Jordan King fought back from a brace of luckless encounters to tally his tenth top five finish of a remarkable maiden campaign in the fiercely-contested FIA Formula 3 European Championship at Vallelunga in Italy – keeping his end-of-season goal very much alive heading into the final round.
“The extended test session gave us the chance to get right up-to-speed on Friday,” explained the talented young Warwickshire ace, who last month clinched the coveted British F3 Championship crown. “The downside was that it gave everybody else the same chance, too, and as I tend to be a pretty quick learner, having so much extra track time to get to grips with it didn’t really play out in my favour. It also made qualifying tremendously tight, as the whole field was so evenly-matched by then.”
Be that as it may, in tricky conditions on a damp surface and with a succession of yellow and red flags repeatedly breaking up the flow, King performed admirably to place his Carlin-prepared, Volkswagen-powered Dallara single-seater firmly in the mix in eighth position on the grid for races one and two and sixth for race three – within a scant five hundredths of a second of the front row. Better yet, his two chief competitors in the standings failed to crack the top ten at all – but the first of the weekend’s outings did not go according to-plan.
“My strategy was to attack from the start in an effort to make progress,” related the rapid Stoneleigh-based hotshot, “but nothing I tried worked and at one stage, I even got run off the road. That meant I ended up losing ground rather than gaining it, which was obviously very frustrating.”
Winding up an appropriately unlucky 13th, race two was less successful still as a knock from a rival on the opening lap left him with a bent track rod and facing an early bath. Undeterred, King rebounded magnificently in the finale on Sunday afternoon, recovering from an early delay to safely and grittily navigate through the chaos and come away with a very solid clutch of points.
“The first lap was just carnage as nobody gave anybody any room and some drivers squeezed others off the track,” recalled the McLaren Autosport Award finalist, British Racing Drivers’ Club (BRDC) SuperStar and MSA Academy member. “I got pushed wide through Turn One, which dropped me to ninth.
“The safety car then came out as there were cars off everywhere, and after the re-start, I concentrated on reading the situations ahead so I could steer clear of any issues. It would have been so easy to get it wrong or be caught up in somebody else’s drama, but my approach meant I was able to put my car in the right place to make the most of every opportunity that presented itself. That allowed me to take advantage of other drivers’ battles and pick my way through the field to fifth, which was encouraging.”
Artfully fending off title protagonist Felix Rosenqvist to the chequered flag, the result not only marked a positive conclusion to an otherwise disappointing weekend but more significantly, saw King narrow his deficit to fifth position in the points table to 35 markers with 75 left to play for.
Just one meeting remains now, at Hockenheim in Germany, where earlier this year, the series’ pre-eminent rookie set fastest lap as he duelled for victory and where he lapped second-quickest in official testing only a handful of weeks ago. He is determined to sign off his debut season at F3 level in suitably impressive style.
“Vallelunga was a tough weekend,” acknowledged the 19-year-old Hugo Boss brand ambassador. “We should really have come away with more than twice as many points as we did. Luckily, neither of the drivers immediately around me in the championship scored well either, but it was still a massive missed opportunity. At least we closed the gap slightly on fifth spot in the standings – but we should have closed it considerably more.
“Looking to Hockenheim, we know we will have good speed there after the previous race weekend and test session, but the racing will likely be very hard – there will be a real end-of-term feeling with a lot of jockeying for championship places and points to prove.
“Climbing into the top five overall will be difficult and we will need a bit of luck, but if we can focus on ourselves, stay out-of-trouble and end the year with a win or at least another podium or two, we may just be able to pull it off. We will certainly give it our very best shot.”