Changes: It's been a while since anyone has been out, but even so the number of changes is unprecedented. Ultimate Motorsport are not here as they've given up on the Mygale and will be switching to Dallaras for 2009. In the meantime, they have ...
It's been a while since anyone has been out, but even so the number of changes is unprecedented. Ultimate Motorsport are not here as they've given up on the Mygale and will be switching to Dallaras for 2009. In the meantime, they have decided not to waste effort on this weekend.
To make up for their absence, we have some new drivers this weekend with Formula Renault regular Dean Smith trying out F3 with Fortec Motorsport in the Championship Class. Meanwhile Henry Surtees and Adriano Buzaid are trying out the Carlin Motorsport National Class cars, as Andy Meyrick is still not fit to race and Kristjan Einar - in common with the rest of Iceland - has no money left for the rest of the season after heavy damage to the car in Bucharest. Additionally, Jonathan Legris (Litespeed F3) was back in the National Class and we have two Invitation Class runners this weekend, with Oliver Oakes (Eurotek Motorsport) finding a friend in the shape of Clemente de Faria Jr, this time driving a Dallara F308-Mugen Honda for the Cesario F3 UK team who previously ran Alberto Valerio.
Finally Callum Macleod is standing in at T-Sport for Salman al Khalifa, as the Bahraini has been unavoidably delayed and won't make it in time for this session.
Qualifying Report: Hartley leads Carlin 1-2-3 at Donington*
At Donington this morning a controversial session ended in acrimony with arguments about yellow flag infringements, and the results shown here are still very provisionally. So provisionally Brendon Hartley (Carlin Motorsport) is on pole from team-mates Jaime Alguersuari and Oliver Turvey. In the National Class newcomer Surtees holds provisional pole from Jay Bridger (Fluid Motorsport) and Buzaid.
At this stage in the season it's all to play for with the Championship Class title a done deal only in so far as barring a miracle it's 99% certain that it will be won by a Carlin Motorsport driver. The question that remains to be settled is which one? Turvey leads the series, from Alguersuari and Hartley, but it could all change before the end of the weekend. The only non-Carlin Motorsport driver in with a mathematical chance of winning the title is Sergio Perez (T-Sport), but the Mexican is pretty much out of the running thanks to Hitech Motorsport's Max Chilton's efforts in Bucharest.
None of the potential winners seemed very keen to get out there, even so. At the start of the session it was mostly down to the National Class boys to entertain the spectators. They were joined by Clemente Jr. who clearly wanted to get as much mileage as possible from this session. It wasn't long before Chilton joined in too and was on pole, ahead of John Martin (Double R Racing) while Steven Guerrero (T-Sport) led the National Class from Hywel Lloyd (C F Motorsport). It was a rapidly changing session, with lots of action at all levels, though it also threw up some unexpected results, with Buzaid temporarily on overall pole, as opposed to just the National Class. A further lap and it was Martin ahead from Guerrero, while Perez had ventured out and was skittering across the grass. The order at the end of the first proper batch of flying laps was Martin, from Buzaid, Guerrero, Macleod, Jay Bridger (Fluid Motorsport), Lloyd, Sam Abay (Carlin Motorsport), Henry Arundel (Double R Racing) and Chilton.
The Championship Class runners now began to emerge, with Atte Mustonen (Double R Racing), in some ways the major disappoint of the year, slotting in in 2nd, though he wasn't able to hold it for long. Chilton again moved back to pole, only to have Arundel takes it off him, while the championship contenders also finally emerged. It didn't tale long for Surtees to shoot up the order to second overall (and thus the fastest of the National Class runners), which basically meant the front row was annexed by men called Henry. Was this some sort of new regulation we'd missed out on?
It didn't last.
Perez was soon second, and then Chilton again upped the pace, the youngster needing to set as fast a time as possible, as he is carrying a 10- place grid penalty for his offence at Bucharest. And at this point Turvey threw down the gauntlet, leapfrogging to 3rd and trying to stake his claim to the title. Meanwhile, Surtees was still second overall - it looks rather as if talent may actually run in that family, unlike say the Mansells. Arundel reclaimed third from Turvey and was seemingly flying again if his sector times were any guide. While Perez again slotted in to third while Arundel grabbed pole again. A further change and it was Chilton again, from Surtees, Perez and Martin, while Buzaid was second in the National Class, proving that the Carlin Cars are quick in both classes. It proved the point that Bridger has had it rather easier this season than he would have done if Meyrick hadn't been struck down midway through the season.
A new round of improvements saw Mustonen again in 3rd, while Hartley was beginning to show and was up to 7th. Chilton promptly went faster to increase the pole time, and was immediately joined on the front row by the ever improving Abay, though the Australian then found Hartley was on a charge and had moved ahead in the Antipodean battle. Turvey, meanwhile, had dropped to 19th. However, you couldn't imagine he'd stay there for long; he didn't and shot back up to 3rd at the same time that Lloyd moved into National Class provisional pole.
