Lynne Waite and Stella-Maria Thomas, F3 Correspondents
1-2-3 for Carlin
Race Report – Round 25 (Race 1):
At Donington this afternoon, despite suffering a heavy cold, Rupert Svendsen-Cook (Carlin) took a dominant victory in the latest round of the British F3 International Series. He was a long way ahead of team-mate Carlos Huertas, who spent most of the race fending off a very feisty Jack Harvey (Carlin). The Rookie Class went to Kotaro Sakurai (Hitech Racing) who also claimed the 2011 title largely due to a serious lack of any opposition.
At the start Svendsen-Cook made the most of his pole position to tear away into the lead while behind him it all got more than a bit messy, with Kevin Magnussen (Carlin) making an appalling start and slipping down the order as Huertas barged through into 2nd. The losers in all of this were Valtteri Bottas (Double R Racing) and Scott Pye (Double R Racing) both of whom had to haul on the anchors in order to avoid ramming the Dane up the gearbox. The major beneficiary was Menasheh Idafar (T-Sport) who was up to 11th from back in 16th, a major step forward for the Bahraini.
Meanwhile at the back of the pack there was a Sino Vision Racing a long way off, which turned out to be an errant Hywel Lloyd who tangled with Lucas Foresti (Fortec Motorsport) on the way before he eventually pulled it back together to rejoin at the back with a lot of work to do.
As Svendsen-Cook motored away into the distance, Felipe Nasr (Carlin) was all over Magnussen for 4th before it all got slightly out of hand. Magnussen wasn’t about to let him through and the result was a clash of team-mates followed by Nasr diving into the pits for a new left front tyre. Shortly afterwards Magnussen also pitted for a new right rear tyre. The evidence adds up. They would both rejoin rapidly and set off to at least try and salvage a point for fastest lap. In that they were temporarily thwarted by first Bottas, and then Pye. At the front Svendsen-Cook was now a long way clear, with Huertas holding off Harvey, Pye, Jazeman Jaafar (Carlin) and Bottas, William Buller (Fortec Motorsport), Pipo Derani (Double R Racing), Derani, Idafar and Harry Tincknell, the Fortec driver also on the move after a dire qualifying session. Nasr and Magnussen, meanwhile, were charging round in the final two places still in search of a very fast lap.
The next fastest lap went to Jaafar, though he didn’t get to keep it for long. It was taken off him by Nasr who threw the car round in a spectacular fashion, set a new and impressive fastest lap, and then abandoned ship in the pits, presumably hoping that he’d done enough to claim a point if nothing else. The front-runners, on the other hand, were not able to go that fast, largely because apart from Svendsen-Cook they were all stuck in a train behind Huertas with Harvey trying everything he could think of to get past, all the while having to keep an eye on Pye who was just waiting for an opportunity, but who was probably also being distracted by Jaafar and Bottas, who were glued to his rear wing. Buller was also involved and looking for a way past Bottas, until he got a bit over ambitious and dropped a wheel on the grass. This was followed by an extremely gravelly moment and the Fortec driver started to go backwards, giving team mate Harry Tincknell a nasty surprise as he did so.
In 2nd Huertas continued to work hard to hold off Harvey, while Bottas was breathing down Jaafar’s neck for 5th. Back in the pack Lloyd had recovered some ground and was already ahead of Adderly Fong in the other Sino Vision car, and was driving away from the Chinese. Further back still Nasr’s fastest lap gambit had failed as Magnussen had bettered the Brazilian’s pace and was now fastest of all.
A brief encounter with Sakurai caused some grief for the Dane, despite another fastest race lap, and when the Japanese started banging wheels with Magnussen the Dane seemed to decide enough was enough. Also banging wheels were Fong and Fahmi Ilyas (Fortec Motorsport), the latter in receipt of a drive through penalty for persistently failing to respect the track limits, which made his actions in respect of Fong seem somewhat inexplicable. Fong settled it by driving round the outside of Ilyas, who then came in anyway.
The main interest was still the 5-way battle for 2nd, with Harvey closing right up on Huertas and having another go. It wasn’t enough though, and he couldn’t quite make it stick no matter what he tried. If he was too enthusiastic, then Pye would close up on him, but of course the whole dirty air problem would then raise its head and the unfortunate driver running in the turbulence would find his own car becoming unstable. They were all finding that applied, as were the gaggle of drivers now stacked up behind Derani in 7th, which included Idafar, Tincknell and Buller. They were fairly well clear of Max Snegirev (Fortec Motorsport), the Russian proving unusually steady in 11th, and not showing the slightest tendency to attack the scenery for a change.
Magnussen meanwhile had had enough and had taken his fastest lap and parked in the pits. There was nothing more he could do from back there in the time available, so there wasn’t much point in continuing to waste rubber and fuel to no effect. He would not be the last to hit trouble. That dubious honour would go to Derani, after Idafar attacked him for 7th with a couple of laps left to run. The Brazilian spun and eventually got going again back in 11th, promoting Snegirev into the points and allowing Idafar to claim the place. It came as no surprise when the Bahraini was later summoned to the Race Director’s office where he would spend a long time discussing matters with the race officials in company with a very aggrieved Derani.
And with that the excitement was over despite a late charge from Harvey when he tucked under Huertas’ wing and stayed there all the way through Goddards. It came to nothing though, and as Svendsen-Cook coasted home to a win the battling clutch of drivers behind crossed the finish line in much the same order they had been from the very first corner. 2nd was of course Huertas, from Harvey, Pye, Jaafar, Bottas, Idafar, Tincknell, Buller and Snegirev. 11th and just out of the points – pending a protest – was Derani, who headed home Pietro Fantin (Hitech Racing), Yann Cunha (T-Sport), Bart Hylkema (T-Sport), Lloyd, Fong, a seemingly out of sorts and very off the pace Foresti, Ilyas and Sakurai.
Fastest laps went to Magnussen and Sakurai.
Weather: Cool, cloudy.
After the race ended, Idafar was awareded a 3.5 second penalty for his attack on Derani. The penalty effectively put him back behind Derani, and meant he finished out of the points in 11th. It also promoted Buller to pole position for Sunday's sprint race when he and Tincknell moved up a place in the order.