At Donington this morning Austrian Walter Grubmuller (Hitech Racing) took his second win of his F3 career, after an easy run from the start. He was guarded all the way to the finish by team-mate Renger van der Zande, while a fighting drive...
At Donington this morning Austrian Walter Grubmuller (Hitech Racing) took his second win of his F3 career, after an easy run from the start. He was guarded all the way to the finish by team-mate Renger van der Zande, while a fighting drive from Daniel Ricciardo (Carlin Motorsport) netted the Australian 3rd place and an extra point for fastest lap. In the National Class, Daniel McKenzie (Fortec Motorsport) had an early stage battle with Gabriel Dias (T-Sport), which petered out when the Brazilian hit technical problems and had to pit. That let Victor Correa (Litespeed F3) up into 2nd, while Dias recovered to claim the final podium position.
The start laid the foundation for what came next. Grubmuller made a far batter start than van der Zande, and was able to seize the lead from the poleman by the time they emerged from Redgate. Ricciardo, meanwhile, made a really awful start, losing ground all the way through the first couple of corners. Carlos Huertas gratefully snatched 3rd when it was offered him, just ahead of Max Chilton (Carlin Motorsport). Meanwhile McKenzie got the drop on Dias for the National Class lead. In the midst of the mayhem another to pick up places was Adriano Buzaid (T-Sport) who battled through to 4th, getting ahead of both Carlin cars. They weren't having quite the race they'd hoped for at this stage, though Henry Arundel (Carlin Motorsport) was having an even worse time, having dropped all the way back after gearbox issues at the start and a spin. He was joined at the very back by Hywel Lloyd (C F Racing). A lap later and Ricciardo lost yet another place to Riki Christodoulou (Fortec Motorsport), and was only just able to fend off Wayne Boyd (T-Sport). Things were not looking good for the series leader.
Van der Zande was trying hard to recover and in his efforts set a new fastest lap of the race, going slightly better than Grubmuller had a lap earlier. They got edged out for that useful extra point by Buzaid, though van der Zande came back at him a lap later. Meanwhile, Dias had found his way back ahead of McKenzie as the remaining damp patches on the track dried out rapidly.
That was all Ricciardo needed it seemed. The Australian has proved himself to be quite a racer this season and he proceeded to reinforce that proof now. His first move was to get a tow on Christodoulou that started at Redgate and ended with him gaining a place back at Hollywood in what was a very smart move. Whatever the Carlin lads did to the car just before the race started seemed to be kicking in now. Certainly no sooner was he through than he began to gain ground on Chilton.
He wasn't the only one making up ground. McKenzie had got back ahead of Dias again, while van der Zande was right with Grubmuller. However, the Dutchman was unlikely to make a move on the leader, at least if he wants to remain in gainful employment. That left Ricciardo free to set the latest fastest lap of the race. He would have to slow down shortly afterwards however, as would everyone else. Dias had ground to a halt at Starkey's Bridge which led to what may well have been a completely unnecessary Safety Car period. The marshals had pushed Dias off the kerb and got him going again by the time the Safety Car actually emerged onto the track. Once it was out it was clearly going to have to be deployed for a lap, and so the field settled in behind it. Grubmuller led, from van der Zande, Huertas, Buzaid, Chilton, Ricciardo, Christodoulou, Boyd, Daisuke Nakajima (Raikkonen Robertson Racing) and Jay Bridger (Litespeed F3/Bridger Motorsport). 11th at this point was McKenzie, followed by Victor Garcia (Fortec Motorsport), Dominic Storey (Raikkonen Robertson Racing), Philip Major (Carlin Motorsport), Lloyd, Max Snegirev (Team West-Tec), Correa and Arundel.
Dias arrived at the pits shortly afterwards with what seemed to be a fuel pressure issue. While he was being attended to, everyone else was bunching up behind the Safety Car. Anyway, a lap later it was all systems go again. And it didn't take long for Ricciardo to go back on the attack. He came up behind Chilton at speed, jinked to the outside at Redgate in a classic dummy move, and when Chilton fell for it, whipped through on the inside and vanished into the distance. This was becoming quite a drive!
Dias rejoined shortly thereafter in search of some points to help him try and catch up with McKenzie. With only four runners in the National Class category all he had to do was complete the race to be assured of a point. He had nothing to lose by heading back out there at the first opportunity.
Meanwhile in the International Class Boyd had been dropped a couple of placed by Nakajima and Bridger and ended up 12th. Meanwhile Ricciardo promptly started to close on Buzaid. It didn't take him long to get the Brazilian in his sights. Getting past was another matter. The Australian took to the outside and tried to go round Buzaid. When that didn't work he forced his way to the inside, and the pair of them were side-by-side through the Kraner Curves. Ultimately Buzaid couldn't hold Ricciardo off any longer, and the Carlin driver was through, having now made up most of the ground he'd lost at the start.
A little back from that, Nakajima was busy building up a train again; it seems to be habit he has. This time he had Bridger, Boyd, Garcia, McKenzie, Storey, Major and Lloyd all bunched up behind him, though partly that was due to the Safety Car effect. They began to spread out a little as the rest of the race wore on, with Garcia dropping back a little and thus causing the rest of the pack to lose ground too. However, no one was really watching the mid-field. Instead we were all waiting to see what Ricciardo would do next. What he did was cut the gap to Huertas by a second over the course of a single lap. It looked as if the Colombian would be his next victim. His sheer speed meant that a lap later Ricciardo was right with the leading trio. This looked as if it could be interesting.
Grubmuller still had a slight cushion between himself and van der Zande, but that wouldn't help him if Ricciardo caught up with him. And that was looking ever more possible. Huertas made what was a minor mistake, but that was enough. Ricciardo dived for the gap and was through. That put him back to 3rd (where he'd started from). Van der Zande was likely to prove a much tougher proposition than the Colombian, largely because with three years of F3 behind him now, he's so much more wily than most F3 drivers. It would prove too difficult in the limited amount of time left, though Ricciardo was right on the tail of van der Zande by the time the race ended.
The National Class was still firmly in the hands of McKenzie, with Dias still last of all on the road. The Brazilian had a point for fastest lap now, and shortly after he inherited the last podium position when Snegirev did his usual party trick and fell off on his own, this time out at Post 21, wherever that was. Dias would take the extra points, thanks very much, especially as it would mean that McKenzie's chance of wrapping up the title fight this weekend was now looking increasingly unlikely. It was probably not going to worry McKenzie too much, and anyway the youngster was too busy trying to keep out of the way of the scrap just ahead of him between Bridger, Boyd and Garcia. McKenzie was sensibly staying out of it as much as possible.
Anyway, 30 minutes after it started, Round 11 ended with a victory for Grubmuller. Van der Zande again finished 2nd, while Ricciardo's reward for a stirring drive was 3rd and a slightly reduced championship lead over Grubmuller. Huertas was a disappointed 4th, from Buzaid, Chilton, Christodoulou, Nakajima, Bridger and Boyd. Garcia was 11th, just missing out on a points finish, while McKenzie finished 12th overall to take the National Class win again. 13th was Arundel, who'd recovered as the race wore on to get back ahead of Storey, Major and Lloyd. In 17th was Correa, and the last finisher was Dias.
Fastest laps of the race went to Ricciardo and Dias.
Weather: Cloudy. Cool, breezy.