Changes: Pay attention please. This is going to get rather complicated. Promatecme F3 are back, with Fairuz Fauzy in the number 8 car, after he vacated his slot at Team SYR. This apparently left his brother, Farriz Fauzy, with no option but to...
Pay attention please. This is going to get rather complicated. Promatecme F3 are back, with Fairuz Fauzy in the number 8 car, after he vacated his slot at Team SYR. This apparently left his brother, Farriz Fauzy, with no option but to leave SYR, apparently having concluded that he had long since run out of talent. As a result, there were two seats vacant alongside Rizal Ramli and these were duly occupied by Katherine Legge (Number 26), making her F3 debut and Denmark's Jesper Carlsen, moving up to Class A for the first time after a racing layoff of nearly a year.
Another new addition to the series was Can Artam, the Turk moving in to Promatecme F3's vacant Scholarship Class car, at least managing to keep the numbers up in the class, which is just as well as Performance Racing were missing again, meaning no Justin Sherwood.
Qualifying Report - Round 13:
Weather: Hot, sunny, some cloud.
There had been a number of changes at Oulton Park since we were last here 11 months ago. New and much-needed pit garages had been built, complete with air-conditioned press office and a new podium and commentary box. At first sight it all looked pretty smart, until you realised there were only windows on one side of the commentary box. which meant that the team in there could only see a very small area around the start/finish line. Ah well.
In addition the track itself had received some attention, and Knickerbrook was a totally different prospect, with a left/right kink where formally there had been a rather nasty chicane. Admittedly the exit was now a mite tricky, with a tendency to throw the car onto the grass if you weren't careful. Even so, the change was greeted with general approval, even by those drivers who had been sceptical beforehand.
The session was late starting, despite that fact that there had only been 40 minutes of action prior to the Formula Threes going out. There were Seat Cupras littering the scenery and they had to be cleaned up before we could start. When the session did get underway, Richard Antinucci (Carlin Motorsport), Jamie Green (Carlin) and Ernesto Viso (P1 Motorsport) were the first to venture out, though they were rapidly joined by almost everyone else except Alan van der Merwe (Carlin), who was staying cool in the pit lane and playing a waiting game, and Katherine Legge (Team SYR), who had managed half a lap before a gearbox failure put her out of the session.
As a result, of course, the first competitive times came from Antinucci and Viso, though naturally it wasn't long before some of the others joined in. Carlsen went to a temporary second, while Green started attacking the floppy markers. Someone needs to tell him that is so last year - after all, Carlsen had made a habit of it the previous season, going so far as to get penalised at Knockhill for just such an offence. Green wasn't penalised, but it was only one marker.
Next thing Clivio Piccione (Manor Motorsport) was on pole, only to lose it to Antinucci, who promptly got demoted by Will Power (Fortec Motorsport), the Australian busy rebuilding his confidence levels after his disastrous start to the season. Fauzy, meanwhile, looked as if he too was recovering from recent events, and was 3rd, while Green was having a great deal of trouble finding a smooth line through Knickerbrook and kept kicking clouds of dust over everyone.
Suddenly things got ever so serious, when van der Merwe finally emerged from the pit lane to take a run at pole. The series leader has been looking ever more confident as the season has progressed, and although he hasn't always qualified on pole he has always scored points and has been on the podium 7 times out of 12 races. Anyway, once again he looked smooth but fast and so it would prove.
Others were nowhere near as smooth, Artam getting it all locked up and Power taking to the Knickerbrook grass. Viso, meanwhile, was trying to repeat Robert Dahlgren's qualifying feat from last year, when he managed to put a Scholarship Class car on overall pole, to the disgust of some of the Championship Class runners. Viso was 1/1000th off the pole time and was obviously pushing hard. Maybe he could do it. Dahlgren was also showing a pretty impressive turn of speed, this time in his Championship Class Fortec Motorsport Dallara, setting provisional pole, although he didn't get to hold on to it for very long, having to watch as Danny Watts (Hitech Racing) upped the ante. He soon lost out too, having to give way to Nelson Piquet Jr (Piquet Sports), the teenager going fastest of all on what was only his second flying lap of the session. Viso, meanwhile, was still pressing on, but went off on the grass after barging his way unceremoniously past Stefano Fabi (Manor Motorsport). He was able to recover, but it wasn't pretty.
Now Will Davison (Alan Docking Racing) put in his bid, snatching 3rd, then 2nd a lap later. However, he had reckoned without Watts, who was now just ahead of van der Merwe, and Adam Carroll (Menu Motorsport), the latter having to prove himself yet again he tries to get the money together to complete his season. That a driver of Carroll's calibre can't raise a budget to compete in F3 is nothing short of criminal, and makes you wonder just what is going on in the sport when others with nowhere near his talent get a full budget handed to them on a plate. Watts was demoted to 3rd when Carroll went 2nd, and then dropped another place as van der Merwe hit his stride to take 3rd place. We were now halfway into the session, and hardly anyone was in the pits, apart from Legge who was watching the SYR team trying to fix her car so she could actually get out there.
Elsewhere, Artam was still struggling to get to grips with both car and circuit, and seemed to be hunting for a gear, any gear, as he battled with Knickerbrook. Fauzy, meanwhile, had dropped to 16th, which seemed rather more normal given his performances earlier in the year. And then both of them came to grief. Artam went off at the entrance to Knickerbrook and was unable to restart, while Fauzy got through the corner and went off after it. With two cars in the way there were waved yellows all over the place while they were pushed to a place of safety, which may have prevented much in the way of changes. The order was now Piquet, van der Merwe, Carroll, Watts and Green, and we were running out of time. Van der Merwe and Piquet both retreated to the pits, the South African content to start from second on the grid, and they weren't alone. In that heat there wasn't a great deal of point in staying out and wrecking your tyres to no effect, so it was mainly the desperate who remained out. Among them were Karun Chandhok (T- Sport), who really doesn't like Oulton much, and Dahlgren who had slipped back down the order and was now a long way outside the top 10.
Chandhok managed to coax an improvement out of his car, but it didn't move him up the order. Dahlgren was really trying now, getting it all sideways at Knickerbrook and wobbling back onto the track. His efforts finally paid off, as he dragged himself back up to 11th, finally improving to 6th on his last flying lap. Scott Speed (Alan Docking Racing) was still not showing any sign of living up to either his name or the investment RedBull have put into having the American out there. Really, this far into the season, he ought to be showing some sign of talent, but instead just managed to improve to 19th, and then 12th. He just doesn't look in the least bit convincing despite the fact that his teammate Davison has had some bad weekends too. The Australian has at least won a race (and has scored 51 points), whereas Scott has scored a total of 3 points and has never looked likely to get on the podium.
By Stella-Maria Thomas and Lynne Waite, Guest Writers