THE FASTEST ON THE TRACK Philipp had actually been expecting his first Formula 3 weekend to turn out rather differently. With the two best test times on the Hockenheim circuit under his belt, Philipp and his HS Technik team-mate...
THE FASTEST ON THE TRACK
Philipp had actually been expecting his first Formula 3 weekend to turn out rather differently. With the two best test times on the Hockenheim circuit under his belt, Philipp and his HS Technik team-mate Sebastian Saavedra went into the two qualifying sessions amongst the favourites - and the double act lived up to expectations.
Two front-row starts on the debut weekend - had Philipp been counting on that?
Of course not: "But I knew that we stood a pretty good chance." In Q1, he wasn't quite so lucky. "I came up against some traffic on my fastest lap," lamented Philipp. Otherwise, he might well have taken pole position in his very first Formula 3 qualifying session. So he made up for this in the afternoon by grabbing pole for the Sunday race. "That was good. But the main thing was, whenever we were on the outside, we were the fastest."
So why didn't things work out in the race itself?
Faulty start technique was to blame. "Unfortunately, I had the same problem both times," admitted Philipp. "Apparently I still hadn't quite mastered coordination of the new procedures at the start." On both occasions, he failed to make a clean getaway. He finished the first race in ninth position and the second, following a furious pursuit from 26th, in fourth.
What was the problem on the grid?
When it comes to clocking fast lap times or overtaking, Philipp is already equal to the Formula 3 challenge. At the start, though, it became apparent that he was still having some difficulty in adjusting to the switch from Formula BMW to Formula 3. "In Formula BMW, starting is a really straightforward process," explains Philipp. "You don't have to juggle with the clutch pedal and you can come off the clutch completely." In a Formula 3 car, it's all a bit different. "You have to hold the clutch on the bite - it's a completely different type of start," reveals Philipp. If you don't get it just right, the engine stalls. "In fact, I was fairly lucky that no-one drove into the back of me in either race."
But there was no thought of giving up. How did the pursuit go?
The Sunday race opened with two safety-car laps, which didn't exactly help Philipp's cause: the driver just in front left an excessively generous gap between himself and the rest of the field so that Philipp had a job on his hands to work his way up the field during the laps that followed the restart. "But then I worked my way up from 26th to fourth - that was very satisfying," he says with a smile. He gives full credit to the team for providing him and his team-mate with the two fastest cars on the track this weekend.
Despite everything, it was a bravura performance - when the two F3 Euro Series races were held here a few weeks back, there was hardly any overtaking at all. How did Philipp manage this? "It was like a knife cutting through butter. There was no way I was going to let anyone hold me up and I simply drove past anyone who got in my way." A modicum of fire in the belly is more potent than any energy drink on the market. Obviously he feels frustrated not to have converted favourable positions on the grid into podium finishes. "But we were the ones with the speed. We were clearly the fastest on the track." In that respect at least, the season has got off to an auspicious start.