Jordan King: "Prema do seem to have a slight advantage at the moment, but we’re not far off..."
Jordan King has started as he means to go on in the fiercely-contested FIA Formula 3 European Championship, by producing a determined drive to battle his way to a hard-fought rostrum finish in the 2014 curtain-raiser on home turf at Silverstone.
After lapping consistently up at the pointy end during practice in his Volkswagen-powered Dallara single-seater, King was disappointed to qualify only sixth, seventh and 11th for the three races amongst the 26 contenders – the indisputable crème de la crème of young racing talent.
Undeterred, the gifted Warwickshire ace – the architect of a magnificent maiden campaign at F3 level in 2013 – made his intentions very clear at the beginning of the opening encounter, sprinting away from the starting grid when the lights went out and leapfrogging three positions in the space of just two corners.
A largely uneventful second outing saw the highly-rated Stoneleigh-based hotshot briefly snatch fourth position on the first lap during an energetic wheel-to-wheel duel with Carlin team-mate Tom Blomqvist. Settling into fifth, King continued to stalk his countryman until a late mistake cost him a spot and left him sixth when the flag fell.
The 20-year-old British Racing Drivers’ Club (BRDC) SuperStar, MSA Team UK protégé and former McLaren Autosport Award finalist similarly made inroads in race three the next day as he worked his way up into seventh. He was embroiled in a tight tussle over fifth place when an errant adversary snagged his front wing, the legacy of which would leave him fighting a rearguard defence in the closing stages.
Winding up a gallant ninth – and sixth in the points table – King acknowledged that ultimately, the damage was done in qualifying on Friday afternoon. Although he gained ground in all three races, his lowly grid positions put him on the back foot and masked his true potential – something that he is adamant will not reoccur when the championship resumes at Hockenheim in Germany for round two in early May.
“Qualifying was a combination of traffic and the tyres dropping off fairly quickly,” revealed the reigning British F3 Champion and Hugo Boss brand ambassador, “but I felt positive we could move forward in the races. I knew the starts would be really important; I was confident that was one of our strengths after winter testing, and the experience that comes with being a second-year driver certainly helps.
“I kept the pressure on Ocon throughout race one and very nearly managed to sneak past at the safety car re-start. Third place was a strong result to kick-start the season nonetheless, and I was pleased with my performance and racecraft; it was just a shame we hadn’t been able to begin a bit further up the grid.
“I pushed Tom in race two and felt I was quicker than him, but he’s no mug and I didn’t want to chance a risky manoeuvre. I made a small mistake late on and ran wide in his turbulent air, which lost me a place. That was obviously frustrating, but sixth still represented decent points towards the championship.
“I made some early progress in race three and things were looking good, but then the driver ahead moved across on me under braking, which clipped my front wing and left me grappling with understeer. I could just about stay with the pack after that, but gradually the wing worked itself looser-and-looser until I was struggling to even keep the car on the circuit.
“It’s all ‘ifs’, ‘buts’ and ‘maybes’ at the end of the day. If we’d successfully nailed qualifying, we could definitely have challenged for the podium in all three races because we had good pace, but as it was, we were playing catch-up weekend-long and everybody knows how difficult it is to overtake in these cars.
“There are clearly some extremely fast rookies in the field this year and the fact that there were six different drivers on the podium over the three races at Silverstone just goes to underline how close and competitive it is going to be. Prema do seem to have a slight advantage at the moment, but we’re not far off, we came away with some solid points and we’re definitely in the mix.
“I have a good record at Hockenheim after qualifying second and leading the race there last year. If we can put everything together, I’m optimistic we can be fighting right up at the sharp end – and hopefully start clawing back some vital points in the championship standings.”