Race Report – Round 8 (Race 2):
The 71st running of the Grand Prix de Pau was a second demonstration drive by Prema Powerteam’s Raffaele Marciello, the Italian youngster finishing a convincing way ahead of the squabbling pack behind him that contained most of the British F3 Series regulars and a healthy smattering of Invitation Class boys from the F3 Euro Series. Carlos Sainz Jr (Carlin) capitalised on an excellent start to come home 2nd, while behind him team-mate Jazeman Jaafar (Carlin) spent most of the 40 minutes engaged in a spirited defence of 3rd place from Daniel Juncadella (Prema Powerteam), the pre-race favourite having to settle for 4th in the face of the Malaysian’s determination to keep the Spaniard at bay. In the National Class Duvashen Padayachee (Double R Racing) was the eventual winner after Richard “Spike” Goddard (T-Sport) took himself out of contention when he went too hard over the kerbs in the closing stages and bent the steering. The pit stop that was required to straighten it out meant he lost the lead to Padayachee and was never going to regain the place.
At the start of the race, Marciello made a storming start and simply left everyone else trailing in his wake, while he began the process of pulling away that would see him finish almost 14 seconds ahead of Sainz Jr. Behind him it was every man for himself in front of the packed grandstands at Gare. By some miracle they all made it round safely for the second time this weekend, and the predicted carnage failed to materialise. In fact the only casualty was Andrea Roda (Jo Zeller Ream), the Italian crashing out on his own up an escape road. Otherwise it was business as usual through the field with Sainz Jr bottling everyone up behind him and forcing Jaafar onto the defensive as he struggled to hold off Juncadella, while knowing he had the speed to pass Sainz but not the space if it were all to go badly wrong.
Meanwhile right at the back Goddard was setting about Invitation National Class man Sandro Zeller in the second of the Jo Zeller Team cars with what the Swiss probably felt was unwarranted ferocity. The trouble was the Australian just couldn’t get through no matter what he tried and in some respects he was better just leaving it alone as Zeller wasn’t going to score points anyway being part of the FIA European F3 Series battle and not the British F3 one. However, the fiercest battle was the three-way one for twelfth which was headed by Harry Tincknell (Carlin) from Felix Serralles (Fortec Motorsport) and Hannes van Asseldonk (Fortec Motorsport). It became a two man battle on lap 8 when Tincknell barrelled into the barriers at Pont Oscar and took himself out of contention. That left the two team mates to fight it out on the track. Several times it looked as if it might just end in tears, with the question not so much if as when. And sure enough on lap 12 van Asseldonk thought he saw a gap and went for it. The less experienced Serralles resisted and slammed the door, putting them both in the barriers at Gare. Van Asseldonk’s Dallara was far too badly damaged to continue, but Serralles got away seemingly unscathed, which was probably just as well. He would not have wanted to be trackside with the enraged Dutchman right then. Instead his pulled back into the traffic right in the middle of the Zeller/Goddard scrap, which certainly didn’t win him any new friends and lost Goddard the one opportunity he’s managed to scrape together to get past once and for all.
Interesting things seemed to be happening to the Australians generally though, with Nick McBride (ThreeBond with T-Sport) and Geoff Uhrhane (Double R Racing) having a bit of a set to over 18th place, which resolved itself in McBride’s favour in the closing stages of the race.
Meanwhile, at the front, Marciello continued on his imperious way to the flag, while in the battle for 2nd stalemate had set in. Sainz Jr wasn’t able to get away from Jaafar at all easily, while Jaafar couldn’t shake Juncadella, and they were both being shadowed by Felix Rosenqvist (Mücke Motorsport), Pipo Derani (Fortec Motorsport), Alex Lynn (Fortec Motorsport), Jack Harvey (Carlin), Pascal Wehrlein (Mücke Motorsport), Sven Muller (Prema Powerteam) and Michael Lewis (Prema Powerteam) in a massive but seemingly static train. It was so frustrating that Harvey jokingly claimed to have started thinking “Someone crash, please!” just to get a change of position. He wasn’t going to get his wish, even when the leader caught the first of the backmarkers on lap 17, overtaking Padayachee who got out of the way sharpish when he saw the 10 car train in his mirrors a couple of laps later. He wasn’t aware that he’d already inherited the class lead by this point as Goddard had pitted, but he was taking no chances anyway. Marciello was having to be pretty cautious in his approach to the backmarkers anyway, especially when one of them turned out to be Serralles, returning to the fray after a pit stop to have some damaged hammered out. The team managed to release him just in time for him to almost trip Marciello up, which would not have done anything to improve the Puerto Rican’s popularity in the paddock this afternoon. However, all was well and the leader continued to streak away into the distance.
In the chasing pack, Rosenqvist blinked first, running wide on lap 27. Derani didn’t need asking twice and was through for 5th place overall and 3rd in the British series behind Sainz Jr and Jaafar. All he needed was Juncadella to try something ill-advised and he might then be able to get on terms with Jaafar. That was not to be, and Pipo would stay where he was on the final run to the flag. He wasn’t too unhappy though, considering it was some consolation for his poor run on Saturday.
Further back McBride was now on the move and had caught up with Fahmi Ilyas (Double R Racing), the Malaysian driving a somewhat open plan Dallara, having made a very neat hole in the nose on the first lap of the race. It was probably keeping his feet cool. What it was doing to the handling of the car doesn’t bear thinking about however! It didn’t seem to be hampering him too much in his efforts to hang onto his place though, and there were a few truly hairy moments before McBride finally made it through a couple of laps from the end to claim 7th in class.
None of that should in anyway deflect attention from Marciello, who won in convincing style. Sainz Jr was 2nd having finally broken away from Jaafar towards the end, but who wasn’t too happy at not being able to match the Prema Powerteam for pace or grip all weekend. However, he now leads both the British series championship chase and the FIA European F3 title chase, so he can’t be too disappointed. Jaafar was 3rd, less than a second ahead of Juncadella, with Derani 5th from Rosenqvist, Lynn, Harvey, Wehrlein and Muller. 11th place went to Lewis, followed by a distant Pietro Fantin (Carlin), the latter having played catch-up all weekend after a broken gearbox kept him out of the first practice session and more problems dogged his attempts to get any mileage at all. 13th was Emil Bernstorff (ma-con Motorsport), then came McBride, Ilyas, Zeller (a lap down), Padayachee (also a lap down), Uhrhane, Serralles (two laps adrift) and Goddard. Last placed was Tom Blomqvist (ma-con Motorsport) who was also two laps behind the leader at the flag.
The fastest laps of the race were set by Derani, Goddard and Marciello.
Weather: Warm, sunny intervals.
Next Races: Rounds 9, 10 & 11, Rockingham Motor Speedway, Northamptonshire, 9th/10th June.