the no longer shiny white Mercedes pace car and even that was tough going with Sandro Zeller (Jo Zeller Racing) getting shown the black and orange flag and called in to the pits, returning to the track just ahead of the Safety Car. Even with the pace slowed right down, conditions were treacherous, as was clear from some of the TV footage which showed Fantin fishtailing wildly as the car attempted to aquaplane away from him.
Anyway, the order was much as they’d started with Pascal Wehrlein (Mücke Motorsport) in the lead, from Marciello, William Buller (Carlin), Juncadella, Fantin, Bernstorff, Serralles, Pipo Derani (Fortec Motorsport), Michael Lewis (Prema Powerteam) and van Asseldonk. 11th was Carlos Sainz Jr (Carlin), heading Tom Blomqvist (ma-con Motorsport), Jazeman Jaafar (Carlin), Alex Lynn (Fortec Motorsport), Harry Tincknell (Carlin), Sven Müller (Prema Powerteam), Jack Harvey (Carlin), Andrea Roda (Jo Zeller Racing), Geoff Uhrhane (Double R Racing) and Fahmi Ilyas (Double R Racing). Felix Rosenqvist (Muecke Motorsport) was 21st from Nick McBride (ThreeBond with T-Sport), Luis Sá Silva (Angola Racing Team), Lucas Wolf (URD Rennsport), Philip Ellis (GU-Racing), Goddard, Duvashen Padayachee (Double R Racing) and Zeller.
When the lights on the Safety Car finally went out, it looked like it would only be a matter of time before it had to go back out, but the race director theoretically knows what he’s doing… Leader Wehrlein backed the pack up and attempted to control the restart, but was not wholly successful. Marciello got the drop on him and then just to add to his misery he fell into the clutches of Buller, just before it all started to go wrong again.
Harvey hit the wall and was out with broken suspension, his first non-scoring race of the season. Then Buller clashed with Wehrlein, putting the German out on the spot and flagging Buller up for investigation. He certainly had one of the new modified noses with a massive hole in it as well as a lot less front wing than he’d started the morning with. In the midst of all this Serralles had snatched 3rd place by being clever and keeping out of trouble as well as a fine bit of overtaking.
The next one to skate off was Derani, who then reversed back across the traffic while he tried to sort himself out. It has gone awry for the tiny Brazilian when he attempted to go round the outside of Fantin and failed. Buller, meanwhile, was awarded a drive through penalty for causing an avoidable collision, and would be forced to abandon his position to serve his sentence. He may also have been responsible for the exit of Jaafar, who pulled into the pits with a damaged car after he had run over a front wing that someone had lost on the track. Like Harvey, Jaafar had finished every race so far this season so it must have been galling for the super-consistent Carlin driver.
Padayachee was the next to go off, spinning and ending up stuck in the middle of the track. Once everyone had gone past he was able to get going again, but it was a scary moment for all concerned, and that was not a good place to be stationary for any length of time. Fantin and van Asseldonk were going at each other hammer and tongs now, which was brave considering the amount of spray and the almost total lack of visibility for anyone not at the very front of the pack. The Dutchman got ahead but then further progress became impossible as the marshals hung out yellow flags around most of the course.
There was now a car stuck in the pitlane exit, as Ellis ground to a halt and could not continue. In addition Uhrhane was out too, and Sainz Jr lost ground while trying to pass Derani, who was a lap down by then. The young Spaniard has had an horrendous weekend in Germany, and ending up at the back of the field didn’t do anything to help him develop a fondness for this track. In that, he’s of the same mindset now as Juncadella, so maybe it’s a Spanish thing.
Whatever the precise cause, there were now bits of car all over again and the Safety Car was finally redeployed. The order was now Marciello, from Juncadella, Serralles (who was keeping his distance having correctly concluded that there was no point taking on Juncadella when it wouldn’t make any difference to his British F3 points and was thus not worth the risk), Bernstorff, van Asseldonk, Fantin, Blomqvist, Lewis, Lynn and Tincknell. Müller was 11th ahead of Ilyas, Roda, Rosenqvist, McBride, Sá Silva, Goddard, Buller, Sainz Jr, Padayachee, Derani, Wolf and Zeller. They circulated around thus for several laps, and although Serralles was shown the black and orange flag as well, he didn’t have time to pit to see what it was for because on lap 21 the race director bowed to the inevitable and red flagged the race.
For the Euroseries lads that meant half points as the race distance was under 70% of the scheduled distance. It should have meant the same thing for the British series where the rule is that 50% of the distance must have been completed for full points to be awarded. However, for reasons best known to themselves, the powers that be have decided it will be full points. That means the points table should now be regarded as provisional until the shouting stops.
The fastest laps of the race were set by van Asseldonk, Juncadella and Goddard.
Weather: Torrential rain, lightning, thunder. End of the world stuff. Air temperature 18.6°C, track temperature 19.0°C.
Next Races: Rounds 18, 19 & 20, Spa-Francorchamps, Belgium, 28th July/29th July.