Lynne Waite and Stella-Maria Thomas, F3 Correspondents
Pye takes maiden win at Rockingham while Nasr keeps on racking up points
Scott Pye (Double R Racing) became the latest driver to take a maiden F3 win this morning in the sprint race at Rockingham. He was able to control the race from start to finish, never challenged by Felipe Nasr (Carlin) who was more interested in collecting points towards what may prove to be his championship winning day than in risking all to try and wrest victory from the Australian. Third on the road was Kevin Magnussen (Carlin) until a post-race penalty was applied to drop the Dane to 5th and promote William Buller (Fortec Motorsport) to 3rd. Winner of the Rookie Class was Kotaro Sakurai (T-Sport), a lap ahead of Luca Orlandi (Team West-Tec F3) by the end of the 20 minute race.
At the start the track was extremely wet, and as a result pretty much everyone bogged down as the lights went out. Pye made a good enough start to get way in the lead despite Magnussen’s best efforts to demote him at Deene. Nasr ran so wide there that he was lucky to hold onto 3rd, but the rest of the pack were so bunched up that they were too busy tripping over each other to challenge the Brazilian. Rupert Svendsen-Cook (Carlin) and Jack Harvey (Carlin) were the main losers in the mid-pack mayhem, whereas Menasheh Idafar (T-Sport) was up to 4th and Buller had also gained ground and was 7th and eying Carlos Huertas (Carlin) in speculative fashion. As they came round to tackle Deene for the second time, Jazeman Jaafar (Carlin) was also on the move, getting alongside Idafar on the way in and elbowing him onto the grass as they exited the hairpin to snatch 4th from the Bahraini. Buller, who had already dealt with Huertas, saw his chance and went too.
Magnussen, meanwhile, was motoring on in pursuit of Pye and set a new fastest lap on the way. However, he didn’t keep it long, as Jaafar’s efforts to catch Nasr netted him an even quicker lap. The Malaysian was certainly charging as he attempted to get on the podium. He was promoted along with Nasr when Magnussen made a mistake and spun, recovering back in 4th to his obvious disgust. The track was still very wet and it seemed to have caught him out. He was lucky to stay ahead of Buller after his little excursion.
At the front Pye was now getting into his stride and enjoying the conditions, presumably able to use his Formula Ford experience to his advantage in a race that was less about engineering and more about car control than is normal in F3. He was streaking away now setting a new fastest lap of the race and steadily building his lead over Nasr. Behind the two of them Jaafar was still gaining ground and towing Buller with him, while Idafar was still holding off Huertas, though it looked as if that situation would soon change. Meanwhile, Bart Hylkema (T-Sport), running towards the back of the pack, had an off at Deene which dropped him to last in class behind ex-sparring partner Sakurai, still leading the Rookie Class after Orlandi fell behind at the start of the race and continued to plummet like a stone.
As we hit the mid-point Huertas got the drop on Idafar, who then found Hywel Lloyd (Sino Vision Racing) queuing up to have a go as well. Jaafar was now gaining rapidly on Nasr and Magnussen was on his tail as he fought to recover from his mistake. The trouble was he had Buller all over his rear wing, at least until they reached the hairpin and Buller lost ground, allowing Magnussen to pull away again. And at the front, oblivious to all the excitement, Pye was leading by over 7 seconds from Nasr, Jaafar, Magnussen, Buller, Huertas, Idafar, Lloyd, an out of sorts Lucas Foresti (Fortec Motorsport) who has been feeling unwell all weekend and Pipo Derani (Double R Racing).
Apart from the battle for 2nd/3rd it was now getting a bit strung out, though Pietro Fantin (Hitech Racing), yesterday’s winner, suddenly lost places to Harvey and Fahmi Ilyas (Fortec Motorsport), and shortly after pulled into the pits for some rapid remedial work complaining of lack of grip in his Cooper tyres; he would rejoin at the back of the field. He wasn’t the only Brazilian having a slightly less than good time out there; in fact Nasr seemed to be battled the setup of his car and kept running wide, which was allowing Jaafar to edge ever closer. However, the Malaysian was clearly keeping in mind the fact that Nasr is his team mate, and that the Sprint Race only counts for half points. It wouldn’t stop him having a go at the Championship leader, though it probably meant he would try and choose his moment carefully. As they came up to lap Orlandi, Nasr must have feared his number was up, but the Italian very considerately got out of the way of the charging pair and Jaafar was unable to capitalise.
In fact the result of this was that Jaafar was caught by Magnussen, the Dane suddenly looking very interested in the idea of a podium. It wouldn’t take much – a mistake by anyone of the threesome would shuffle the order in the closing laps. The mistake, when it came, was from Nasr but in that way of seemingly bullet-proof champions he survived and promptly set a new fastest lap of the race on what would be the penultimate lap of the race. That left Jaafar and Magnussen snapping at each other like a pair of terriers, Magnussen nipping through by cutting the chicane (which would cost him later), and Buller nearly squeezing by as well. Jaafar fought back and was able to hold on briefly but he could do nothing in the end to stop the local hero coming through. Further back, Lloyd’s efforts to pass Idafar came to nought, and he lost a place to Derani before the end as well, which seemed poor reward for his efforts this weekend.
And so Pye came home to victory, ahead of Nasr who seemed pleased with the job done. Magnussen was 3rd but was then hit with a 3 second penalty for gaining an unfair advantage, which meant that Buller was 3rd from Jaafar. Magnussen was classified 5th ahead of Huertas, Idafar, Derani, Lloyd and Svendsen-Cook, 11th went to Adderly Fong (Sino Vision Racing), who beat home Foresti, Harry Tincknell (Fortec Motorsport), Harvey, Ilyas, Yann Cunha (T-Sport), Hylkema, Rookie Class winner Sakurai, Fantin and Orlandi.
Fastest race laps went to Nasr and Sakurai.
Weather: Wet. Very…