Sergio Perez (T-Sport) took his fourth win of the season today at Brands Hatch after absorbing race long pressure from Marcus Ericsson (Fortec Motorsport), only for the Swede to throw it at the barriers on the final lap, handing second place to a...
Sergio Perez (T-Sport) took his fourth win of the season today at Brands Hatch after absorbing race long pressure from Marcus Ericsson (Fortec Motorsport), only for the Swede to throw it at the barriers on the final lap, handing second place to a somewhat surprised Atte Mustonen (Double R Racing), and letting Oliver Turvey (Carlin Motorsport) up into 3rd. The National Class saw a lights-to-flag victory for Steven Guerrero (T-Sport), from Salman Al Khalifa (T-Sport) and Jay Bridger (Fluid Motorsport).
The main news at the start of the race was that Alistair Jackson (Ultimate Motorsport) had somehow talked the medics into passing him as fit to race, and not only that but the team had actually managed to repair what had seemed to be a very badly mangled Mygale enough for him to drive. Additionally, after a desperate effort, the Hitech Racing car of Max Chilton was also ready to race, though it looked for a second or two as if Max would leave the garage with Bruce Jenkins still attached to the front wheel.
When the lights went out on the gantry Perez made an absolutely brilliant start to get the drop on Ericsson, who had to settle for 2nd, at least as they headed into Paddock for the first time. Turvey also made a good start to claim 4th ahead of his team-mate Jaime Alguersuari. Guerrero shot into the lead of the National Class, with a useful cushion between himself and Al Khalifa in the shapes of Philip Major (Fortec Motorsport) and Henry Arundel (Double R Racing). Things were slightly odd, in that the first of a series of fastest laps had apparently gone to Ricardo Teixeira (Ultimate Motorsport), which seemed about as likely as hell freezing over any time soon, especially as the Angolan had stalled at the start and seriously delayed Bridger.
Elsewhere in the National Class age and cunning was proving superior to youth and enthusiasm with Martin O'Connell (Carlin Motorsport), racing an F3 car for the first time since 2000 this weekend, getting the drop on rookie Jonathan Legris (Litespeed). Just to rub it in, Jordan Williams (Team Loctite) also barged past Legris. It didn't take long for Arundel to get past Guerrero, but as Major seemed to be stuck there, the Colombian seemed quite content to run to the finish without seeing his fellow National Class runners at all.
John Martin (Double R Racing) was next to set a fastest lap, but again it seemed a little doubtful as he has also stalled at the starting, ending up at the back of the field from 9th on the grid. Like Jackson and Chilton, he wasn't having the best of weekends. Meanwhile, Jackson had fought his way up to 23rd and the car seemed to be OK, while Chilton also seems to be running well and was just outside the top ten. At the front Perez couldn't seem to shake Ericsson, and they both had Mustonen hanging on in case either of them made a mistake. Perez certainly didn't seem inclined to do anything that would let Ericsson through, and Ericsson was pressing hard, setting a series of fastest laps and never letting up no matter what the Mexican tried. Another fastest lap from Ericsson was followed by some very ragged driving as he fought to find a way past, but of course every time you get close enough to pass in a Formula 3 car, you're instantly disadvantaged because you're running in dirty air.
There was a brief moment when Perez held the fastest lap, but only for the half second it took for Ericsson to follow him over the line. Basically if you blinked you would have missed it. The two of them were now pressing on so rapidly that Mustonen had started to lose touch, and the rest of the field were now starting to string themselves out somewhat, though Turvey was keeping Mustonen honest, and still had to worry about Alguersuari who wasn't going anywhere in a hurry if there was the sniff of an overtaking opportunity.
In the National Class there was a bit of a mid-field reshuffle when O'Connell suddenly dropped back and then trundled past the pits sounding awfully rough. A lap later and he pitted with a soft left rear. The team fitted a new tyre and sent him back out, just as Jackson came into the pits and got out of the car, limping away from the garage.
At the front, the battle continued. Perez was now only 0.35 seconds ahead. Ericsson wanted his first win but Perez didn't want to give it to him - and certainly wasn't showing any inclination to give an inch. Mustonen was still a harassed 3rd, from Turvey and Alguersuari, while Brendon Hartley (Carlin Motorsport) was holding off Nick Tandy (John Tandy Racing), while behind them Sebastian Hohenthal (Fortec Motorsport), Sam Abay (Carlin Motorsport) and Walter Grubmuller (Hitech Racing) rounded out the top ten.
A lap later and the gap from Perez to Ericsson was down to 0.257 seconds, but then Ericsson ran very wide at Paddock, thus losing any advantage he might have gained. It was a popular place to get it wrong as O'Connell also proved, running off into the gravel and producing a rash of yellow flags before retiring to the pits. When the leaders came round again, Perez had again opened out the gap to 0.6 seconds. It wasn't the most comfortable of margins, though it was probably more comfortable than what was happening to Williams, the National Class runner being harried insistently by Martin, the International Class man seeming unable to find a way past what is theoretically a slower car. The next lap and Legris was attempting to pass Martin, the two of them heading into Paddock side-by- side, causing an outbreak of dust as Teixeira headed into the gravel and out of the race. The upshot was that Williams lost out to Martin, and Legris and Hywel Lloyd (C F Motorsport) also got through. It was a bit of a dramatic change but it wouldn't be the last - or most dramatic one. That was still to come.
As the race moved into its closing stages, the leaders started to catch the backmarkers, coming up on Kristjan Einar (Carlin Motorsport) on the way to Druids. The Icelandic driver behaved impeccably, moving neatly aside to let the battling duo through, and not inconveniencing either of them. If Ericsson thought he could use the backmarkers to his advantage, Einar disappointed him. And then, with one lap left to go, the unbelievable happened. Going through Sheene, Ericsson made a mistake, spearing off the track and into the barriers. He was inconsolable afterwards, the point for fastest lap simply not making up for a second place. Perez couldn't believe what he was seeing in his mirrors (afterwards expressing sympathy for the teenager), and Mustonen was pretty surprised too, though he wasn't going to refuse 2nd place. 3rd was an equally surprised Turvey, from Alguersuari, Tandy, Hohenthal, Abay, Grubmuller, Mick Devaney (Ultimate Motorsport) and Chilton, who rewarded the team's efforts with a point for 10th place. 11th went to Arundel, heading up National Class winner Guerrero, Major, Al Khalifa, Bridger, Viktor Jensen (Nexa Racing), Martin, Legris and Lloyd. 21st went to Williams, and the final finisher was Einar.
We head next to Spa-Francorchamps with Perez and Alguersuari on level- pegging in the points chase, though with more wins technically Perez could be said to lead.
The fastest laps of the race went to Ericsson and Guerrero.
Weather: Warm, cloudy.
Next Races: Rounds 15 & 16, Spa-Francorchamps, Belgium, 1st/2nd August.