Jordan King made an impressive debut in the FIA Formula 3 European Championship at Monza to snare a brace of top eight finishes and stake his claim as the category’s leading rookie – but already his attentions are focussed on featuring even further up the order next time out.
King has stepped up from Formula Renault to F3 level this year with the ultra-successful Carlin outfit, and turned heads with his eye-catching pre-season testing pace.
“I went there with an open mind,” revealed the talented young Warwickshire ace. “There was definitely an element of heading into the unknown because it was all so new to me, but I wasn’t putting any undue pressure on myself and I had no specific expectations – although I always aim to do the best I can.
“Testing had gone extremely well, which was encouraging. We were right up at the sharp end at both Barcelona and Monza, and consistently inside the top ten.
Equally, though, I knew it was going to be massively close, with pretty much the entire top 20 blanketed by less than a second. It’s the toughest championship I’ve ever competed in, without a doubt.”
In a tremendously high-calibre, 30-strong field, King delivered himself a boost during practice by lapping an outstanding second-quickest in the morning session and eighth in the afternoon, notwithstanding losing some time to a fuel pick-up problem that left him stranded at the pit-lane entrance.
He went into qualifying targeting the top ten and duly lined up eighth for races one and two and sixth for race three in his Volkswagen-powered Dallara single-seater.
“I didn’t get off the line too well, which cost me a few positions,” the highly-rated Stoneleigh-based speed demon recollected of the opening encounter.
“It’s all about getting the start sequence right in your head so that it becomes second nature rather than having to think it through; I’m not quite there in the F3 car yet, but it will come.
“I made some ground back going through the first few corners, despite picking up a bent front wing as everybody funnelled into the tight Variante Rettifilo right-left chicane.
I had recovered as far as seventh when I came up behind Félix Serrallés, and we had a really fun, wheel-to-wheel battle over the final ten laps – we were swapping places every few corners!
“He had less downforce on his car than I did, which made it easier for him to overtake; my car was good under braking and I could pass him into medium-speed corners, but as soon as I got in front, I was punching a big hole in the air with my higher downforce and he would close in again down the straight and just breeze past.
I was effectively a sitting duck, which was frustrating – but that doesn’t take away from the fact that it was a really entertaining race on the whole.”
Professing himself justifiably pleased with the end result, King awoke the following day to find that the skies had darkened considerably and the heavens had opened with a vengeance, unleashing a torrent of rain over the Lombard circuit.
Both of Sunday’s races would begin under the safety car and were disrupted by drama and incidents – one of which would unfortunately claim the 19-year-old McLaren Autosport Award finalist, recently-appointed British Racing Drivers’ Club (BRDC) SuperStar and MSA Academy member as an innocent victim.
“Conditions were truly appalling,” he affirmed. “If you weren’t right at the front of the pack, you couldn’t see a thing – and with Monza being such a high-speed circuit, that’s really not what you want!
The lap is characterised by long straights where plumes of spray were thrown up into the air, followed by heavy braking-zones – which in that kind of weather, is a recipe for disaster. To make matters worse, it was the first time I had driven either the car or that circuit in the wet...
“That all made the race simply a matter of survival rather than skill – it wasn’t about who could brake the latest so much as who dared to brake the latest.
Still, it was going well and I was running in eighth and catching the driver ahead, when I suddenly received a massive thump at the rear entering the first chicane and from then on was merely a passenger.
I had no idea what had happened at the time, but having since watched a video, I see that the guy behind me had basically just not braked and took off over the back of my car.”
Ruing the loss of points through no fault of his own – having looked set for another very solid top ten finish – King maturely put the ill-fortune out of his mind and retained his composure in the weekend’s third and final outing as many around him skated off left, right and centre.
His reward was eighth position when the chequered flag fell – making him the leading F3 rookie in all three qualifying sessions and both races that he completed.
Lying tenth in the title standings – and best-placed F3 newcomer, once more – as he turns his gaze towards round two at Silverstone in mid-April, whilst the Hugo Boss brand ambassador is rightly satisfied with his opening salvo in Italy, fiercely determined as ever, he is eager to turn up the wick on home turf.
“It would obviously have been nice to come away with three top ten finishes, but still it was unquestionably a positive weekend for my F3 debut and I have to be happy with what we achieved,” he concluded.
“This year was never going to be about fighting for the championship, but we proved at Monza that we have the speed to threaten the front-runners, and at Silverstone, I want to shift things up a notch and see if we can crack the top five.”