Round 3 Race Report: Weather: Wet, Cloudy, More rain threatening There's beginning to be something of a feeling of dÃ©jÃ vu about this season which is more than a little worrying. As at Donington, sometime on the Saturday night the heavens had...
Round 3 Race Report:
Weather: Wet, Cloudy, More rain threatening
There's beginning to be something of a feeling of déjà vu about this season which is more than a little worrying. As at Donington, sometime on the Saturday night the heavens had opened and dumped huge amounts of rain everywhere, and it was still raining on Sunday morning, the water only stopping falling about half an hour before the first F3 race of the day. It now looked as if it might start again, but most likely not during the race itself. However, there was an awful lot of standing water, especially round the back of the circuit. So the big question was wet tyres or slicks? It was a bit of a judgement call, just as it had been at Donington, and just as at Donington, everyone went with wets. It may not have been the right decision, but there's safety in numbers, after all. It was certainly very damp on all the corners, and the sky was a very unpromising shade of black.
The two exploration laps (instead of the usual one) led to all sorts of panic amongst the Piquet Sports boys as young Nelson Piquet sat and steamed on the grid. Danny Watts (Promatecme F3), in the Lola-Dome was steaming for other reasons, his car surrounded as it was by a selection of scantily-clad young women representing his new sponsor. Danny claimed they were all his girlfriends, which might well not be that far from the truth with Danny. It was good to see that Ernesto Viso (P1 Motorsport) was back to normal after his hand-kissing turn the day before. This time one of your correspondents was enveloped in a bear hug, after she made the mistake of lifting Ernesto off the ground, only to have him wrap both legs round her and have to be shaken off. A bucket of water may have been needed, but it's nice to see him back to normal! Anyway, we digress.
Finally, the Piquet boys stopped panicking, the green flag lap was run and the race started. It was really critical to get off the line and try and get ahead, because you really didn't want to be part of the enormous ball of spray that would envelope anyone not in the lead. Everyone waited with bated breath to see who would get the jump on the pack. It turned out to be James Rossiter (Fortec Motorsport), despite an initial burst of wheelspin off the line. It didn't stop him arriving at Copse ahead of the game, although he had both Danilo Dirani (Carlin Motorsport) and Will Power (Alan Docking Racing) on his tail by the time he got there, with Dirani doing everything in his power to try and claim the lead. Piquet, meanwhile, was going backwards, losing out to Power and then Adam Carroll (P1 Motorsport). Last year, Piquet might well have lost his cool under such circumstances, and that would have been the end of him. This year, he's matured tremendously as a driver and seemed unperturbed by what had just happened. This was all going to be about intelligence and keeping a cool head, and for that, Nelson's clearly your man this year.
Someone not taking it coolly was Dirani, who was pressuring Rossiter every way he could think of. Rossiter was defending well, showing just why he was among the contenders for the Autosport Young Driver of the Year title over the winter. He was being helped in his own defence by the fact that Dirani was somewhat occupied trying to hold off Power at the same time as he was trying to prevent the Fortec car from getting away. Behind Piquet, Watts was holding up Will Davison (Menu Motorsport), the Australian really wanting to find a way past the Englishman, at least to begin with. They were being followed by Fairuz Fauzy (Menu), while Stephen Jelley (Performance Racing) had got the weather conditions he wanted and was making the most of them, leading the Scholarship Class from Ryan Lewis (T- Sport). At the front, Rossiter must have breathed a sigh of relief when Power and Dirani tangled, after Power attacked the Brazilian. Power survived, Dirani didn't, limping round to the pits with a front wheel hanging off. If Rossiter thought it would save him, he was wrong. However, it did allow him a bit of a breather as the Australian had to pull himself together before he could start thinking about trying to take the lead. Andrew Thompson (Hitech Racing) had himself a bit of a grassy moment on lap 2, as did Clivio Piccione (Carlin Motorsport), though the Monegasque was revelling in the tricky conditions and had already taken advantage of the situation to haul himself up from his lowly starting position. This really does illustrate the enigma that is Piccione; in awful conditions where lightness of touch and surefootedness are what a driver needs, there's no one in F3 to touch him; he just seems to have trouble when faced with optimum conditions - it's a bit of a mystery, to put it mildly. And here he was again, seemingly having the time of his life out there.
With Dirani out of contention, Power now had Rossiter in his sights, except that now he was having trouble holding Carroll off. It was all getting a bit fraught, at least as far as Power was concerned. Watts, meanwhile, had broken away from Davison, while Fauzy was not having fun either as he now had Viso all over him; not necessarily an experience you want really (and we know what we're talking about).
At the front, Power was now hauling Rossiter in, despite having Carroll to contend with. He was quite clearly quicker through Luffield, which meant he was right on Rossiter's rear wing when they exited the corner, though it wasn't quite enough to allow him to get by. They seemed to have reached stalemate quite rapidly. Now it looked like it was going to come down to a mistake on someone's part, or some sort of mechanical problem. Power was quick to take any opportunity that was offered him, while Rossiter wasn't about to give him any leeway at all. Attempts to pass were met with stiff resistance and a sharply shut door in the face; of course all this meant that Carroll was now right behind Power, the top three tightly bunched together. Further back, Fauzy was fighting a losing battle against Viso, while Piccione was progressing rapidly through the order, appearing to be one of the few people in complete control in these conditions. Considering where he'd started, it was an impressive performance to have brought himself up to 7th and he hadn't given up the fight yet either.
