At the latest meeting of the British Formula Three Championship, instead of having the standard two practice sessions and two races, there would be one 45-minute practice session to decide the grid for Round 21, and the results of that race would dictate where everyone started Round 22. With this in mind it was essential to qualify well for Round 21. Monaco's Clivio Piccione, in his Carlin Motorsport Dallara, hadn't had the happiest of days on Friday, finishing free testing in 12th place.
For qualifying, initially it looked as if it was going to be more of the same. The first two laps produced no time. "I went out at the start and did two laps and we had the car pretty much set between dry and wet. I didn't do any times, I was just looking round the track, so I came in and we took the down force away and took the set-up to full dry, while the others were still running." Having made the changes, the car initially still didn't seem to have improved much, though it turned out there was a good reason for that: "I had a big puncture, and I did two laps with that. I didn't know what it was so I did another lap, just to see what was happening, but the car was undriveable, so I came in and we found there was a puncture on the right hand side." As a result, the team had no choice but to put Clivio onto his second set of tyres far sooner than would normally be considered wise. He went back out prepared to go for a time immediately, which meant he at least had the advantage that there was very little traffic on the track. As the session wore on, he settled into a rhythm, rocketing up the order from 17th to 2nd in a dramatic improvement. He was just behind series leader Nelson A Piquet (Piquet Sports) with less than ten minutes to go, when a late charge by Adam Carroll (P1 Motorsport) pushed him down a row. He ended up 4th after a similar effort from Invitation Class runner, Nicolas Lapierre (Opel Signature Plus). "If the puncture hadn't happened, I think I could have got pole. The car felt good and I had a good run with no one messing me up, despite various problems."
For the first race of the weekend, Clivio got off the line well, which was more than could be said for Piquet, the Brazilian seemingly asleep when the lights signalled the start of the race. As the field swept past the pole position man, it all got a bit melodramatic. As Clivio saw it: "Carroll went across me, but I was able to avoid him, so then I followed Lapierre. I got a good tow on him on the left side as we went up through Eau Rouge, so we were side-by-side. He had a small advantage on the inside, but he just decided to cut across me." The resultant clash of wheels saw Lapierre spear off into the gravel, while Clivio continued on in the lead. There followed a slightly nervous couple of laps, as Clivio tried to establish whether damage had been done to his car. It appeared to be fine, which allowed Clivio to push on, trying to put some distance between himself and Carroll, who was 2nd. However, an accident towards the rear of the field meant the Safety Car had to be scrambled to control the race whilst the chaos was cleared away. At the restart, Clivio controlled things beautifully, and got away cleanly, only to be challenged by Carroll as they reached les Combes: "I got a pretty good restart and Carroll was so far behind me that I thought he couldn't get me, but he just flew past. He was quicker than me for the first two laps, and there was nothing I could do. Towards the end I was catching him - I had a better car in comparison as the race wore on, but it was too late." Although a win would have been welcome, a solid 15 points for 2nd place will stand Clivio in good stead as he tries to catch James Rossiter for 3rd in the championship.
Racing at Spa-Francorchamps, in the Belgian Ardennes, is always something of a lottery, mostly because the weather can be peculiar, with everything from monsoon conditions to a heat wave possible within the space of a day. A rain of frogs or similar wouldn't be beyond the bounds of possibility. There'd been suggestions of heavy rain, and freezing cold conditions for the Sunday morning running of Round 22, but in the end it held off and hit the LMES in the afternoon instead, and the sun shone pleasantly as the field lined up in the order they'd finished Round 21. This meant that Monaco's Clivio Piccione would start the race from second, just behind P1 Motorsport's Adam Carroll.
After the dramas of Round 21, everyone was hoping that there would be a little less excitement in Round 22, and so it proved. Clivio was fighting for the lead with Carroll after a smooth start by both men. "Carroll had a really good getaway and I had a bit of a fight with Danny Watts (Promatecme F3) on the first corner, then I got free of him." Watts fell back, ending up embroiled in a three-way scrap for third with Nelson A Piquet (Piquet Sports) and Danilo Dirani (Carlin Motorsport).
At the front, Carroll was making the most of the delay Clivio had experienced to try and break away. "By the time I got away from Danny, Adam was already a long way away. He pushed really hard on the first couple of laps, so he built up a really huge lead." Even so, Clivio set about playing catch up, hoping that he could convert his second place to a victory. It took a lot of effort, but he was soon close to Carroll again. After that it was a matter of trying to pressure Carroll into a mistake, which wasn't exactly easy. "I tried to get back at him, and I think I was driving really well; I had to drive really hard to do it. Unfortunately, Carroll didn't make any mistakes and I was catching him, but he had a really good top speed, and my car was better in the twisty bits - it was all a bit of a compromise. Every time I was closing on him, I was getting understeer, so it was hard to keep behind him. I needed to do that to try and get a really good tow along the back straight, so I just had to push as hard as I could and hope for a mistake from him. I just tried to keep the pressure on, but he didn't make any mistakes so all I could do was settle for second." It might not have been the result he'd hoped for, but a second runner-up slot in two races means he is now 32 points off James Rossiter (Fortec Motorsport) and still has a chance of claiming third place in the series, with two more races to run.
By: Lynne Waite and Stella-Maria Thomas