Qualifying Report - Round 14: Weather: Hot, sunny. The afternoon session was hotter than ever, with the temperature soaring into the high 20s, and it would certainly slow the cars down from their morning pace. Karun Chandhok (T-Sport), Will ...
Qualifying Report - Round 14:
Weather: Hot, sunny.
The afternoon session was hotter than ever, with the temperature soaring into the high 20s, and it would certainly slow the cars down from their morning pace.
Karun Chandhok (T-Sport), Will Power (Fortec Motorsport) and Billy Asaro (P1 Motorsport) were first out, while once again Alan van der Merwe (Carlin Motorsport) was biding his time and clearly had no intention of coming out in the early stages of practice. His teammate, Richard Antinucci, was also staying where he was for the time being.
Danny Watts (Hitech Racing), on the other hand, was out there and setting some fast times almost immediately. He was soon joined by Nelson Piquet Jr (Piquet Sports), and the two of them traded pole times briefly before Piquet slipped back down the order. Will Power (Fortec Motorsport) was on the pace in the early stages too, going fastest only to be pushed back down by Billy Asaro (P1 Motorsport).
They were joined by Robert Dahlgren (Fortec Motorsport), the Swede managing to sit on pole for a while. He couldn't hang on to it of course, but it was nice while it lasted no doubt. Katherine Legge (Team SYR) at least made it out in this session, the gearbox appearing to be fixed. Added to the 7 laps she managed in testing on Friday, 6 in the session brought her total in an F3 car to 13. As a result being last at the end of the session was not exactly unexpected, though predictably she was not at all happy about it.
At the sharp end, Jamie Green (Carlin Motorsport) was now slugging it out with Piquet, with Dahlgren, Power and Watts in 3rd, 4th and 5th respectively. The Brazilian was impressively quick, but not so fast he couldn't be challenged. Van der Merwe wanted to be the man to do it, and so, finally, the Carlin car rolled out of the pits and onto the track. Fairly shortly after that he was on pole, although there was still a long way to go before he could be confident that Piquet wouldn't fight back.
Another who looked like he might actually be able to join battle near the front was Eric Salignon (Hitech Racing). The Frenchman has looked better as the season has progressed, and seems happiest when the sun comes out. As a native of Avignon, perhaps it's just that he's used to sunny weather. Certainly the English spring seemed to distress him deeply. He was now 10th, which while it wasn't a patch on teammate Watts' pace, was a huge improvement. While van der Merwe, Piquet and Power occupied the top three places, Adam Carroll (Menu Motorsport) had got into the groove and was 4th, taking advantage of the relatively empty track (a lot of drivers were making their mid-session pit stops rather early) to press home his advantage. Another one with a point to prove - and a plan, but more of that in the race reports - was Antinucci, who emerged from the pits at last. His first lap was in the 1.34s, which wasn't at all bad, though he would clearly need much more pace to go for pole. The fourth Carlin driver, Ronnie Bremer, was having one of his better days for once, running 3rd, though you had the feeling that for Ronnie it could all go wrong again in a flash - after all, it usually does. If he could qualify in the top 5 or 6 it would be a plus after recent races. Antinucci was winding himself up to set a fast time, and was now 8th, while Carroll had cracked the top 3. Fairuz Fauzy (Team SYR) had hauled himself up the order from 19th to 9th, while Green was looking dangerous on new tyres.
With Clivio Piccione (Manor Motorsport) now 4th, Bremer was edged back to 5th, but it wasn't too bad even so. Rob Austin (Menu Motorsport) was showing signs of having lost the plot at Oulton, and was now 8th. A year ago that would have been considered impressive for him, but not now. To make matters worse, Salignon quickly displaced him, while teammate Carroll was trying for pole. It was a good lap, just not quite good enough, and van der Merwe was confident enough to pit, although no doubt he knew there was very little to be gained from staying out there even if someone did manage to take his pole position away. As Piccione improved to go 4th, the session came to a temporary halt. Legge had gone off at Knickerbrook and was beached on the kerbs. Instead of getting the marshals to push her off and send her on her way, the officials opted to red flag the session with around 12 minutes left, despite Katherine's furious gesticulations. After everyone had made their way back to the pits, she was able to continue on her way under her own power so the stoppage seemed a little pointless.
Anyway, at the restart, we had the bizarre situation of Scott Speed (Alan Docking Racing) being fastest of all through the speed trap on the start/finish and pretty close to the slowest every else (he ended the afternoon 19th), which suggests serious over-driving is now going on in the American quarter. His teammate, Will Davison, was 10 places further up the order now, while Dahlgren was 6th. In the Scholarship Class, Steven Kane (T- Sport) was busy improving his times, but he couldn't get close to Viso this time, the Venezuelan setting class pole and simply hanging on, despite sliding back to 17th in the overall order by the time the session finished.
Uncharacteristically, Stefano Fabi (Manor Motorsport) was having his best ever session. He was 12th, but improving all the time, and soon got into the top 10. An amazing effort from the tiny Italian saw him get as high as 4th, only to be displaced in the closing minutes. However, Power was now 6th, while Piquet was languishing in 11th, and didn't look at all pleased about it. With Davison joining his fellow Australian to go 7th (and why are both Australians called Will?), the top 16 were now covered by just under a second, and Carroll was less than a tenth of a second off van der Merwe's pole time, it looked settled. It wasn't.
Watts wasn't finished yet, grabbing 5th, while Piccione and Antinucci lined up behind him. However, they all got a shock when Piquet suddenly picked up the pace, grabbing pole from van der Merwe by 0.001 seconds. It meant that for the second race in a row, the South African would start from the second slot on the grid. With very little time remaining Alan chose to pit rather than attempt to squeeze any more time out of his Avons. He was reasonably confident he would be able to out drag Piquet to the first corner, as the Brazilian's starts haven't been especially good of late.
Carroll and Green were on the second row, with Fabi in 5th, just ahead of Watts (who seems to have found his razor since Silverstone), Piccione, Antinucci, Davison and Dahlgren.
By Stella-Maria Thomas and Lynne Waite, Guest Writers