Lynne Waite and Stella-Maria Thomas, BF3 Correspondents
Marciello claims one Norisring pole, Wehrlein nabs top spot for race 3
At Norisring this morning the inevitable was pretty much in evidence with Pascal Wehrlein (Mücke Motorsport) and Raffaele Marciello (Prema Powerteam) splitting the front row of the grid between them, Marciello claiming pole for Race 1 and Wehrlein for Race 3. Daniel Juncadella (Prema Powerteam) starts 3rd for Race 1 and William Buller (Carlin) holds that place for the other race.
For the British runners, “pole” in Race 1 and Race 3 went to Fantin, while Carlos Sainz Jr (Carlin) and Hannes van Asseldonk start Race 1 in 2nd and 3rd. For Race 3 Felix Serralles (Fortec Motorsport) and Pipo Derani (Fortec Motorsport) are 2nd and 3rd. In the National Class Richard “Spike” Goddard (T-Sport) is on pole for both races ahead of Duvashen Padayachee (Double R Racing).
And as the overall top three are not names you would expect to see in British F3, it would probably help to explain what’s happening here. Initially the British F3 International Series was booked to be at Paul Ricard this weekend, but then the FIA European Formula 3 Championship was established and a large proportion of the field entered that too. So Paul Ricard was cancelled, and the Norisring is now hosting the British F3 International Series, the Formula 3 Euroseries AND the FIA European F3 Championship – all as the same race. It’s been somewhat confusing to say the least.
The confusion is at its most extreme in the matter of the application of certain rules. At one stage, after both Alex Lynn (Fortec Motorsport) and Pietro Fantin (Carlin) needed engine changes, there was talk that they would both be docked 10 grid places as a result. Except that rule only applies to the Euroseries, and Lynn is not registered for that series. And if he were, there is a “Joker engine” rule in the Euro series. Either way, the opinion finally seemed to be that whatever happened, there should not be a penalty for either of them.
Further confusion broke out after everyone had been gathered together in the collecting area ready to move through to the pits. As the clock ticked round and the temperatures soared (it was 35.8°C air and the track temperature was a scary 49.1°C) an announcement was made that the session would be delayed by 15 minutes and would start at 16:30. By 16:28 the 28 suited and booted drivers were roasting in their cockpits, and probably not feeling to happy about it, at which point the screens started to show a further delay.
Cue pictures of one of the corners and a large number of officials, marshals and for all anyone knew, casual bystanders, staring intently at the Tarmac. This was not looking promising. A small digger was wheeled out, tyres were placed against the barrier, and some more staring at the Tarmac ensued. The digger took the tyres away again, and there was yet more staring. Eventually, Tweets from various of the teams informed anyone who was watching that the session had been cancelled.
This resulted in much muttering about beer, and a general departure for the day back to Nuremberg and the comfort of air-conditioned hotel rooms. The session would now take place at 08:10 the following morning instead. And so at stupid o’clock on Saturday everyone reconvened at the Frankenstadion to find out who among the drivers is a morning person and who isn’t.
Overnight the track surface was repaired so at least that problem was taken care of for the time being. Of course given the extreme weather we are experiencing here and the lateness of Race 2 today we may be in the self same situation then, but who knows. At least they’re out there now.
Harry Tincknell (Carlin) led the way out as they all set off on the 2.3 kilometre street course which is basically two hairpins, one very long straight and a stadium section with an S-bend in it. With that many cars out on a very short track, it meant drivers would have to be a bit clever about traffic, but that is to the good in terms of action for the spectators.
On the pace to start with was Fantin which was not that surprising given his pace in testing on Friday morning. The track seemed to suit him better than some. The next to go fastest was current series leader Jazeman Jaafar (Carlin) with Tincknell dropping to 3rd. Jack Harvey (Carlin) and Wehrlein promptly joined in too, as the pitlane emptied of everyone except Sandro Zeller (Jo Zeller Racing). Harvey shot up to pole briefly but then Fantin came back at him, with Sainz Jr moving up to 3rd before Buller charged through to 2nd.
