At Hockenheim this afternoon Jean-Eric Vergne (Carlin) put on a demonstration of precision driving to win Round 10 of the British F3 International Series in fine style. He was one of very few drivers not to be awarded a drive through penalty in...
At Hockenheim this afternoon Jean-Eric Vergne (Carlin) put on a demonstration of precision driving to win Round 10 of the British F3 International Series in fine style. He was one of very few drivers not to be awarded a drive through penalty in a chaotic race that saw almost everyone who made it into 2nd place having it taken away by the officials, with the exception of Jazeman Jaafar (Carlin) who finished a long way behind his French team-mate. The Malaysian came home just ahead of Daniel McKenzie (Fortec Motorsport), who seems to have luck (as well as intelligence) on his side at last. In the National Class, it was James Cole (T-Sport) who got the better of Menasheh Idafar (T-Sport) to win.
The race was not without incident from the start - or in fact even before the start, with Gabriel Dias (Hitech Racing) failing to get off the line. Word went out that his car was on fire but then he stopped waving and attempted to start, stalled and caused the man on the gantry to hang out the "aborted start" sign as the field bunched up and then stalled. There followed an outbreak of chaos as everyone was re-gridded and argument broke out as to whether or not Dias should start from the back for jumping the start. It was settled when Dias stalled in the middle of the field as they tried to move him and was dragged into the pits to take the start from there.
Eventually, after a very long wait in serious heat, the race was finally started to be run over 16 laps. Even that was not without incident, though this time the trouble was at the back, with Hywel Lloyd's car emitting a massive cloud of blue smoke before finally being coaxed off the line by the Welshman. At the front, Vergne made no mistake, getting off the line and into the lead smoothly and starting to pull away from the pack almost immediately. He was clearly not about to make the same mistake he made at Magny-Cours and he wanted his series lead back, thank you! He was helped in this by Oliver Webb (Fortec Motorsport) taking to the grass at the Sachs Curve and throwing away a good dozen places by the time he'd avoided the walls and skittered back on again. That left the way clear for Adriano Buzaid (Carlin) to follow Vergne round, while behind them Jaafar settled into 3rd. There following three fairly processional laps where nothing much happened, but that was only because the officials were operating a "three strikes and you're out" policy with regard to drivers not respecting the track limits. Once the penalties started to kick in it would have been easier to list those drivers who did not get penalised than this that did, but that won't help to describe the shape of the race. Suffice to say hardly anyone escaped unscathed but as they'd all be penalised in the qualifying session it probably shouldn't have come as a surprise to anyone who was actually paying attention. Odd how it did...
Neither Max Snegirev (Fortec Motorsport) nor Wayne Boyd (Sino Vision Racing) needed penalties to lose ground, with both of them taking the long route over the Sachs Curve grass and dropping right back, while Lloyd nipped into the pits with an increasingly unhappy sounding engine. He was quickly back out again, but the car was so slow that he had no chance of recovering any ground at all. Meanwhile, at the front, Vergne was simply pulling away, increasing the gap with every lap that passed. In the National Class, Cole was leading Idafar, and the two of them were under increasing pressure as Webb and Felipe Nasr (R?ikk?nen Robertson Racing) came up behind them to try and get back into the International Class battle where they belonged. Webb found a way through but Nasr managed to trip over Idafar, thus ending his race on the spot. Idafar was able to continue, which was some consolation. Also on lap 8 the penalties started to bite, with Alex Brundle (T-Sport) being the first to come in, poor rewards after the guys had spent all night rebuilding the car after his qualifying shunt.
Meanwhile, Vergne was still cruising onwards untroubled by anything or anyone. Buzaid was still 2nd from Jaafar, William Buller (Fortec Motorsport), Daisuke Nakajima (R?ikk?nen Robertson Racing), McKenzie, James Calado (Carlin), Carlos Huertas (R?ikk?nen Robertson Racing), Lucas Foresti (Carlin) and Rupert Svendsen-Cook (Carlin). 11th at he halfway stage was Jay Bridger (Litespeed F3), from Cole, Idafar, Webb, Dias, Boyd, Adderly Fong (Sino Vision Racing), Snegirev and the stricken Lloyd.
Lap 9 saw Svendsen-Cook get a drive through, thus dropping him to 18th, while a lap later everyone except Vergne pretty much got promoted a place when it was Buzaid's turn to come in for a drive through, losing 8 places in the process. None of this was of the slightest concern to Vergne, the leader in such a commanding position now that even if had been awarded a penalty he would have been in and out again before the now 2nd placed man, Jaafar, had crossed the line.
The next major penalty was Nakajima, the Japanese coming in from 4th and re-emerging 15th place. Just for good measure he then had to come in again to serve a penalty for serving the initial one too late, which put him last. Foresti would join him on the slapped wrists list, pulling in from 7th to end up 18th, which was a poor reward for what had been turning into one of his better efforts. He was promoted a place by Boyd also getting a penalty, though the Sino Vision driver was a longish way from the front anyway by then, the car proving more than a handful to drive. Just to complete the set, Buller - who had been given a penalty quite a while back - finally pulled in to serve his penalty, thus handing McKenzie 3rd place and his first podium of the season, to the Englishman's clear delight.
And so, after a less than eventful race for the leader, Vergne came home after a copybook drive to win by nearly 20 seconds, from Jaafar, McKenzie, Calado, Buzaid, Bridger, Dias, Webb, Cole and Buller. In 11th it was Huertas, leading home Svendsen-Cook, Foresti, Fong, Brundle, Nakajima, Boyd, Idafar (who was awarded a 30 second penalty for not serving a drive through earlier on), Snegirev and Lloyd.
Fastest laps went to Vergne and Cole.
Weather: Hot, sunny.