After a very fraught GT Race here at Zandvoort, the F3 boys (and girl) went out to play once more. This time the afternoon heat was an issue, with very few drivers actually getting close to this morning’s pace. This means that 2011 winner Felix Rosenqvist (kfz24-teile Mücke Motorsport) with Mercedes power converted provisional pole to actual pole, and as he was also fastest in this session he will be the man to beat tomorrow. Second place went to Zandvoort Rookie Harry Tincknell (Carlin), the latter in the highest placed of the VW-powered cars. Prema Powerteam (despite being the team to beat so far this season in the European F3 series) could only manage 3rd on the grid for Alex Lynn.
The earliest driver to set the pace in this session was Lucas Auer (Prema Powerteam), but he was a good three seconds off Rosenqvist’s morning pace. Tom Blomqvist (Eurointernational) was next to top the leader board, but he too wasn’t near the required pace yet. With everyone struggling for pace, it wasn’t a surprise to find most of the front runners in the pits as the clock ticked around to show ten minutes left.
However, it was all pretty academic at this stage, with the fastest drivers still around two and a half seconds off the pole time. Maybe it was just too hot out there for the engines. In the morning, only the slowest three were in the 1:33s. This time no one had yet broken out of that bracket, though there was still time.
The improvements started to come finally when Pipo Derani (Fortec Motorsport) went 5th in the session, while Lewis leapt to 8th. Blomqvist hung onto the session finally into the 1:32s. That person was Muller, and this seemed to open the floodgates for improvements in this session. Roy Nissany (kfz24-teile Mücke Motorsport) moved up to 7th. Mardenborough improved to go 2nd and Lewis was again 8th. The times were finally starting to fall but we still had a way to go and five minutes left to play with.
Tincknell improved his time to go 5th in the session, but ahead of him Rosenqvist was now fastest of all and in the 1:31s along with King, and van de Laar. Auer moved ahead of them with a 1:31.488, but then Bernstorff moved to 3rd, and Rosenqvist was faster yet, with a 1:31.080. However, it was still not enough. In fact this seemed to be a bit of a waste of rubber. Muller seemed to think so anyway, pulling in to the pits well ahead of the final flag. He might have been right; only time would tell.
An improvement from King put him 2nd but still no one was getting near to Rosenqvist’s pole time, not even Rosenqvist. He also decided he was wasting his time and pulled in, leaving the others to battle for improvements that just weren’t going to happen. Bernstorff pulled a better time out of the bag for 3rd but when the flag finally fell only seven drivers were faster than they had been in the morning, with van de Laar claiming 12th, Giovinazzi 15th, Buller and Hill 16th and 17th, Rudersdorf in 20th, Gelael 21st and Tatiana Calderon (Double R Racing) staying 24th but with a better time.
The session order was Rosenqvist, from King, Bernstorff, Auer, Tincknell, Blomqvist, Lynn, Latifi, van de Laar and Giovinazzi. Buller was 11th from Hill, Derani, Cheever, Lewis, Müller, Mardenborough, Rudersdorf, Gelael and Sekiguchi. Nissany was 21st ahead of Sandro Zeller (Jo Zeller Racing), Calderon and Goddard.
The final combined order meant Rosenqvist stayed on pole, from Tincknell, Lynn, Bernstorff, Auer, Müller, Blomqvist, Latifi, King and Mardenborough. Cheever would start just outside the top ten, in 11th, ahead of van de Laar, Lewis, Derani, Giovinazzi, Buller, Hill, Goddard, Sekiguchi and Rudersdorf. Gelael starts 21st, alongside Nissany, while Zeller and Calderon complete the grid.
Afterwards, Rosenqvist was quietly confident: “Qualifying was good. The car was much better than last year because we went away and we did our homework. It's a perfect start to the weekend. The start should be ok but I don’t want to be too happy yet. We are coping with the new tyres, unlike last year when we weren't quick enough. I don’t want a repeat of 2011" (when the two Prema front runners wiped each other out in a crash off the start) "but I’m quite confident of my starts.”
Tincknell was justifiably pleased with his rookie performance here: “The front row is a really good result for us but in a one off race only the winning is what matters. We’ve a good chance tomorrow. It’s the first time for me at Zandvoort and it’s been a steep learning curve but the team have given me a good car. For F3 cars it’s one of the best circuits, undulating, with fast corners and it’s my engineer’s home circuit too. So far, so good!”
Local hero van de Laar was embarrassed by his extremely pink overalls, but otherwise not too disappointed: “In the 2nd qualifying I was 9th, which was a big improvement on the first one, but I had problems with traffic so I’m slightly disappointed. However it is the first time for the team with Kumho tyres so the team had to change the set ups, and that combined with too many mistakes on my side. I’ll push to make up some places to get in the top ten.”
Weather: Hot, dry, sunny.