The latest changes were nowhere near the end of it. Nick Tandy (John Tandy Racing) was the next challenger with a time that would put him 6th, while Alguersuari was back in 18th, though also not for long. His first effort was good enough for 9th, but he was going to have to focus, because now Turvey was on pole.
Neither pole position was settled yet. Surtees claimed the National Class again and was 3rd overall, which was impressive but there was a suspicion that the Championship Class runners hadn't really done all they could yet. For one thing Marcus Ericsson (Fortec Motorsport) was in last but one place, which really wasn't where you'd expect the talented youngster to be, given his performances so far this season. Something was clearly amiss.
There was nothing amiss with Abay, on the other hand. The Aussie was now 2nd, but his team-mates had something to say about it. It wasn't long before Turvey was back ahead, with Chilton and Alguersuari now 2nd and 3rd. That pushed Abay back to 4th, just in front of Hartley, Walter Grubmuller (Hitech Racing), Perez, Tandy, Surtees and Arundel. Alguersuari wasn't finished yet either, and nor was Smith, who was 4th and punching above his weight for a newcomer. He lost out straight away to Chilton, while Alguersuari took pole back from Hartley and Turvey. It was now a Carlin top four with Abay bringing up the rear. If anyone is in any doubt about the resurgence of Carlin as a force in F3, that was all the answer they needed.
In the National Class Bridger was now on pole, the 2008 champion looking relaxed about the whole business. Certainly Macleod wasn't a threat, the T-Sport substitute having a massive moment as he came round onto the main straight. He managed to gather it back and didn't make Russell Eacott regret putting him the car, so that was all to the good. Tandy wasn't finished either and was pushing ahead, trying to improve. 4th and a lap later 3rd was his reward, though again there were still changes to come, with Grubmuller claiming 7th and Chilton now 6th (so effectively 16th once his penalty was applied). Smith was also still trying showing little respect for the more experienced men around him, and was a somewhat unexpected 4th. Ericsson also finally started to improve to go 17th, though that hardly constituted normal for the Swedish teenager.
Speaking of abnormal, for reasons known only to himself Turvey suddenly drove through the pits and out again. There seemed to be no good reason for it and he was soon back out and circulating at speed. It was just as well, because now Smith was 3rd and Perez was 7th (though it seemed unlikely to be enough to put the Mexican back in the title hunt). In the National Class, Bridger was still just holding off Surtees for pole, while the Hitech lads were bouncing around the top ten like ping pong balls. Grubmuller was now Grubmuller 3rd and Chilton was back to 6th, with Turvey just behind him. You had to wonder if the series leader was playing a waiting game or whether there was some sort of problem. Meanwhile team-mate Abay was fighting Tandy for 3rd and Ericsson was up to 12th at last.
Turvey was again on the move too and was 5th - it was plainly not over yet. While he was doing that Bridger pulled into the pits and baled out, presumably of the opinion that there was no point wasting effort, or tyres, especially as there'd been an outbreak of yellow flags caused by Philip Major (Fortec Motorsport), who'd thrown himself into the gravel. It didn't seem to slow the other down any.
Buzaid claimed 2nd in the National Class from Surtees, while Chilton leaped to pole again. Turvey improved but stayed 5th, while Hartley snatched pole by 0.151 seconds. Mustonen improved but as he was still 13th there was little cause to get excited. Turvey, on the other hand, was now 2nd and a lap later Mustonen hauled himself up to 10th. Hartley improved further, while Ericsson pushed his way up to 9th and Surtees nabbed National Class pole from Bridger, despite the yellows. With less than a minute of the session left, and Buzaid off as well somewhere out in the countryside, Alguersuari claimed 2nd behind Hartley.
And then the fun really started. Two and a half hours after the session finished the arguments about whose times should and shouldn't stand are still raging and the order below will change once the dust settles. Times will be disallowed for Chilton, Alguersuari, Hartley, Arundel, Ericsson, Perez, Major, Abay, Tandy, Buzaid and Legris - but we won't know till morning just what effect that will have on the grid as the system means that the times have to be manually disallowed.
For now, all we can say is that Hartley is provisionally on pole from Alguersuari, Turvey, Tandy, Abay, Smith, Grubmuller, Ericsson, Perez and Mustonen. Surtees is on National Class pole and 11th overall from Bridger, Oakes, Chilton, Major, Arundel, Buzaid, Stefan Wilson (Fluid Motorsport), Martin and Guerrero. Lloyd was a slightly lowly 21st from Macleod, Clemente Jr. and Legris.
Weather: Cold, cloudy.
Note: After the great reshuffle, and all times set under yellows being disallowed, Alguersuari was on pole now followed by Hartley, Turvey, Smith, Abay, Grubmuller, Mustonen, Ericsson, Perez and Bridger (on National Class pole). 11th will be Oakes, from Surtees, Tandy, Major, Arundel, Buzaid, Chilton and Wilson. Martin is 21st ahead of Guerrero, Lloyd, Macleod, Clemente Jr and Legris.