Carlos Sainz Jnr once again proved his mastery of treacherously wet conditions with a masterful win for Carlin in the 20th round of the Cooper Tires British Formula 3 International Series at Spa-Francorchamps this afternoon. The 17-year-old Spaniard took the lead from Friday victor Felix Serralles on the third lap, with Serralles going on to claim third after a spin and with it the championship lead. Felix is the fourth different points leader of a superbly competitive season.
A heavy shower before the off followed by a dry period made tyre choice tricky; all 29 runners - the biggest European F3 grid of the season - opted for treaded wet-weather Coopers, and by mid-distance their decision was vindicated when the heavens opened once more.
Fortec’s rapid Puerto Rican rookie Serralles led the way from pole position for two laps under heavy attack from Sainz, with Carlos seizing control into Les Combes next time around. Sainz completed the third lap with a second in hand over his rival, and extended that advantage to a second-and-a-half by the end of lap five.
Carlos’ task was made easier on lap six when Serralles overcooked it at Pouhon, surviving a 360 spin with the loss of only one place. Other than Sainz, the chief beneficiary of the Fortec man’s error was ma-con Motorsport driver Tom Blomqvist, who had earlier been promoted to third by a spin - again at Pouhon - by Prema’s Daniel Juncadella.
A 10th-lap crash for Sven Muller at Eau Rouge brought out the safety car for a lap and a half but there were no mistakes from Sainz at the restart, who rebuilt his lead over Blomqvist to 5.6s by the chequered flag.
“I like the rain!” said Carlos. “To win at Spa in the rain, for me it’s a very special victory. I knew that I could win this race if I had the opportunity, and I grabbed it and I am very happy. I passed Felix down the straight to Les Combes; he was a bit faster than me at the beginning but I caught him. It was not easy at all in the conditions. When Felix spun, that’s when I calmed down and thought ‘this is possible now.’”
Blomqvist held on in front of Serralles for second: “I was running quite a lot less downforce than the others and I had a lot of understeer at first and couldn’t quite get the tyres working. As it dried my pace improved and I got closer, and then Daniel spun and Felix spun, and I was second,” said the young Brit.
Serralles’ third place - which equated to second place in British championship terms as Blomqvist is an FIA European F3 driver - promotes Felix to the top of the points table, four points clear of erstwhile leader Jack Harvey. It was compensation for him, but he was nonetheless disappointed not to have repeated his Spa win of Friday.
“I am a little bit disappointed,” he said. “I touched the rumble strip at Pouhon and I just spun. My car wasn’t as good today as I would have liked. In the end, I still finished second among the British, so it’s quite good.”
Carlin’s Jazeman Jaafar held Harvey at bay for the duration of the race to take fourth overall, and the final spot on the British F3 podium. Harvey slipped to sixth behind Euro runner Michael Lewis three laps from the end in the ever-worsening conditions. Fortec’s Pipo Derani placed seventh, ahead of Juncadella, the Spaniard fighting back from 10th after his spin.
Fortec’s Alex Lynn lost a place to Carlin man Harry Tincknell three laps from home, with Tincknell, Lynn and T-Sport’s Nick McBride completing the British F3 top eight, ahead of Adderly Fong, Hannes van Asseldonk, Pietro Fantin and Fahmi Ilyas. Ilyas’ Double R team-mate Geoff Uhrhane spun out at Radaillon on the fifth lap.
Rainmaster Fong led the four-way National class battle from first to last, CF Racing’s Chinese pilot finishing 10s clear of T-Sport’s new championship signing, Bolivian Pedro Pablo Calbimonte. “I like the wet,” said Fong. “I have a bit more experience in these conditions than the others but even so it was hard. I was aquaplaning in places, but I kept the car on the track and it all came good.”
Said Calbimonte “I am very happy with my result after such a long time out of a racing car. The team did a great job for me and I’m really happy to be on the podium.”
The Cooper Tires British Formula 3 teams and drivers have no time to rest on their laurels - next weekend (4/5 August) they will be in action again at Snetterton in Norfolk.
Source: British Formula 3