The second of the British F3 qualifying sessions got underway in glorious sunshine, with the Alan Docking Racing pair of Karl Reindler and Jonathan Kennard being the first out there, with Christian Bakkerud (Carlin Motorsport) not far ...
The second of the British F3 qualifying sessions got underway in glorious sunshine, with the Alan Docking Racing pair of Karl Reindler and Jonathan Kennard being the first out there, with Christian Bakkerud (Carlin Motorsport) not far behind. It would turn out to be horribly significant. Salvador Duran (Hitech Racing) was the early pole-setter, but didn't get to hang on for long, getting edged out first by Stephen Jelley (Raikkonen Robertson Racing), and then by Bakkerud. Next to go fastest was Oliver Jarvis (Carlin Motorsport), which meant Senna was now 4th, and James Walker (Hitech Racing) was 5th. The next flying lap came from Yelmer Buurman (Fortec Motorsport), the Dutchman being the first to break the 1 minute and 15 second barrier. He was demoted by Duran, who was making the most of whatever clear space he could find. Elsewhere, Bakkerud had just run out of clear space. Coming out of the park, he encountered Reindler and Kennard. Reindler had lifted, causing Kennard to run into him. The two of them were going incredibly slowly, and Bakkerud wasn't. The marshals were slow getting the flags out so by the time Bakkerud saw the hazard, it was too late to avoid hitting something. He wiped out Kennard's rear wing and put himself out of the session after two laps. He wasn't best pleased about it. Kennard limped back to the pits and would sit the rest of the session out too. Meanwhile, Juho Annala (Performance Racing) had also coasted to a halt on his second timed lap with a broken driveshaft. The kerbs here are pretty unforgiving, as the Finn had just discovered.
Meanwhile, Walker and Jelley both nipped into the pits to get an early tyre change and try and take advantage of any lull in proceedings later on. The session continued at an unabated pace, with Duran now leading Buurman, Jarvis, Jelley and Bakkerud. Of course, that was bound to change with Bakkerud out of the running. Jarvis was beginning to get the hang of this place to pole and broke into the 1 minute 14 second bracket. Reindler, the survivor of the earlier incident, was showing signs of getting to grips with Pau too, and was second now, just ahead of Signature-Plus's Guillaume Moreau. They all got shuffled down a place by Buurman, who seemed to be enjoying himself now he wasn't arguing with any officials. Charlie Kimball (Signature-Plus) went 3rd, and then his team-mate Moreau grabbed pole, with Maro Engel (Carlin Motorsport) slotting in right behind. Another second had been knocked off the time, though there was obviously more to come. Kimball came round again, to move back up to 3rd while Engel went to pole. Reindler was still showing strongly and was 6th, while just behind him, Rodolfo Gonzalez (T-Sport) was on provisional National Class pole and was 8th overall, just ahead of Cristiano Morgado (Fluid Motorsport).
Meanwhile, Romain Grosjean was down in 20th, which suggested the Signature-Plus driver was sand-bagging, or at least waiting for the opportune moment to bang in a fast lap. Buurman, on the other hand, seemed to have found his opportune moment, and stuck in another pole time, only to see Kimball go ahead, with Jarvis right behind him. They were still slow by the standards of this place, though, as proved when Moreau rocketed round in a 1:12, and Mike Conway (Raikkonen Robertson Racing) leapt up the order to join him for 2nd. Grosjean then scrabbled his way round into 2nd, and it looked as if we were facing a Signature lockout. So much for the invitation class. They'll be lucky to be invited again if this is how they pay us back.
With fifteen minutes of the session elapsed, the order was now Moreau, Grosjean, Conway, Kimball, Duran, Jarvis, Buurman, Engel, Stuart Hall (Fortec Motorsport) and Jelley. Reindler was 11th, ahead of James Jakes (Hitech Racing), National Class provisional pole man Gonzalez, Morgado, Charlie Hollings (Fortec Motorsport) who was now sidelined with a dead engine, Dennis Retera (T-Sport), Walker, Rodolfo Avila (Performance Racing), Martin Kudzak (Fluid Motorsport), Alberto Valerio (Cesario F3) and the hapless Bakkerud. Senna was 21st, from Alex Khateeb (Promatecme F3), Ricardo Teixeira (Performance Racing), Kennard, Annala, and Ihara (who was also off somewhere). And then we got a red flag. Gonzalez had managed to spin, and while the driver immediately behind him managed to miss him, Stuart Hall didn't. The resultant wreckage was enough to bring the session to a complete halt.
The restart was prompt enough and happened about two minutes later, and with 12 minutes of the session left it was still all to play for. The first driver to make progress was Walker, who moved up to 13th, while Grosjean snatched pole from Moreau and Buurman again set a flying lap to go 3rd. And then it all went pear-shaped again. This time the problems started when Kimball hit the wall. As he later said, "It wasn't too bad. I'd only damaged the front, but then Khateeb piled into me."
Needless to say, the officials threw out another red flag, while the officials removed the debris yet again. They were getting good at this, as was proved by the fact that it only took a few minutes before they green flagged the lads and let them out again. The order at this point was Grosjean, Moreau, Buurman, Conway, Kimball, Duran, Jarvis, Engel, Hall and Jelley. In 11th was Reindler, from Walker, Jakes, Gonzalez, Morgado, Hollings, Retera, Avila, Kudzak and Valerio. Bakkerud was 21st, from Senna, Khateeb, Teixeira, Kennard, Annala and Ihara.
At the restart, it again looked possible that there would be further change. Conditions were near perfect for a 1:11, if only they could all stop running into each other that is. The first change came from Valerio, who managed to move up ahead of Kudzak, while Morgado took advantage of the absence of Gonzalez to snatch the National Class pole from the Venezuelan. In the Championship Class, Buurman was able to go faster but it didn't move him up any. He stayed 3rd, with Jarvis 4th. Then Engel slotted in another fast time to go 2nd, before being pushed back down by Conway grabbing 3rd place and de facto Championship Class pole. In the National Class, Avila was also making progress and was now 2nd in class. Jakes was another to improve, moving up to an unusual 7th place, while Senna moved up to 14th, really not getting to grips with this circuit at all. And that was it, because Conway, by now really pushing to try and get ahead of the Signature cars, went off at Foch, bringing out the red flags one last time. The slow process of bringing back the dead cars took a very long time, and it's to be hoped the drivers all behave in this afternoon's race, because there are no spare corners left to be had for love or money anywhere in this town.
The order was Grosjean once again on overall - and invitation class - pole, from Moreau, Conway, Engel, Buurman, Jarvis, Jakes, Kimball, Duran and Jelley. 21st was Hall, ahead of Walker, Reindler, Senna, Valerio, Morgado (on Championship Class pole), Avila, Gonzalez, Retera and Hollings. 21st was Kudzak, from Bakkerud, Khateeb, Teixeira, Kennard, Annala and Ihara.