Max Verstappen (Van Amersfoort Racing, 1:32.002 minutes) set the fastest time in first qualifying.
After the sunshine of Imola a week ago, the FIA European F3 boys and girls now find themselves in Germany where the weather is nowhere near as good. However, this didn’t seem to slow Max Verstappen (Van Amersfoort Racing) down in the slightest, the Dutch driver taking pole for the first race of the final weekend of the 2014 series, despite a gravelly moment or two in free practice a couple of hours earlier. Starting from 2nd will be Lucas Auer (kfzteile24 Mücke Motorsport), ahead of Tom Blomqvist (Jagonya Ayam with Carlin).
The session got underway more or less on time, though at a different time of day than has been normal for the rest of the year. This is presumably in an effort to head off the “qualifying as it’s getting dark” issues that plagued the second session last weekend. Anyway, it was not long after free practice that the 25 cars rolled back out again to qualify, Jake Dennis (Carlin) among them, despite having required what may well be one of the fastest engine changes in F3 history. It was an impressive effort by the Carlin lads…
When the times started to come through...
Anyway, the usual suspects rolled out first, but it wasn’t long before the track started to fill up as no one wanted to risk not setting a banker lap as early as possible. When the times started to come through, it was initially Dennis van de Laar (Prema Powerteam) who topped the times, but he didn’t get to stay there for long. Antonio Fuoco was soon quicker, which made a lot more sense.
Tatiana Calderon (Jo Zeller Racing) was next to go fastest, only to get demoted by Felix Rosenqvist (kfzteile24 Mücke Motorsport) who was on a bit of a charge, presumably feeling fully recovered after last Sunday’s massive crash which must have at least left him badly bruised. Felix R was soon joined on the front row by Felix Serralles (Team West-Tec F3) but not everyone had yet set a time, and no one was anywhere near the free practice times, not even the Felixes, who were the only drivers in the 1:33s.
They were split a lap later by Calderon who slotted into 2nd; she does like the big GP circuits. It was unlikely to last though, and she was pushed out by Roy Nissany (kfzteile24 Mücke Motorsport) who was just as unlikely to stay in that position. Meanwhile Stefano Coletti was flogging the Eurointernational car round, a thankless task at the best of times, but he was doing it prior to racing in Macau and simply needs to get an F3 meeting under his belt. He’d actually got it as far up the order as 7th, which seemed not far short of miraculous. It wouldn’t last either.
At the top things were now starting to look far more normal, with newly crowned champion Esteban Ocon (Prema Powerteam) up to 2nd, only to be pushed down by Verstappen, though the Dutchman promptly had his time disallowed for the usual track limits infringement.
A further reshuffle saw Fuoco back into 3rd, but that all shifted further when Antonio Giovinazzi (Jagonya Ayam with Carlin) moved into 2nd, just behind Rosenqvist. Elsewhere, Nick Cassidy (ThreeBond with T-Sport) was again demonstrating that actually T-Sport are still more than capable of putting out a halfway decent car, and was up in 10th. Again, he’s basically trying to get the hang of the car before heading out to Macau, but it was good to see the T-Sport car running well.
A very familiar look...
To no one’s great surprise, the next move came from Ocon, who moved into the 1:32s and onto provisional pole. However, he wasn’t going to keep it if Auer had anything to say about it. Auer did, in fact, have something to say, and went even faster, just ahead of Verstappen, only to then be edged out by Blomqvist, with a time of 1:32.076. The top ten was starting to have a very familiar look about it, apart from the presence of Gustavo Menezes (Van Amersfoort Racing) in 6th. Normality regained the upper hand when Jordan King (Carlin) improved to go 4th.
And meanwhile Auer was pushing harder, a 1:32.020 putting the tiny Austrian back on top, at least short term, ahead of Blomqvist, Verstappen, King, Ocon, Rosenqvist, Sean Gelael (Jagonya Ayam with Carlin), Giovinazzi, Menezes and Ed Jones (Carlin). This wasn’t over quite yet. Giovinazzi hauled it round to improve up to 4th, while Verstappen dug deep to set a new pole time of 1:32.002. And then it all went very quiet indeed.
With around 5 minutes left, the improvements dried up, though one or two of the drivers towards the back were able to set personal bests in some but not enough of the three sectors. It just wasn’t happening now. Verstappen was comfortably on top now from Auer, Blomqvist, Giovinazzi and King, the latter getting a faster time in the very last seconds but staying 5th. Verstappen had already pitted, as had Coletti, and that was pretty much it for improvements.
And so, before the imposition of various 10-grid place penalties and the like for engine changes, Verstappen starts from pole, ahead of Auer, Blomqvist, Giovinazzi, King, Ocon, Rosenqvist, Gelael, Serralles and Menezes, who had managed to hang on in there in the top 10.
The back of the grid...
Jones finished up 11th, from Nissany, Fuoco, Calderon, Cassidy, Jules Szymkowiak (Van Amersfoort Racing), van de Laar, Dennis – both of whom will drop to the back of the grid on account of engine changes), Santino Ferrucci (Fortec Motorsport) and Coletti.
Michele Beretta in the second Eurointernational car starts 21st, ahead of the ThreeBond with T-Sport pair of Alexander Toril and Richard “Spike” Goddard, with Sandro Zeller (Jo Zeller Racing) 24th from Wing Chung “Andy” Chang (Team West-Tec F3).
Auer, Jones, Beretta, Ferrucci, Menezes, Zeller, Calderon, Chang, Fuoco, van de Laar, Dennis, Coletti, Verstappen, Blomqvist and Cassidy all had lap times cancelled for track limit infringements. It could have been worse. Giovinazzi, King, Ocon, Rosenqvist, Gelael, Serralles, Nissany, Szymkowiak, Toril and Goddard were all good boys! Sometimes everyone gets hit.
Race 1 Provisional Grid (Fastest Qualifying Laps of Qualifying Session 1):
1st – Max Verstappen*, NED, Van Amersfoort Racing, Dallara F312, Volkswagen, 1:32.002
2nd – Lucas Auer, AUT, kfzteile24 Mücke Motorsport, Dallara F312, Mercedes-Benz, 1:32.020
3rd – Tom Blomqvist, GBR, Jagonya Ayam with Carlin, Dallara F312, Volkswagen, 1:32.076
4th – Antonio Giovinazzi, ITA, Jagonya Ayam with Carlin, Dallara F312, Volkswagen, 1:3”.341
5th – Jordan King, GBR, Carlin, Dallara F312, Volkswagen, 1:32.379
6th – Esteban Ocon*, FRA, Prema Powerteam, Dallara F312, Mercedes-Benz, 1:32.414
7th – Felix Rosenqvist, SWE, kfzteile24 Mücke Motorsport, Dallara F312, Mercedes-Benz, 1:32.485
8th – Sean Gelael, IDN, Jagonya Ayam with Carlin, Dallara F312, Volkswagen, 1:32.535
9th – Felix Serralles, PRT, Team West-TecF3, Dallara F312, Mercedes-Benz, 1:32.676
10th – Gustavo Menezes, USA, Van Amersfoort Racing, Dallara F312, Volkswagen, 1:32.760