Changes: Esteban Guerrieri (Ultimate Motorsport) has left the building. Actually, he's moved up to Ultimate's World Series Renault team, and has been replaced by Alistair Jackson and his bag of money. From the point of view of the team this is a...
Changes: Esteban Guerrieri (Ultimate Motorsport) has left the building. Actually, he's moved up to Ultimate's World Series Renault team, and has been replaced by Alistair Jackson and his bag of money. From the point of view of the team this is a mixed blessing, because at least it now means they have a talented line up in WSR, but it leaves them with one talented (though seemingly unlucky) driver and two paying drivers in F3. Oliver Oakes (Eurotek Motorsport) wasn't out at Monza and didn't appear in testing on Saturday, so we have to assume he's not here. Given the weather conditions, that may be the smart decision.
After a session that was interrupted by red flags, Max Chilton claimed his second pole position of the year for Hitech Racing, while Atte Mustonen (Double R Racing) and Jaime Alguersuari (Carlin Motorsport) ended up 2nd and 3rd. Pole in the National Class went to Andy Meyrick (Carlin Motorsport) as it has done at every meeting so far this year.
The green flag was hung out and the session started while the cars were all still lined up in the paddock, which seemed odd. You would have expected that they would have waited till they'd got them in the pitlane - especially as it means they'll lose a couple of minutes from the session. Cue a batch of aggrieved team managers again.
Marcus Ericsson (Fortec Motorsport) and team-mate Sebastian Hohenthal were both quick to start with Meyrick going 3rd as Sergio Perez (T-Sport) moved onto provisional pole, followed across the line by Sam Abay (Carlin Motorsport). A lap later Ericsson again went fastest from Perez and Abay, dropping Meyrick to 4th overall (and National Class pole). Mustonen seemed to be finding the monsoon conditions to his liking too, and was now 2nd just ahead of Brendon Hartley (Carlin Motorsport). A split second later Alguersuari, also of Carlin, went fastest, but then the red flag was hung out after Hywel Lloyd (CF Motorsport) skated off at Pif Paf.
The order as they all lined up in the pit lane was Alguersuari, from Ericsson, Mustonen, Hartley, Perez, Abay, Hohenthal, Meyrick, Jay Bridger (Fluid Motorsport) and Walter Grubmuller (Hitech Racing). 11th was Oliver Turvey (Carlin Motorsport) from Chilton, Kristjan Einar (Carlin Motorsport), John Martin (Double R Racing), Stefan Wilson (Fluid Motorsport), Steven Guerrero (T-Sport), Philip Major (Fortec Racing), Nick Tandy (John Tandy Racing), Henry Arundel (Double R Racing) and Salman Al Khalifa (T-Sport). Jackson was 21st, so that's a change of team that hasn't made him any faster. 22nd was Lloyd, from Viktor Jensen (Nexa Racing), Mick Devaney (Ultimate Motorsport) who has changed his number back to 13 after Monza, Niall Quinn (Team Loctite), Craig Reiff (Nexa Racing) and Ricardo Teixeira (Ultimate Motorsport).
At the restart young Chilton was quick to get on the pace, the downpour being just the sort of conditions he likes. Abay was clearly much happier here too and he promptly went even faster, but then so did Mustonen. Perez left the pits a long way behind everyone else, presumably hoping to get some clear space, though this plan didn't seem to be working. Meanwhile, Turvey had leapt into the top ten with a time that would put him 6th. However, before most people could get more than one flying lap in, the red flags were hung out again. This time the cause was Jackson, who was off at Pif Paf - which seemed to be rather too popular.
By now the order was Mustonen leading Abay, Chilton, Alguersuari, Ericsson, Turvey, Hartley, Perez, Hohenthal and Meyrick (still leading the National Class). In 11th was Martin, Bridger Grubmuller Al Khalifa Einar Wilson Guerrero Major Quinn Tandy. The 21st place was occupied by Arundel, from Jackson, Devaney, Lloyd, Jensen, Teixeira and Reiff.
This time the clock was still ticking and in effect, despite no one having managed more than five timed laps, it seemed they wouldn't be getting much timed running. This one really was going to cause agitated team bosses and handbags at dawn.
When the pit lane finally reopened there were 6 minutes and 34 seconds left, which was silly. However, they rapidly buckled down, with the first improvement coming from Grubmuller, who improved to go 9th. Next to show was Hohenthal with a time that moved him to 7th. Devaney had been a long way back but now slotted in to 14th, with Tandy also finding some speed for 15th. Wilson was the next improver, with a time that put him 18th. The top six was showing no sign of changing yet, but a lap later Hohenthal's first sector time suggested he could be on for another improvement, as did Meyrick's time. What it didn't show was that Grubmuller had found some speed from somewhere and the Austrian improved to 3rd only to get demoted a place by Hohenthal. Meyrick also managed to get further up the order, and went 8th overall. Chilton dug a little deeper to set another good first sector, which he promptly transformed into pole. It was as well for him, because suddenly we had yet another car off at Pif Paf - this time it was Einar. However, as there was now less than a minute left, the officials didn't flag it this time - which was odd because if it was too dangerous to leave a car there earlier, how come it wasn't now?
Whatever the answer, it was to the benefit of both Devaney who was able to edge into 12th on the team's home circuit, and Alguersuari who claimed 3rd at the flag.
And so, after a somewhat unsatisfactory session, Chilton claimed another pole position, this time from Mustonen, Alguersuari, Abay, Hohenthal, Grubmuller, Ericsson, Meyrick (in National Class pole as ever), Turvey and Hartley. 11th was Perez from Devaney, Martin, Tandy, Bridger, Jackson, Al Khalifa, Arundel, Major and the errant Einar. In 21st place was Guerrero heading up Teixeira, Wilson, Quinn, Jensen, Lloyd and Reiff. Just to add insult to injury, Meyrick fell off somewhere on the slowing down lap, and it was a long time before the breakdown truck brought him back. It looked like it was going to be one of those weekends.
Weather: Horrible. Wet, cold. And behind schedule after a rain of Formula Fords (and lots of red flags).