Weather: very changeable.
The Performance Racing duo of Justin Sherwood and Jesse Mason returned to the Scholarship Class, as did Sergio Hernandez, from Azteca Motorsport. In addition, Billy Asaro was driving the Lola-Dome for P1 Motorsport, while Adam Carroll has moved to Menu Motorsport, and is providing a focus for Rob Austin, who always seems to run even better if he has a fast teammate to match himself against.
Yet another British F3 session and once again the weather seemed to be conspiring against us. The sun kept coming out and warming the air to the point that F3 engines don't like, before it would dip behind a cloud and the air would cool off again. It made life rather difficult for many of the drivers, not least the guys at Promatecme F3, Ernani Judice, Michael Keohane and Christian England. The team had made some decisions about set- up that proved to be less than correct, which meant all three of them had something of a struggle on their hands. They weren't the only ones. Attempts to second-guess the weather at Silverstone can often lead engineers and drivers down the wrong path, and Ernesto Viso (P1 Motorsport) was another who found his performance hampered by the wrong tyre choice early on.
Anyway, with Radio Silverstone choosing not to broadcast on Saturday, despite claims that they would be on air "all weekend", it was hard to figure out what was going on. The only thing you could say with much certainty was that Nelson Piquet Jr. (Piquet Sports) was on the pace pretty much from the first flying lap, and stayed there for most of the session, including the crucial moment when the chequered flag dropped at the end. Another driver looking pretty effective was Robert Dahlgren (Fortec Motorsport), the Swede putting in his best qualifying performance to date to grab a front row slot alongside the Brazilian teenager.
Now in Britain we have something known as the Campaign for Real Ale (to protect us from beer that is mass-produced, dull and lacking in flavour) and one of our favourite authors (Terry Pratchett) has also suggested a Campaign for Real Cats. Can we suggest that what is really needed is a Campaign for Real Racing Drivers. This would protect us from drivers who are dull, lacking in character and who act as if they all came out of the same mould. In fact, what we need, to make life in the paddock and on the track more interesting, is more drivers like Danny Watts (Hitech Racing). This morning Danny's form was most impressive, and he gave this new team something to cheer about by putting one of the yellow cars on the 2nd row for the first time ever. This was even more impressive when set against the fact that the first of the Carlin Motorsport cars, that of Richard Antinucci, was only 4th (most teams would be delighted with a fourth place, but in Carlin terms it's a disappointment). Interestingly, Antinucci seems to be finding his form at last, and it will be interesting to see what he is capable of over the next few races.
Predictably, now he does not have to concentrate on developing the Lola, Carroll was right up there, ahead of Austin, while current series leader Alan van der Merwe (Carlin Motorsport) was further back than he liked, but claimed he wasn't worried about it. He was, after all, well ahead of Jamie Green, his teammate and, aside from Piquet, his main rival so far. Will Davison (Alan Docking Racing) is now a regular in the top ten, after a slightly shaky start, and the equable Australian looks likely to see the podium again before the season is much older. He was 7th, ahead of Ernani Judice, the highest placed of the Promatecme drivers, this despite a set-up that was not at all to his liking. Rob Austin was next, fighting to gain back the ground he lost after his thoroughly dismal weekend at Knockhill. The Scholarship Class was headed by the T-Sport pair of Karun Chandhok and Steven Kane, in 10th and 11th overall.
Green was 12th and seemed to be struggling to get to grips with the Silverstone Grand Prix circuit, and the only real consolation he could take was that he was a long way from being the slowest of the Carlin drivers. That unfortunate distinction went to Ronnie Bremer, who was 17th, the Dane looking increasingly out of sorts as the season wears on. Knockhill winner Clivio Piccione (Manor Motorsport) was 13th, this circuit not suiting his driving style as much as the twisty Scottish track did. Ernesto Viso, in 14th in the P1 car, was 3rd in the Scholarship Class, making a tremendous effort to get on terms with the T-Sport men. It wasn't quite enough but it was tremendous fun to watch!
Keohane was 15th, just ahead of Stefano Fabi (Manor Motorsport), then came Bremer. Eric Salignon (Hitech Racing) was another still struggling to find his form, and to get to grips with the English weather, judging by the way that he was huddling inside his coat on Saturday. His teammate, Andrew Thompson would line up alongside him on the grid, just ahead of Scott Speed (Alan Docking Racing), the American still not showing anything like the pace that his backers expect. Fairuz Fauzy (Team SYR) was 21st, uncharacteristically slow for him, though he was, as usual, the fastest of the three Malaysians. He was also faster than Billy Asaro, who was fighting the Lola-Dome through every corner, seemingly redefining the term evil handling in the course of the 30-minute session.
Christian England, although he was 4th in the Scholarship Class, was also suffering from whatever malaise had struck at Promatecme, and was 8 places behind Viso, in 23rd. The usual suspects made up the remaining seven places, in the shape of the likes of Tor Graves (Manor Motorsport) and Rizal Ramli (SYR). Sherwood was 5th in class, ahead of Ivor McCullough (Meritus Racing), who seems to have gone completely off the boil since the first races at Donington. Hernandez was next in class, ahead of Mason, and Farriz Fauzy (SYR) brought up the rear as usual, so far off the pace that it is surprising he's allowed to run at all.
-Stella-Maria Thomas and Lynne Waite, Guest Writers