Qualifying for this weekend’s penultimate FIA F3 series meeting was plagued by red flag interruptions, and finally saw Raffaele Marciello (Prema Powerteam) and Alex Lynn (Prema Powerteam) share the pole positions for rounds 25 and 26 respectively, while the one man who might be able to prevent Marciello claiming the 2013 title, kfz-teile24 Mücke Motorsport’s Felix Rosenqvist, spent the second half of the session sitting in the scenery after a suspension failure put him out and brought out the second lot of red flags of the session. The upshot was that the Swede will start both races from 27th and last, meaning he now has an awful lot of work to do. Meanwhile, Alexander Sims (ThreeBond with T-Sport) and Lynn start this evening’s race 2nd and 3rd, while tomorrow Marciello is 2nd from Daniil Kvyat (Carlin).
The session was late starting and the morning’s ever changing weather made it hard to know which tyre choice to go with, but at least it was now dry and looked as if the worst the drivers would have to cope with would be a rapidly drying surface. When the cars finally took to the track, it was Sims who was early to the top of the timesheets, although the track was a long way from dry yet. However, pretty much everyone was soon faster than in the morning’s damp and gloomy morning free practice session.
However, it was hard to make much progress when the session was stopped at five minutes because Sean Gelael (Double R Racing) had gone off. At that stage only a handful of drivers had actually set a time, and Sims was still fastest, ahead of the errant Gelael, Roy Nissany (kfz-teile23 Mücke Motorsport), Tatiana Calderon (Double R Racing), Sandro Zeller (Jo Zeller Racing), Felix Serralles (Fortec Motorsport), John Bryant-Meisner (Fortec Motorsport) and Andre Rudersdorf (ma-con). In addition, Michael Lewis (kfz-teile24 Mücke Motorsport), Antonio Giovinazzi (Double R Racing), Dennis van de Laar (Van Amersfoort Racing) and his team-mate Sven Müller were all on their out laps.
Gelael was rescued and the session restarted, and the pace soon picked up, Lynn moving to provisional pole ahead of Rosenqvist, Sims and Auer. That changed when Richard “Spike” Goddard claimed provisional 4th behind Eddie Cheever (Prema Powerteam), proving that this session was a long way from done yet.
The times were still only in the 1:31s which also suggested there was more to come. The first man into the 1:30s was Nicholas Latifi (Carlin), who shot to a new provisional pole ahead of Goddard and Eurointernational’s Tom Blomqvist. Seconds later and it was Luis “Pipo” Derani (Fortec Motorsport) who was quickest, from Bryant-Meisner. Nissany leapfrogged to third as the times started to really tumble, and Serralles was now up in 4th.
All the while Marciello was biding time, not even in the top 24, when suddenly it looked as if he might be playing a dangerous game. However, out on track, Rosenqvist had gone slightly wide and collected some damage. The suspension on his Dallara failed, dumping him out there in the boonies, and necessitating the second red flag stop of the session.
At this juncture Derani was on pole from Bryant-Meisner, Nissany, Serralles, Latifi, Blomqvist, Rudersdorf, Lucas Wolf (URD Rennsport), Goddard and Lynn. In 11th was Gelael, ahead of Jann Mardenborough (Carlin), Rosenqvist, Harry Tincknell (Carlin), Sims, Lewis, Cheever, Giovinazzi, Jordan King (Carlin) and Lucas Auer (Prema Powerteam). Zeller was 21st, then came van de Laar, Calderon, Mitchell Gilbert (kfz-teile24 Mücke Motorsport), Müller, Marciello and Kvyat.
The session restarted with 8:16 on the clock. Possibly Rosenqvist might not get overtaken as he couldn’t get back out, but it seemed unlikely. His best hope was more red flags but the gods were not on his side. Müller was the first to improve, leaping ahead of the Swede to go 2nd, and then Marciello did the same. It was not looking good for Rosenqvist now.
More improvement came in the shape of Mardenborough (5th) and Cheever (2nd). Derani, meanwhile, remained fastest from but only until Kvyat hit his stride to go quickest. The shuffling of positions was now almost constant and Derani edged into the 1:29s, only to be beaten to 2nd when Lynn grabbed pole. Giovinazzi was briefly 4th, and Marciello moved into 2nd, King snatching 5th for a while.
In the closing seconds Lynn was overhauled by Marciello, while Sims found some more speed for 4th and Serralles edged alongside Cheever on the 3rd row. At the chequered flag, it was again Sims who was fastest, and it looked as if he might stay there, but as it turned out, Marciello had other ideas. The Prema drivers would split the pole between them.
The starting order for race 1 will therefore be Marciello, from Sims, Lynn, Kvyat, Serralles, Cheever, Derani, King, Auer and Giovinazzi. 11th is Mardenborough, heading up Müller, Bryant-Meisner, van de Laar, Goddard, Tincknell, Latifi, Gilbert, Nissany and Lewis. 21st will be Blomqvist, from Calderon, Wolf, Rudersdorf, Gelael, Zeller and the unfortunate Rosenqvist.
The grid for race 2 is headed by Lynn, from Marciello, Kvyat, Sims, Cheever, Derani, Serralles, King, Auer and Bryant-Meisner. 11th this time is Giovinazzi, from Goddard, van de Laar, Mardenborough, Müller, Blomqvist, Latifi, Nissany, Calderon and Gilbert. 21st goes to Wolf, from Rudersdorf, Tincknell, Lewis, Gelael, Zeller and Rosenqvist.
Weather: Damp, warm, track wet.