RICCIARDO RACES TO BRITISH F3 CHAMPIONSHIP VICTORY Daniel Ricciardo takes international crown & Daniel McKenzie the National title Daniel Ricciardo clinched the Cooper Tires British Formula 3 International Series championship title in fine ...
RICCIARDO RACES TO BRITISH F3 CHAMPIONSHIP VICTORY
Daniel Ricciardo takes international crown & Daniel McKenzie the National title
Daniel Ricciardo clinched the Cooper Tires British Formula 3 International Series championship title in fine style today (Sun) at the new Algarve circuit in Portugal. The Australian 20-year-old took a maximum-points finish in the first of the day's races, and claimed a fourth-place finish in race two, enough to lift the crown beyond the reach of any of his rivals.
Ricciardo is the second successive Carlin Motorsport/Red Bull racer to claim the British F3 crown - last year's victor, Spaniard Jaime Alguersuari, was promoted to Grand Prix stardom a matter of months after his championship win. Daniel's title is also the first international championship victory of the modern era for engine supplier Volkswagen, and he becomes only the third Australian to win the British F3 title - Tim Schenken was the first, in 1968, and David Brabham the last, 20 years ago.
"This is everything I've wanted since the start of the season," said a grinning Daniel, "and for it to come around a bit early makes it a bit sweeter. It still hasn't quite sunk in but I'm sure that by the end of tonight I'll realise it and party hard. If I can now follow in Jaime Alguersuari's footsteps that would be great - I'm not saying I'll be in F1 next year, but I'd like to be there in the near future. That's my dream."
Ricciardo never doubted he could pull it off: "We had some bad rounds; Rockingham and Hockenheim weren't the best for us - that was where Hitech started coming on strong - but we never lost faith, kept believing and working hard for it."
There was jubilation also for 20-year-old Brit Daniel McKenzie, who secured the National Class title thanks to a class win and a second-place finish in Portugal.
Fortec Motorsport racer McKenzie has shown remarkable consistency throughout the season, beating his chief rival, Brazilian Gabriel Dias, to the class win in 10 of his 18 races. Title secured, McKenzie hopes to step up, with a Mercedes-powered Fortec Dallara, into the International class next weekend (19/20 Sep) at Brands Hatch, venue for the championship's final rounds.
"This is my first championship win," said Daniel, "and it's been a long time coming. It's a great feeling. I hope very much we can sort a deal to join the International class next weekend, and then use that to launch into a full championship bid in 2010. The National class is a great stepping stone, very competitive and with some great drivers. It's been a good experience."
Ricciardo wasn't the outright victor of round 17 of the championship - that honour went to invitation class driver Jules Bianchi - but the Australian placed third on the road and was the leading British championship points scorer. It was Daniel's sixth championship-class race victory of the season and brought him within a few points of the title.
The prize for most disappointed man in the paddock was pole-sitter Renger van der Zande, who led for 12 of the 16 laps only to slip back with a steadily deflating rear tyre. The Dutch Hitech driver lost the lead at the start to ART Grand Prix man Bianchi, but snatched back top spot on the third lap. Renger pulled a second clear at one stage but then struck trouble: "I think we were definitely quickest today and I am really disappointed because about seven laps from the end I started to feel the car bottoming. By the last lap my rear tyre was completely flat. I managed to make it to the finish but I could have won it easy. Not my day."
Bianchi and his ART team-mate Esteban Gutierrez got the jump on van der Zande on the penultimate lap, pushing him back to third and into Ricciardo's gunsights, the Red Bull racer having driven a steady, trouble-avoiding race in fourth throughout. Daniel did not waste the opportunity: "I didn't even realise it was the last lap... I got the run on Renger and pipped him on the line. It was pretty fortunate but you have to take what you can, when you can. I'm disappointed not to have won outright."
Colombian Carlos Huertas was close behind for fifth overall and his maiden British championship podium finish for the Raikkonen Robertson team, with Max Chilton sixth after a slow getaway from second on the grid, and Riki Christodoulou seventh for Fortec. Invitation runners Adrien Tambay and Pedro Enrique were next up, with Hywel Lloyd making a great start in the CF Racing Dallara and moving up to claim 10th overall and sixth in championship class.
Hitech's other championship title challenger, Walter Grubmuller, endured a tough time. The Austrian started only 13th and was badly delayed by a spin in avoidance of a third-lap collision involving the cars of Sam Bird, Valtteri Bottas and Daisuke Nakajima.
McKenzie made an excellent start to overhaul class pole-sitter Gabriel Dias, only to lose the National Class lead on the opening lap. "That was the most up and down race I've had all year. The start was insane but I took advantage of it and made up eight places to the first corner. Unfortunately Dias was then able to drive straight past me - he has found some serious power from somewhere."
Daniel played a waiting game and seized his opportunity to regain the class lead on lap 12, when Dias was delayed by a tussle with an international class car. Gabriel was then bumped backed to third in class two laps from the end by impressive Lebanese newcomer Joe Ghanem, making his debut with the Carlin team.
In all the excitement of both championships being settled, it was all too easy to overlook the feats of Bianchi, whose ART Grand Prix Dallara-Mercedes took outright victory once again, and of Max Chilton, who took championship race honours for the first time in his three-year career.
The initial race leader was Fortec's invitation class runner Sam Bird, who got the drop from fourth on the grid, passing Ricciardo and pole-sitter Chilton. But Sam's grip on top spot was loosened by Bianchi on lap four, the Frenchman blasting past both Ricciardo and Bird at the restart after a two-lap safety car period initiated after a clash between Riki Christodoulou and Roberto Mehri.
Bianchi pulled into a commanding lead as Ricciardo's pace faded - Daniel believed contact with Bianchi's car had damaged his car's nosecone - with Bird, and then van der Zande, giving chase. Renger moved up to second past Bird on lap six but yet again fell victim to a rear puncture in the latter stages, limping home 12th.
That gave Bird a secure grip on second, and he was more than able to fend off Chilton's challenge, Max having recovered from his poor opening lap, which left him sixth, to take Ricciardo and then profit from van der Zande's demise. Max was under heavy pressure from Carlos Huertas for much of the race but never wavered.
Bianchi crossed the line 4.7 seconds clear of Bird, with Chilton next up and the leading championship class driver by a two-second margin. "It's good to do it at last," said Max, "although it's a shame it's not an outright win. My start wasn't shocking but I got forced wide and several got past me. I knew Dan had a problem and then Renger had a puncture, and there I was." Huertas earned himself the Sunoco Driver of the Weekend award for his chase to fourth, and championship class second.
Esteban Gutierrez claimed fifth overall for ART, ahead of the final championship class podium finisher, T-Sport's Adriano Buzaid. Ricciardo, Henry Arundel, Hywel Lloyd and Adrian Tambay completed the top 10. In the National class, Gabriel Dias led all the way to win for the seventh time for T-Sport, with McKenzie cruising home for second and the title, and French newcomer Mathieu Maurage third in class for Team West-Tec.