At present it looks as if British F3 is a straight fight between Daniel Ricciardo (Carlin Motorsport) and Renger van der Zande (Hitech Racing), with the latter having the upper hand in terms of pole positions. However, this...
At present it looks as if British F3 is a straight fight between Daniel Ricciardo (Carlin Motorsport) and Renger van der Zande (Hitech Racing), with the latter having the upper hand in terms of pole positions. However, this afternoon it all went Ricciardo's way, with van der Zande being punted down to 3rd by Adriano Buzaid (T-Sport), the Brazilian not quite having the speed to demote Ricciardo from the top slot. Gabriel Dias (T-Sport) once more claimed National Class pole from Daniel McKenzie (Fortec Motorsport) and Victor Correa (Litespeed F3).
However, before we reached that point there was a full qualifying session to get through. Once again there was an early rush for the track as the weather looked as if it could go either way. Buzaid and fellow T-Sport runner Wayne Boyd were right up there at the start, while Max Snegirev (Team West-Tec) was leading the National Class initially, which frankly seemed more than a little unlikely. As did the fact that Philip Major (Carlin Motorsport) was 3rd. That soon changed, when Daisuke Nakajima (Raikkonen Robertson Racing) went 2nd only to end up scrapping for the place with his team-mate, Carlos Huertas just as he had in the morning.
With the session well under way, and Huertas temporarily getting the upper hand, Dias and Ricciardo were again late out to play. Time would tell whether they'd made the right choice or not. Meanwhile, they were not yet geared up to challenge for the top slots. That was currently being disputed by Boyd (now 2nd), but only till Huertas edged him out and then Nakajima went fastest of all. However, they were soon joined by van der Zande, the Dutchman very quickly getting into the groove and going 3rd.
Pole was still a long way from settled in either class though. McKenzie was the next to show his hand, dislodging Snegirev in short order. At the very front it was Huertas once more on pole, but he was pushed away by Max Chilton (Carlin Motorsport). While Buzaid improved to 4th, it was Walter Grubmuller's (Hitech Racing) turn to get ahead. Meanwhile Dias was now right with McKenzie and looked likely to demote the Englishman yet again.
The next change was at the very front when Ricciardo put in a charge and slotted into pole. The question was whether he'd gone too early. Especially as he wasn't that far ahead, and that van der Zande was now snapping at his heels in earnest in 2nd. It wasn't a comfortable position to be in given van der Zande's form this season. Ricciardo wasn't the only one under pressure. McKenzie had just lost out to Dias who leapfrogged ahead to 8th overall, putting three cars between him and McKenzie.
Meanwhile in the pits the teams were busy, mostly swapping left and right tyres round in order to even out the wear. Whatever the tyre situation, it didn't stop Chilton edging his way back into 3rd from Grubmuller, and then Huertas got back ahead of Chilton. At the other end of the scale Snegirev now last, which was far more normal and almost reassuring.
Henry Arundel (Carlin Motorsport) was also looking altogether more convincing than he had in the morning session and had moved up to 7th. Everyone seemed to have overlooked Buzaid though, the Brazilian digging very deep indeed to go a second or faster and claim 2nd. Where he'd found that from was anyone's guess. Shortly after that there were yellow flags at the Old Hairpin, though again it was impossible to tell who the guilty party was. Could it have been Buzaid after such a rapid time? The flags were not out for long though so whoever it was must have managed to get going again reasonably effectively. With Boyd now back in 8th at least Buzaid was looking well set for Sunday afternoon.
With Dias still just ahead of McKenzie it looked as if the National Class battle was settled, but the International Class one wasn't. Grubmuller fought his way back to 4th, gaining a couple of places, though it was unlikely that 4th was what he'd wanted. He certainly wasn't getting anywhere close to Ricciardo if the Australian had any say in it. In fact he promptly raised the bar by going faster for an even better pole time. Van der Zande also had a go and was able to speed up, but to his frustration he stayed 3rd.
Running somewhat off the pace compared to Snetterton was Riki Christodoulou, who also went faster in the closing stages, only to find it wasn't enough to make any difference to his grid position. As he was 12th at this point it almost certainly wasn't going to please him in the slightest. Another improver was Victor Garcia (Fortec Motorsport), the Spaniard bettering his time but staying resolutely off the pace. After all 14th isn't exactly much of an improvement, especially as he and Major would continue to fight over it for the rest of the session.
McKenzie managed to improve too, which meant he was now just one place behind Dias. He couldn't quite get on terms though, afterwards praising his rival's efforts in a manner that gave everyone listening hope because it was clear that sporting behaviour still exists. Behind the two of them, Major dropped Garcia back to 15th and then a lap later Garcia got back ahead. It was starting to look as if whichever of them was last over the line would be the one to hang onto the place. Other improvements came from Nakajima and Grubmuller both of whom went faster but didn't move up the order.
And then there were yellow flags again at the Old Hairpin, and shortly afterwards a very muddy, grass covered Boyd appeared in the pits to have rubbish cleared out of the air intakes. Just before the excitement, Arundel had gone 8th but then of course everyone slowed down again. When they finally got clear again it was pretty much all over bar any shouting. The only other improvements came very late in the session. Christodoulou managed to get ahead of Dias and McKenzie, which at least meant he should be able to avoid their battle tomorrow afternoon. Meanwhile, on the last lap Chilton gained two places to claim 5th, which probably cheered him up for a change.
Ricciardo therefore starts from pole tomorrow afternoon, ahead of Buzaid, van der Zande, Grubmuller, Chilton, Huertas, Nakajima, Arundel, Boyd and Jay Bridger (Litespeed F3/Bridger Motorsport). 11th was Christodoulou, and he will line up ahead of Dias on National Class pole, McKenzie, Major, Garcia, Dominic Storey (Raikkonen Robertson Racing), Hywel Lloyd (C F Racing), Correa and Snegirev.
Weather: Warm, muggy.
Please also see: Van der Zande yet again on pole, at Donington