The RTL GP Masters of Formula 3 at Zandvoort Park in The Netherlands saw a former winner set the pace to grab the provisional pole for the prestigious event.
At Zandvoort this morning Felix Rosenqvist (kfz24-teile Mücke Motorsport) made his intentions perfectly clear. Having won this meeting once, he obviously feels he needs to emulate F1’s Valtteri Bottas and claim the trophy a second time. At the end of a red-flag interrupted session, the Swede was on provisional pole, alongside Harry Tincknell (Carlin), with Prema Powerteam’s highest placed driver, Alex Lynn, in 3rd.
Prior to the session most people would have expected Prema to dominate, even with the non-participation of Raffaele Marciello. It certainly started predictably enough, with Lucas Auer getting ahead early on, with Lynn alongside him. The implication was that Prema really are that good even without their Italian star. That was reinforced by Eddie Cheever in the third of their cars going 3rd. However, things soon changed, and that was when the session got really weird.
Pipo Derani (Fortec Motorsport) soon overhauled the Prema cars for provisional pole, which was fair enough. The Brazilian is sometimes very quick indeed. What wasn’t expected, however, was the presence of Richard “Spike” Goddard (ThreeBond with T-Sport) anywhere in the top ten. With three laps completed, and a lot of people opting to pit for fresh tyres, Goddard was up to 7th. As the halfway point approached, Derani went faster still, and so did Goddard, leaping up the order to 2nd!
In 3rd was Rosenqvist, from Auer, Tom Blomqvist (Eurointernational), Lynn, Cheever Tatiana Calderon (Double R Racing), Tincknell and Antonio Giovinazzi (Double R Racing). It all seemed more than a tad unlikely, frankly. It got even more so when all three of the Double R cars appeared in the top ten in 5th (Sean Gelael), 6th (Calderon) and 7th (Giovinazzi). We definitely seemed to be having a bit of a Twilight zone moment.
At the halfway point then, Derani was still on pole, from Goddard, Rosenqvist, Auer, Gelael, Calderon, Blomqvist (who improved after his pit stop), Lynn and Cheever. A lap later and Giovinazzi was 2nd, just edging out Goddard. A push from Fortec Motorsport’s William Buller changed all that, though with Buller claiming 2nd alongside his Brazilian team-mate. It was looking good for the team from Daventry. The question was could it last?
The answer was no it couldn’t. Sven Müller (ma-con) suddenly went faster yet, with local lad Dennis van de Laar (Van Amersfoort Racing) joining him on the front row. Goddard dropped to 5th, with Derani hanging on to 3rd. Then Nicolas Latifi (Carlin) went fastest of all, pushing Müller down a place, with Jordan King (Carlin) getting up to 3rd from van de Laar.
The order changed yet again, with Blomqvist improving for 3rd, and Müller reclaiming provisional pole. Tincknell meanwhile was languishing back in 20th which seemed a mite uncharacteristic. The Prema cars, meanwhile, were still quick, with Auer up to 3rd, just ahead of Lynn in 4th.
With less than five minutes to go, it was suddenly Rosenqvist on pole, while other people were seeking last minutes tweaks, among them Derani, who was now 12th and had called in to the pits.
The last of the Prema drivers to put in a really fast lap was newcomer Emil Bernstorff, the youngster slotting on to 2nd, ahead of Auer (3rd) and Müller. And then things came to a grinding halt when Giovinazzi crashed out in the self-same spot that had claimed Josh Hill (Fortec Motorsport) in free practice yesterday afternoon. The car hit the barriers nose first and the officials promptly red-flagged the session so that the Italian could be rescued.
Rosenqvist was still on top, with Tincknell having just improved to 2nd, from Lynn, Bernstorff, Auer, Müller, Blomqvist, Latifi, King and Jann Mardenborough (Carlin). Cheever was now 11th ahead of Michael Lewis (kfz24-teile Mücke Motorsport), van de Laar, Derani, Buller, Hill, Giovinazzi, Goddard, Yuhai Sekiguchi (kfz24-teile Mücke Motorsport) and Roy Nissany (kfz24-teile Mücke Motorsport).
There were three minutes and two seconds left on the clock, which meant that if a restart was to happen it would only permit a driver the luxury of a single flying lap. If you didn’t manage to get some heat in your tyres on the out lap, you might as well not bother. And so it proved when the track re-opened. Müller didn’t even bother going back out, and a number of drivers simply ran the out lap and dived back in.
One of only two improvers before the chequered flag was Andre Rudersdorf (ma-con), but as it was only for 19th, it wasn’t exactly cause for excitement, even when Sekiguchi took it off him. The session was effectively over anyway. Who knew what might have happened without the stoppage. We will have to see when they go back out this afternoon for the final decisive session.
The provisional grid order is Rosenqvist, from Tincknell, Lynn, Bernstorff, Auer, Müller, Blomqvist, Latifi, King and Mardenborough. 11th is Cheever, from Lewis, van de Laar, Derani, Buller, Hill, Giovinazzi, Goddard, Sekiguchi and Rudersdorf. 21st went to Nissany, from Sandro Zeller (Jo Zeller Racing), Gelael and Calderon.
Weather: Hot, sunny, dry.