Further down the order, Thompson was all over Davison, the Australian now going backwards at quite a rate. He wasn't having a good time, and there appeared to be nothing he could do to save himself from Thompson. Piquet was on the move now too, as the track dried out. At the back end of the order, Ajit Kumar (Mango Racing) had put paid to any progress anyone was going to make for a while, as he'd fallen into the gravel at Brooklands, necessitating a clean-up operation and a bout of yellow flags. As soon as that was over, all bets were off.
Marko Asmer (Hitech) was among those who seemed to be dealing with the conditions by going faster as the track dried. Clearly his tyres were standing up to the situation better than some. Rossiter, meanwhile, was still being harassed by Power, while Watts now had not just Viso, but Piccione and Thompson bottled up behind him. He needed to break away if he could. The lead duo were clearly beginning to worry about tyres too, judging by the way Rossiter was weaving to reach any available damp patches. In fact he'd been doing it for some time, and now Power was as well. The two of them were better off than Carroll though, who was falling back into Piquet's clutches, the Brazilian biding his time, letting Carroll do the worrying. Davison, meanwhile, had Asmer all over him, the Estonian desperately looking for a way past.
In the Scholarship Class, things were changing now. Jelley had been safe in the knowledge that the man immediately behind him was his team-mate, Barton Mawer, but now Mawer had fallen back and Lewis was through into second place. He looked like he was still far enough back not to be a threat yet, but there was no telling what might happen before the race ended. Jelley needed to keep his concentration if Lewis wasn't going to snatch a second victory away from him.
Behind Watts the battle for points had taken yet another turn as well, with Viso now coming under enormous pressure from Piccione, the Monegasque suddenly one of the fastest drivers on the track as the dry line started to appear. Thompson dropped back a little while the situation ahead resolved in favour of Piccione, then he too started in on Viso, leading to an exchange of gestures at Copse when the Venezuelan - not unreasonably - shut the door in Thompson's face when the Scot made a move that would never have worked.
It was hard to know where to look next. Watts was beginning to suffer, as he now had Piccione looming in his mirrors. Viso was still holding off Thompson, and Asmer was trying to get up the inside of Davison, having tried everything else he could think of. Meanwhile Power hadn't given up the idea of beating Rossiter but was having to nurse his tyres. Piquet, on the other hand, was still all over Carroll and seemed to be OK on the tyre front. This year he's added considerable intelligence to his formidable turn of speed; he's really going to take some beating now, even if he hasn't actually won a race yet this season. He quite obviously watched and learned from what happened last year. Finally he saw his chance and made his move on Carroll, taking him at Abbey in a superb manoeuvre. By the time they came back round to start the next lap, Piquet was a good 3 or 4 car lengths ahead, and closing fast on Power, who was still unable to find an answer to Rossiter. It didn't look as if the Championship Class lead was going to change any time soon.
The Scholarship Class was another matter. Coming into Copse, Jelley dropped a wheel off the track and slid wide. Lewis didn't need any more than that, and was through into the lead while Jelley was still trying to sort himself out. Afterwards, Jelley was not at all happy with himself, while Lewis must have been laughing all the way to the flag.
As the race moved into its closing stages the dry line was really becoming a problem, though Piquet still didn't seem to be troubled by it. He was closing on Power hand over fist, the only real question being would he have enough laps left to get the Australian. Asmer, meanwhile, finally found a way past Davison, while Adam Langley-Khan (Alan Docking Racing), who was now 4th in the Scholarship Class, came through sounding as if he was running out of gears, or at least as if he was stirring them around in an attempt to make contact. It wasn't a nice sound.
Suddenly, any overtaking was going to have to wait anyway, after Lars Sexton (Planet Racing) went off at Luffield, and ended up stuck in the gravel. It didn't stop Thompson losing out though, as the Scot threw away a perfectly good 8th place when he spun gently - and with some style it must be said - at Copse, and dropped places to Parente, Asmer, Davison and Fauzy while he tried to get himself reoriented.
The only question that remained now was whether Piquet had enough time to catch Power before the flag. As it turned out, he didn't. And so, Rossiter took his first F3 win, a thoroughly well-earned victory given the pressure he'd had to absorb. Power came home ahead of Piquet, and Piquet still leads the title chase, though only by 9 points from Rossiter who is emerging as a serious threat right now. Carroll was 4th, from Watts, who must have been pleased to get onto the points table after the disaster that was Donington. Piccione - in what was certainly one of the drives of the race - came home in 6th, ahead of Viso, Parente, Asmer and Davison. In the Scholarship Class Lewis held on to the lead after Jelley's gaffe and Mawer was 3rd, from Langley-Khan and Vasilije Calasan (Promatecme F3).
Round 4 Race Report:
Rain stopped play - race postponed until further notice.
And that was it for the meeting. Round 4, which should have been run in the afternoon, fell victim to the torrential downpour that broke out at lunchtime and which then simply kept on going, and going, and going. Everyone packed everything away, and then we all sat around and waited for the decision that was obviously going to have to be made to actually be made. which took from around 1.30 to a little before 4, and then we all went home. And now we wait to see when the missing race will be run. Obviously it has to be on a similar circuit as the grid is already set and the teams will run their cars on the tyres already allocated. It could well be some while before Round 4 actually happens.
Next Meeting: Croft, North Yorkshire. May 1st/2nd
By: Stella-Maria Thomas and Lynne Waite