Battling Imperatori rewarded with Fuji podium Alexandre Imperatori's battling qualities were on show in the latest Japanese F3 Championship round at Fuji International Speedway last weekend where the Swiss driver recorded a podium finish in race...
Battling Imperatori rewarded with Fuji podium
Alexandre Imperatori's battling qualities were on show in the latest Japanese F3 Championship round at Fuji International Speedway last weekend where the Swiss driver recorded a podium finish in race two after a fantastic comeback drive to fourth in the opener.
The Toda Fightex Racing man was a regular in the top three throughout Friday's two free practice sessions which the team used to find an optimum qualifying set-up, only for Formula Nippon's arrival on Saturday to alter the track's grip levels.
Previous experience meant the team were aware of the changing conditions and altered their own Dallara-Honda accordingly for Saturday's qualifying. But it proved the wrong call with Imperatori losing grip and ending up fourth.
That afternoon's 15-lap race produced a thrilling comeback from Imperatori who, having moved up to second at the first corner, was forced wide by a lairy Tom's car and dropped to eighth.
A series of thrilling overtaking moves helped him climb back up to fifth before reeling in Koki Saga, whose advantage at one stage was five seconds. With only two laps remaining Imeratori pounced, making fourth his own and setting off in an ultimately unsuccessful pursuit of a podium finish.
"It was a shame about the opening few corners, just a case of being in the wrong place at the wrong time and there was nothing I could do about it," said a philosophical Alex afterwards.
Race two on Sunday proved another exciting encounter with Imperatori once more in the thick of action. A strong start meant he was again challenging for second in the opening corners before settling into third.
But he wasn't finished with Yuhi Sekiguchi ahead, hounding the Japanese throughout the first half of the race. Rafael Suzuki's works Tom's Dallara-Toyota then made it a three-way tussle for second, leaving Imperatori split between attack and defense.
And so ensued a fantastic battle between the pair with third place changing hands several times before Suzuki made it his own. Their squabble allowed Sekiguchi to edge clear but he was soon closed down again and this time successfully relieved of a podium finish first by the Brazilian and then Imperatori, who maintained a comfortable third until the chequered flag.
"I'm very happy as it was a fair fight and I got the podium we wanted," said Imperatori. "There was nothing I could do about Tom's who were too fast on their home circuit even though we managed to fight with one of their cars for the entire race. Of course you hope to be ahead at the end but I'm happy with the podium. Today was a good day, especially after doing so much overtaking throughout the weekend and generally being in the thick of the action."
Imperatori will remain in Japan until the next round at Motegi (7-8 August) due to a number of media commitments, tyre testing duties and 10 days of training alongside Andre Lotterer and their trainer Helmut Fink.