Race Report - Round 14: Weather: Very hot, sunny. Round 14, having been increased to 14 laps, was now reduced to its original 12, with a suggestion that it might be reduced even further to 8 if things didn't go well at the start. The trouble was...
Race Report - Round 14:
Weather: Very hot, sunny.
Round 14, having been increased to 14 laps, was now reduced to its original 12, with a suggestion that it might be reduced even further to 8 if things didn't go well at the start. The trouble was that the timetable was no longer something you could rely on, and had become a work of fiction. The whole programme was now running over an hour behind schedule and we were getting dangerously close to curfew time (18:30), which would mean the race would have to be carried over to another meeting; no one wanted that.
Anyway, it was a mild sense of panic that the field lined up to start the second British F3 race of the afternoon. Already there was a retirement with Promatecme F3's Can Artam suffering from an engine failure that meant he would not even take the start. Another unhappy bunny was Stefano Fabi (Manor Motorsport). The Italian had qualified 5th, his best grid position in two years by a long way, but he would be starting from the pit lane instead of the grid. He was very annoyed about it but was inclined to blame himself as his rather graphic gesture suggested, when he was asked what had happened.
On the front row, all eyes were on Nelson Piquet (Piquet Sport). The youngster was bitterly disappointed after his total failure to get off the line in Round 13, and was understandably somewhat nervous as the lights turned green. He didn't stall but he did bog down badly, allowing Alan van der Merwe (Carlin Motorsport) to make another brilliant start. As the South African snatched the lead, Piquet lost two more places to Adam Carroll (Menu Motorsport) and Jamie Green (Carlin Motorsport), neither of whom needed a second invitation to get ahead of the teenager.
At least Piquet was still in contention. Ronnie Bremer (Carlin Motorsport) and Billy Asaro (P1 Motorsport), had both gone off though they would at least get back into the running. Jesper Carlsen (Team SYR) had stalled on the grid only to have the clutch let him down again when he tried to rejoin fray. Perhaps the Team SYR cars simply can't cope with being driven so much faster than they've been used to this year... The Scandinavians as a whole seemed to be in trouble this time out. Robert Dahlgren (Fortec Motorsport) was not going to score any more points this weekend, as he crawled round at a snail's pace and retired on his first lap.
So that left van der Merwe in control once more, with Carroll and Green fighting it out for 2nd. Green wasn't being aided in his quest to get Carroll because he now had Piquet breathing down his neck, and he couldn't afford to concentrate on the Menu car ahead of him. It was just as well that there was something to watch in the mid-field area though, as this very quickly became a very processional sort of affair. Really about the only entertainment came from the Scholarship Class battle, with all three remaining cars running in close proximity; Karun Chandhok (T-Sport) was leading from Ernesto Viso (P1 Motorsport) who was not making a friend of Steven Kane (T-Sport) with the vigorous way he was defending his position. Perhaps inevitably, Kane finally came a cropper on lap 7, but not before he had set the fastest lap, thus gaining himself a point. Although it would reduce his lead in the Scholarship Class, he retains his record of having scored points in every single round of the 14 so far held. No one else in his class can say as much. Needless to say he was inclined to blame Viso for his unceremonious exit! Needless to say, the class podium looked a little odd at the end with only two drivers on it, but Kane still leads the series, though only by 11 points. Chandhok was deeply distressed to learn this, having calculated incorrectly that he was only 7 points behind. It quite spoiled his afternoon to be told he was wrong!
Elsewhere, there was a certain quiet pleasure to be had watching how smoothly van der Merwe was driving as he simply pulled away from Carroll, Green and Piquet. You could also watch an aggravated Fabi trying to make up lost ground, but he was still a long way off being a threat to anyone. Unsurprisingly the youngster lost a lot of the ground he had made up when he attempted to get past Will Davison (Alan Docking Racing) and got it wrong. Further back, Tor Graves (Manor Motorsport) ended up on the grass and lost a lot of ground.
The battle for 2nd ran out of steam somewhat too. Piquet was slightly discomforted when Green got himself all locked up in his attempts to get the better of Carroll. As the Carlin driver wobbled briefly, Piquet dropped back, which meant he fell into the clutches of Richard Antinucci (Carlin Motorsport), who promptly went on the offensive. A lap later it was Green who had to back off as Carroll got sideways. The Menu driver collected himself without delay and was even able to start reducing the gap to van der Merwe after that, but it was all too late. In the midst of the pack, Andrew Thompson (Hitech Racing) managed to spin, delaying Rob Austin (Menu Motorsport), the latter appearing singularly uninspired this weekend. The upshot of Thompson's spin was the exit of Fabi, the latter losing out completely with two laps to go. He really wasn't at all happy with himself or Thompson afterwards.
With the flag all but in sight one or two individuals were still pushing it, but apart from Scott Speed (Alan Docking Racing) losing out to Eric Salignon (Hitech Racing) and Bremer, the former passing the latter when Speed tripped them both up, it was pretty much all over. Piquet was looking a trifle wild in his efforts to get on the podium, but it clearly wasn't to be. Van der Merwe was untouchable, Carroll and Green only able to follow him home. Antinucci was holding off Clivio Piccione (Manor Motorsport) for 5th, while Danny Watts (Hitech Racing) was fully occupied holding off Davison. He got a bit of breathing space with a lap to go after Davison brushed the tyre wall and there was an outbreak of waved yellows as a result. Davison survived, with Will Power just behind him and Fairuz Fauzy (Promatecme F3) taking the final Championship Class point. Van der Merwe took the maximum score of 21 points, to increase his series lead to 83 points, 216 as opposed to Green's 133 and Piquet's 113.
Not only has he won 7 out of the 14 races run so far, he has finished every one of them in the points (never lower than 7th). It's a testament to both his speed and his consistency that he is so far ahead with 10 races left to run. Of course there are still 210 points left to play for, but it would be very surprising if he didn't take the title at the end of this season. Rather than ask how it is that van der Merwe is so consistent, perhaps the question everyone else should be posing is why no one else is.
By Stella-Maria Thomas and Lynne Waite, Guest Writers