Bravura from SG Formula in Barcelona! SG Formula certainly set tongues wagging on the Catalan circuit of Montmelo. In its debut session in the Formula 3 Euro Series, the team from La Rochelle achieved the feat of getting all three of its drivers...
Bravura from SG Formula in Barcelona!
SG Formula certainly set tongues wagging on the Catalan circuit of Montmelo. In its debut session in the Formula 3 Euro Series, the team from La Rochelle achieved the feat of getting all three of its drivers in the top eight during qualifying, with one of them making the front line of the grid for Race 1. Although it couldn't repeat its podium successes of Mugello, Zandvoort and Brands Hatch, it was clear that in Barcelona the team ramped up another notch in pure performance terms.
The week started well, with the announcement of the signing of young French driver Richard Philippe. "I first spotted Richard last year when he was racing in Formula Renault 3.5", explained Stephane Guerin, Team Manager of SG Formula. "2007 was a tough season for him, marked by two painful injuries to his hands. We had some discussions with him last winter but, naturally enough, he decided at the time that it was best for him to join a more experienced team, although we agreed to stay in touch. When he came back to see us a fortnight ago we managed to strike a deal for the end of the season. Richard will be a great recruit for the team. He's naturally fast but at the same time he's a modest, hardworking and intelligent guy - just the sort we like. And he's only 18 years old."
In qualifying, Yann Clairay clocked a magnificent 2nd fastest time, just 6 hundredths of a second off pole position, which is his personal best so far in F3. This is the first time SG Formula has managed to get one of its cars straight on the front line of the grid with no assistance from the reverse grid system. In an unusual turn of events in Saturday's racing, Yann was for once guilty of excessive wheel-spin at the start, which gave two cars the chance to get ahead of him going into the first turn in Race 1. Despite that, it was Yann who emerged from the turn with his nose in front of the others! He went on to lead the race for more than twenty laps under pressure from Hulkenberg all the way. Unlike the Frenchman, current championship leader Hulkenberg started the race on new tyres. Yann eventually made a mistake which cost him three places, so he missed out on podium place that has seemed well within his reach. However, his 4th place finish got Yann into 5th on Sunday's grid. The start of that race saw him shoot straight into 2nd place, although he was soon under pressure again from a car with better tyres. Yann let Vietoris and Bianchi past and later in the race managed to go straight ahead instead of taking a turn. However, he recovered well and took 5th place at the finish, holding on to his starting grid position.
Overall, the driver from Laval's results were very positive. Notching up precious points in both races, he climbed to 6th position in the championship standings. In the last four events Yann has picked up more points than anyone apart from Hulkenberg, which speaks volumes for the progress made by him and the team.
Barcelona also saw the team's two rookies clock the best qualifying time of their careers in F3, just like Yann! During this epic session, Richard Philippe celebrated his arrival at SG Formula with a superb 4th fastest time. Unfortunately, his enthusiasm got the better of him at the start of Race 1 and he collided with Bianchi. That earned him drive-through penalty, but some great overtaking saw him claw his way back up to 19th position, clocking an excellent 2nd fastest lap in the race along the way. On the Sunday, Richard climbed ten places from his position on the grid, finishing well to take 9th place.
Since he was 4th fastest during practice on the Friday, Henkie Waldschmidt was expecting to do better than his 8th position in qualifying. Saturday saw him stall at the start before going on to clock the fastest lap of the race! However, the young Dutchman got a black flag for needing a push from the marshals to get him started, and he fell back to 25th on Sunday's grid. In Sunday's race, he managed to avoid the chaos out of the starting blocks and succeeded in climbing back up to 12th at the finish.
"I reckon that qualifying session in Barcelona is the team's greatest exploit since 2004", said a jubilant Stephane Guerin. "The strategy we adopted was as aggressive as it was risky. We deliberately waited until the end of the session so as to take advantage of the best track conditions possible. In Race 1 we had one of our drivers in the lead for over half the distance and our other two clocked the two best lap times of the race despite racing on worn tyres. On the other hand, we paid the price for our inexperience. To get the cars properly set up during practice for them to stand a chance of qualifying, we had to fit new tyres. So we had none left for the races. This is an area in which we still need to make progress. Ultimately though, the way in which the team has come on is remarkable and can only leave us optimistic for the future."
The next Formula 3 meeting will be in France, and the best-placed Frenchman in the provisional standings is an SG Formula driver! Motor racing enthusiasts in Charente-Maritime now have their sights set firmly on La Sarthe, next October 4-5.