Meanwhile Marciello and Tom Blomqvist (ma-com Motorsport) were 5th and 6th respectively, as Buller went ahead of Sainz Jr and Michael Lewis (Prema Powerteam). With under 50 seconds needed to complete a lap of this place, you can get a lot of laps in a 30 minute session. There was much change yet to come as was proved when Sainz Jr went faster and Juncadella started to show near the top of the times in 3rd.
A lap later and he was fastest of all, with Fantin and Jaafar now 2nd and 3rd. Buller was next up from Sainz Jr, Emil Bernstorff (ma-con Motorsport). Van Asseldonk was first to break through the 50 second barrier and Juncadella isn’t done yet… Jaafar went to 2nd and Buller to 4th after Wehrlein again raised the bar. Sainz Jr improved for 6th while Jaafar was pushing in 2nd, 0.16 seconds behind the leader, but then Buller leapfrogged to 2nd and was just 0.05 seconds off Juncadella.
Further changes came when Marciello went even quicker to edge ahead of Juncadella. Juncadella took that as a hint to pit for new rubber and Buller took 2nd. Van Asseldonk improved to 4th as the pit stops started with a vengeance, at least for Prema and Carlin. That was enough to start the general rush and it wasn’t long before Derani, Fantin, Zeller, Andrea Roda (Jo Zeller Racing) and Goddard were the only men left on track.
We were now at the halfway mark and the order was Marciello from Buller, Juncadella, Wehrlein, Jaafar, van Asseldonk, Serralles, Felix Rosenqvist (Mücke Motorsport), Blomqvist and Lewis. The British series order was Jaafar from van Asseldonk, Serralles, Derani, Sainz Jr, Fantin, Harvey, Geoff Uhrhane (Double R Racing), Tincknell, Lynn, Nick McBride (Three Bond with T-Sport) and Fahmi Ilyas (Double R Racing).
With 12 minutes left on the clock the pack started heading back out with a little over 10 minutes left. It was game on again as they started to wind up the pace and warm up the tyres and the first change came in mid-pack as Bernstorff shifted to 15th at the expense of Harvey who seemed oddly off the pace. Fantin was next on the move going 6th while elsewhere Sven Müller grabbed 4th. There was a lot of shuffling of the mid-field order but the top ten had stabilised, at least for now.
With 6 minutes left. Derani shot up to 4th with Fantin temporarily occupying 2nd. Juncadella found a tenth or two from somewhere to go faster than everyone, while Sainz Jr was 4th just ahead of Bernstorff. Buller was 6th now ahead of Jaafar, Serralles, Derani and Wehrlein but that all changed as Marciello went even faster while Harvey managed to improve to 11th.
Wehrlein still had something in the tank too and promptly edged back to 4th, while van Asseldonk reappeared in 6th and Lewis went 10th. The next to show was Buller who increased the pole pace with a 49.238. Serralles then went 6th just behind Fantin while Derani came round to slot in behind them. Buller was still ahead from Marciello and Juncadella and Wehrlein was 4th but then Fantin started to push as did Bernstorff, slotting in to 6th. Marciello made a last gasp diver for pole, only for Wehrlein to go faster and then it was all over.
And so the grid for Race 1 is headed by Marciello, from Wehrlein, Juncadella, Fantin, Bernstorff, Sainz Jr, van Asseldonk, Derani and Lewis. 11th is Serralles, from Jaafar, Lynn, Harvey, Tincknell, Müller, Blomqvist, Roda, Ilyas and Uhrhane. 21st went to McBride with Rosenqvist in 22nd, ahead of Lucas Wolf (URD Rennsport), Zeller, Luis Sá Silva (URD Rennsport), Philip Ellis (GU-Racing), Goddard and Padayachee.
Race 3 is headed by Wehrlein, from Marciello, Buller, Juncadella, Fantin, Bernstorff, Serralles, Derani, Lewis and van Asseldonk. 11th this time will be Sainz Jr, ahead of Blomqvist, Jaafar, Lynn, Tincknell, Müller, Harvey, Roda, Uhrhane and Ilyas. Rosenqvist is 21st this time, from McBride, Sa Silva, Zeller, Wolf, Ellis, Goddard and Padayachee.
Weather: Hot, hot, hot – and then even hotter. By the time the session happened, it was in the mid-20s and the track was around 30°C.