Changes: There were suggestions that Planet Racing and Lars Sexton were about to return, but these proved to be false. They were in orbit elsewhere and they obviously weren't coming back. In addition, Danny Watts is back in the Promatecme...
There were suggestions that Planet Racing and Lars Sexton were about to return, but these proved to be false. They were in orbit elsewhere and they obviously weren't coming back.
In addition, Danny Watts is back in the Promatecme F3-run Lola-Dome, so that was good news. Oh, and Fairuz Fauzy (Menu Motorsport) had changed his race number from 6 to 39, for reasons we didn't like to enquire into (the last time a driver did that it was because his clairvoyant told him to - you don't want to know, we promise).
And just for good measure, on a short track where traffic is bound to be a problem, we had 25 minute practice sessions instead of the usual 30. Of course this may just be because we needed to fit an extra race into the day.
Weather: Warm, cloudy, slightly windy.
Carlin Motorsport started the morning in formation, with Danilo Dirani leading round Clivio Piccione and Alvaro Parente, the three of them in flying duck formation. Meanwhile, Barton Mawer's Performance Racing Dallara had a blue nose cone, which is not normal. He also had a badly swollen hand, the two things very closely related as it turned out. During Friday's testing Mawer had gone off at high speed and hit the barriers, damaging his wrist and the car badly. The wrist was so swollen that no one could tell if anything was broken or not, and anyway he'd declined a trip to the medical centre, so there wasn't a lot that could be done about that. His team boss was very phlegmatic about the whole thing, saying that the one good thing about it was that at least they hadn't had to argue with their insurers about it, as the man responsible for the policy had arrived at the circuit just as the wreckage came back on a flatbed truck.
Nelson A Piquet (Piquet Sports) was being very laid back this morning, seeming to be in no hurry to get out there at all. Well, most Brazilians we no don't do mornings if they can help it, so you have to allow him a bit of leeway. While Piquet was waking up, Piccione was busy setting an early target time, only to find that Ryan Lewis (T-Sport) was not only on provisional Scholarship Class pole - as usual - but was also 2nd overall. At least he was until Ernesto Viso (P1 Motorsport) crossed the start/finish line to go fastest of all. He was almost immediately displaced by Piccione, and by Andrew Thompson (Hitech Racing), who slotted into 2nd. It was all go at P1, because Adam Carroll then went even faster, dropping the target to 1:01.920, only for Viso to go even faster. And somewhere out there, Piquet had just set the fastest first sector time of the morning so far. Just for good measure Parente decided to join in as well, dropping Carroll to 3rd. That was enough for Carroll, who immediately fought back to reclaim pole.
Elsewhere James Rossiter (Fortec Motorsport) was 6th now, and looking to progress. Someone who wasn't going to make much progress was Andrew Thompson (Hitech Racing); the Scot arrived at the Bombhole with a broken driveshaft and clattered to a halt at Coram Curve, his session effectively over. And we lost another one at Sear, though we never did establish who it was. And despite the yellow flags, Rossiter continued on his way, improving to 2nd when frankly he should have been slowing down. He was now within 0.018 seconds of Carroll who had lifted when he saw the flags. Afterwards, this would cause a lot of dissatisfaction in the ranks, with those drivers who do respect yellow flags less than happy that Rossiter was allowed to get away with this. Certainly three or four years ago, his times would have automatically been disallowed, but we're living under a different regime now, and it's nowhere near as strict as it ought to be.
Anyway, with cars off at both ends of the circuit, it was time to haul out the re flags and send out the breakdown trucks. Clearing up didn't take long, and the session was soon restarted, with 15 minutes still to go. As the lights turned green, Karun Chandhok (T-Sport) shot out of the pit lane, the Indian keen to get a lap in now and try and improve from 18th. Meanwhile, the top 5 places were occupied by Carroll, Rossiter, Viso, Piquet and Will Power (Alan Docking Racing), the latter seemingly re- energised by his dislike of Rossiter and his determination to get on terms with him.
Dirani was looking more awake than he did in Scotland too, and improved from 20th to 8th, just ahead of Chandhok who was now 9th. And then it got too hot, and the improvements stopped for most drivers. One of the exceptions to this was Marko Asmer (Hitech Racing), the Estonian steadily getting faster, even if he wasn't getting any further up the order yet. Lewis, meanwhile, was causing problems for everyone by throwing grit and gravel all over the place, getting over the kerbs at the Bombhole with annoying regularity. The result of that was that there were lots of sharp slivers of flint lying around to make holes in people tyres, which kept happening.
While Fauzy managed to find an improvement of sorts from somewhere, Davison, who'd encountered some of the lethally sharp flint, had given up the unequal struggle and was in the pits, abandoning the attempt and having to live with the knowledge that he would start Sunday morning's race in 16th place. Any pretence at diplomatic relations between Davison and Menu Motorsport were now over, and it seems unlikely that he'll be seen in one of their cars again.
Asmer, meanwhile, was finally reaping the rewards for his efforts and was up to 11th, but there was nothing left in his Avons, so he would get no further, and in fact would lose a place in the closing stages when Watts improved to 11th. The only other excitement came as the flag was readied, and the session ended. First Vasilije Calasan (Promatecme F3) came past having had an agricultural moment. The front wing of the Dallara had suddenly acquired a lush green walrus moustache of grass or wheat (or something green) that ran the full length of the underside of the wing and trailed on the ground as he went by. That simply made everyone laugh (though team boss Chris Weller may not have seen the funny side). What made everyone gasp, however, was the sudden change of pole man. On his very last lap Piquet snatched pole away from Carroll, and it looked like the Brazilian was the fastest man out there. However, he kept it for a brief few seconds before di Grassi completed his last flying lap and demoted the youngster to second.
By: Stella-Maria Thomas and Lynne Waite