At Silverstone this afternoon Jean-Eric Vergne (Carlin) came home to an unchallenged victory to clinch the championship with six races (and two meetings) still to go. The Red Bull backed Frenchman has been the class of the field all year and it never looked as if anyone might beat him to the title, so it was no great surprise when he led from lights to flag for his 12th win out of 24. Second place went to Adriano Buzaid (Carlin) from Oli Web (Fortec Motorsport). The National Class was won by James Cole (T-Sport) after an early incident cost Menasheh Idafar (T-Sport) a lot of time, and the Invitation Class went to Carlos Mu?oz (Mucke Motorsport), the latter getting ahead when Pietro Fantin (Hitech Racing) was awarded a drive through penalty late in the race.
At the start for once things were pretty straightforward, especially for Vergne. Calado on the other hand was somewhat tardy off the line, which was bad news for him as he really needed to finish no more than one place behind Vergne to keep his title hopes, slim though they now were, alive into the next meeting. Fourth, after demoting Lucas Foresti (Carlin) for the place, while his team mate led the race was not where he needed to be. While Alex Brundle (T-Sport) got very close to jumping the start, Vergne was busy pulling away from Buzaid, despite the latter making a determined bid to wrest the place from the Frenchman. It wasn't going to work though, and he had to settle back in to 2nd.
There then followed a brief period of silliness as Max Snegirev (Fortec Motorsport) took an ill-advised lunge at Carlos Huertas (Raikkonen Robertson Racing) at Stowe, causing them both to spin and tripping up Idafar at the same time. Snegirev ended his race in the gravel, the suspension geometry of his Dallara more than slightly compromised, while Huertas limped to the pits for a rapid spot of bodywork repair before he could continue. He ended up not losing much ground because the officials scrambled the Safety Car so that Snegirev's car could be retrieved. In fact the whole Safety Car deployment got very messy with Juan Carlos Sistos (Team West-Tec) almost crashing into the pit wall after he failed to notice the SC boards. It didn't help that the Safety Car driver managed not to pick the leader up for a couple of laps, and by the time he did, he was no longer needed. The order at this point was Vergne, from Buzaid, Webb, Calado, Foresti, Rupert Svendsen-Cook, Gabriel Dias (Hitech Racing), Brundle, Mu?oz and William Buller (Hitech Racing). 11th was Felipe Nasr (R?ikk?nen Robertson Racing) ahead of Daniel McKenzie (Fortec Motorsport), Idafar, Daisuke Nakajima (R?ikk?nen Robertson Racing), Jay Bridger (Litespeed F3), Fantin, Hywel Lloyd (C F Racing with Manor Motorsport), Adderley Fong (Sino Vision Racing), Sistos and Jazeman Jaafar (Carlin). Cole was back in 21st, ahead of Yann Cunha (C F Racing with Manor Motorsport) and a recovering Huertas.
At the restart Vergne controlled the start nicely despite a determined lunge from Buzaid, with the result that Buzaid ended up almost losing the place to Webb instead. He hung on though and settled in to follow the leader round for the rest of the race. Meanwhile, possibly caught out by the Cooper tires and the way they behave, Munoz spun at Becketts and was last by the time he'd sorted it all out. Vergne almost immediately started to break away from Buzaid, pulling a gap out when he needed to, relaxing when he didn't. It wasn't a performance to set the world alight but that wasn't what was needed today. Vergne's intelligence as a driver is such that he knows that sometimes consistency is what is required, not a balls out effort, and it says much for him that at 20 years of age he knows the difference. He did set the fastest lap of the race as soon as he was free to push, but apart from that he settled in to stroke it round to the flag. If you wanted excitement then you needed to look elsewhere, including at where Huertas, with the bodywork on his Dallara still askew, was attempting to make up lost ground and was now trying to pass Cole so he could go after the other International Class runners. Webb was also closing on Buzaid, but otherwise it was now getting more than a little processional out there.
Svendsen-Cook was building up a train in the mid-field but no one seemed inclined to try anything just yet. Presumably they were all intent on saving their tyres, even those who were on new ones. "Roop" was effectively holding off Dias, Brundle, Buller, McKenzie and Nakajima, a newish experience for Daisuke, as he's more often the one at the front of the train, not the back. Just to add to the fun, Nasr was closing on the train too, but again it all seemed very stable in the middle part of the race. Eventually Nakajima started to drop away which meant he did have his own train, with Nasr and Jaafar bottling up behind him. And all the while Vergne was coasting round a good 2 seconds ahead of Buzaid, who was having a fairly lonely run now.
Further back and Huertas had got though on Cole and was now trying to pass Fong. Unbelievably he was having a great deal of trouble with the Chinese driver, though with the bodywork as deranged as it was, and the floor possibly damaged, it was no surprise. It didn't help that Fong almost pushed the Colombian into the wall as they raced down the pit straight. Carlos had had enough and a lap later he was through. The only trouble was he then couldn't pull away and had seemingly got as far forward as he was going to. And as far as changes go, that was pretty much it.
Buzaid closed on Vergne, only for Vergne to respond in kind to hold the gap at just over 1.6 seconds. He didn't need to do any more and had enough sense to get the message early. Calado was still only 4th and if things stayed like that it was enough. In the pack, meanwhile, Mu?oz had caught up with Fantin and was looking likely to pass him. However, it didn't happen, because as the race drew to a close Fantin was called in to serve a drive through penalty for not respecting the track limits at Copse. That brought the Invitation Class battle to a premature end, because Mu?oz was so far ahead that he couldn't be caught in what remained of the race. Fantin wasn't the only one to run out of options by the flag. Calado was hauling in Webb at this point but it was a pretty tall order right now with twelve minutes left and over two seconds deficit to make up. Calado was doing his best but it just wasn't enough.
As Vergne cruised round at the front, the only interest left in the last few minutes was in watching the battle for 8th, where Brundle was catching Buller quire rapidly now. Certainly Buller was clearly quicker and he was on Brundle as they got to Brooklands on the penultimate lap. However, Brundle can be a bit unpredictable and Buller just couldn't get close enough in the final analysis. And perhaps it was best not to, especially as it meant Buller ended up being closed on by McKenzie, which really wasn't in the plan.
After 40 minutes it was pretty academic in the end, with Vergne coming home to be crowned 2010 Champion after an impeccably fought and classy campaign. Buzaid settled for 2nd, from Webb, Calado, Foresti, Svendsen- Cook, Dias, Brundle, Buller and McKenzie. 11th was Nakajima, the Japanese holding off Nasr, Jaafar, National Class victor Idafar, Lloyd, Bridger, Huertas, Fong, Mu?oz and Cole. Sistos was 21st, beating out Cunha and Fantin.
Fastest laps went to Vergne, Idafar and Mu?oz.
Weather: Sunny, warm.
Next Rounds: Rounds 25-27, Snetterton, Norfolk, August 29th/30th