An abrupt and extreme downpour during the previous practice session left the track awash for the first of two qualifying sessions for the British F3 International Series at Monza this weekend, and saw the session brought to an extremely premature...
An abrupt and extreme downpour during the previous practice session left the track awash for the first of two qualifying sessions for the British F3 International Series at Monza this weekend, and saw the session brought to an extremely premature end before a good half of the runners actually managed to set a time.
The field for this meeting numbered 28, despite a number of changes. We have an Invitation Class, with Ombra Racing turning out to play as they regularly have done in the past, this time with Matteo Chinosi and Federico Leo, both in Dallara F308s with Mugen-Honda engines. Salman Al Khalifa (T- Sport) is missing from the National Class after problems with his visa/work permit meant he wasn't allowed to get on the plane from the UK. He should make it in time to race, which will of course mean he'll have to start the race from the back of the grid (or possibly not, given what happened next). Just for good measure, Oliver Oakes in the Eurotek entry has opted not to do this race, as it seems had Niall Quinn (Team Loctite), while Alistair Jackson (Double R Racing) is here but seems to have jumped ship and taken up residence in the massive awning Ultimate Motorsport have sprouted this weekend. He will supposedly be racing for them from now on, but won't run this weekend.
Anyway, the session eventually got underway in a fairly heavy downpour. Initially the rain appeared to just mean a slightly delayed start to the session, and a lot of people were gripped by last minute urges to run rather more wing than they'd originally intended, presumably reasoning that with that amount of water on the track you might prefer as much grip as you could get. Given how hard it was raining, and the fact that it looked as if it would get worse not better, there was a general rush for the exit, with everyone on track within the first three minutes. As the times started to come in, Brendon Hartley (Carlin Motorsport) was fast but Atte Mustonen (Double R Racing) was faster, and it was clearly going to come down to the question of whose balls were biggest. Marcus Ericsson (Fortec Motorsport) went 2nd, and then Sergio Perez (T-Sport) shot to pole, no doubt not troubled by the lack of a team-mate to give him a tow - something that is essential here in the dry but not in the wet. To nobody's very great surprise, Andy Meyrick (Carlin Motorsport) was 6th overall and leading the National Class, but in theory there was still a long way to go. In practice, however, the red flags had to be hung out before half the field even managed to complete a flying lap. This was because the officials had decided conditions were just too dangerous to run single seaters, especially given the amount of standing water at the Lesmo bends and Ascari - something that had already caught out Nick Tandy (John Tandy Racing). They were proved right when Hartley spun off at Ascari after the red flag was shown, the Kiwi ending up beached in the gravel.
At this point, Perez was leading Mustonen, with Ericsson, Hartley, Oliver Turvey (Carlin Motorsport), Meyrick, Sam Abay (Carlin Motorsport), Steven Guerrero (T-Sport), Jaime Alguersuari (Carlin Motorsport) and Sebastian Hohenthal (Fortec Motorsport) rounding out the top ten. Philip Major (Fortec Motorsport), Henry Arundel (Double R Racing), Max Chilton (Hitech Racing) and Walter Grubmuller (Hitech Racing) were the only others to have recorded a time. That left Viktor Jensen (Nexa Racing), Craig Reiff (Nexa Racing), Stefan Wilson (Fluid Motorsport), Michael Devaney (Ultimate Motorsport), Leo, John Martin (Double R Racing), Chinosi, Ricardo Teixeira (Ultimate Motorsport), Jay Bridger (Fluid Motorsport), Kristjan Einar (Carlin Motorsport), Hywel Lloyd (CF Racing), Esteban Guerrieri (Ultimate Motorsport) and Tandy with it all still to do. Whether they would get the chance was very much a moot point as we all waited for the officials to decide whether or not to restart the session. There were suggestions that we could run it in Ultimate's F1 sized aircraft hangar of an awning if necessary!
Finally at 18.00 it was decided that there would be no further running today, and there would be a team managers' meeting at 18.30 to decide how to organise the grid. The two options on the table were to run in championship order (which wouldn't be that different from the actual order in the session, but that would be unfair to the Invitation Class boys) or to take the first fastest time for each driver in tomorrow's session as their time for the first race grid, and set the grid for the second race using each driver's second fastest lap of the session. The latter solution is used a lot in European racing as standard. However, given how difficult it can be to get the F3 team owners to agree on anything, it's anyone's guess what they will decide. Watch this space.
Weather: Cold. Extremely wet.