At Oulton Park today Daniel Ricciardo (Carlin Motorsport) won on his F3 debut after team-mate threw a golden opportunity away when he jumped the start. 2nd was Nick Tandy (JTR), from Walter Grubm?ller (Hitech Racing), the latter scoring his first...
At Oulton Park today Daniel Ricciardo (Carlin Motorsport) won on his F3 debut after team-mate threw a golden opportunity away when he jumped the start. 2nd was Nick Tandy (JTR), from Walter Grubm?ller (Hitech Racing), the latter scoring his first ever F3 podium after two years' of trying. The National Class was won by Daniel McKenzie, who had a very quiet morning, 2nd placed Gabriel Dias (T-Sport) trailing a long way back, while the only other finisher in the class, Max Snegirev (West-Tec) kept falling off, and was eventually shown the driving standards flag.
The first race of the 2009 British F3 International Series was blessed with fine weather, and more than a little chaos. As the field lined up, and the lights went red, poleman Chilton had a minor brainstorm and set off at full race pace, leaving the rest of the field sitting there wondering what on earth the teenager was thinking. Possibly as a result when the start actually happened some people didn't go at all with both Carlos Huertas (T- Sport) and Henry Arundel (Carlin Motorsport) bogging down. The man to benefit most was 2nd placed Ricciardo who was effectively leading the race.
Chilton didn't do a lot to improve his case when he realised what he'd done and slowed right down to allow the chasing pack to catch up. What he should have done was get the pedal to the metal and try to build up a big enough gap to negate whatever penalty he would later be awarded. With everyone else following in pretty much grid order, when the 10 second penalty came through it meant Chilton would be booted down to 13th. So although the number one car was ahead on the road, Ricciardo was the leader from Daisuke Nakajima (Raikkonen Robertson Racing), Tandy, and Grubm?ller. Behind them Riki Christodoulou was heading up Adriano Buzaid (T-Sport), Wayne Boyd (T-Sport), Hywel Lloyd (C F Racing), Victor Garcia (Fortec Motorsport), and McKenzie. Oliver Oakes (Carlin Motorsport) was a long way back but was at least ahead of Stephane Richelmi (Barazi Epsilon), Dias, Jay Bridger (West-Tec), Victor Correa (Litespeed F3), Snegirev and the recovering International Class boys, Arundel and Huertas.
It didn't take long for drama to develop, with Nakajima having a go at Ricciardo. However, he couldn't quite make it stick, partly because he had Tandy looming large in his mirrors, which is pretty unnerving at the best of times. Chilton, meanwhile, had finally realised that he needed to start to build a gap if he was going to salvage anything from the morning. At the same time Ricciardo was trying to drop Nakajima, aided by the fact that the Japanese really did have his hands full with Tandy, a man who is known to be a bit robust to put it politely. At the back, there was a car off at Hislops, and it turned out to be Snegirev in the first of what would be a series off-track excursions for the seemingly hapless Russian. He got going again but he was dead last and falling further back with each corner.
In the middle of the pack Christodoulou was closing on Grubm?ller, while Lloyd was setting about Boyd, both to no real effect. Tandy, on the other hand, was being very effective as Nakajima found out to his cost. It didn't help that when Tandy went through at Lodge, the Japanese was so unsettled that Grubm?ller went with him, leaving Nakajima to contend with Christodoulou. Tandy immediately set about catching Ricciardo, leaving Grubm?ller trailing, the Austrian having decided to keep his best set of tyres for Round 2 which he starts from pole.
Perhaps not surprisingly, someone went off and checked the rules for a jump start and Chilton's penalty was increased to 1 minute, which meant he was now absolutely last, behind even Snegirev. All he could do now was try for a point for fastest lap, but that looked unlikely given the pace being set by Ricciardo and Tandy, as they started a battle that would last most of the race. Meanwhile there was plenty of interest further back too, with Oakes moving up to claim a place in the top ten. He was flying now as well and set off in pursuit of the battling double act of Boyd and Lloyd. Of course it's one thing to catch someone at Oulton but passing them can be tricky, especially when you're running in dirty air, which was what Tandy was also finding now. Of the late starters, Huertas was making very little progress, while Arundel had wrestled his way up to 14th overall, but they were both well behind McKenzie who was happily leading the National Class, even if he was getting a bit bored.
Really though the most excitement was at the front with Ricciardo setting a fastest lap and a new lap record only for Tandy to improve on it three tenths of a second later as he crossed the line in hot pursuit. It was round about the same time that Arundel finally passed Richelmi while Correa stopped out on the track, the nose of the SLC R1 looking decidedly wobbly. He got going again, did one more lap and pulled into the pits and retired. That left three drivers in the National Class and one of them was Snegirev...
With half distance gone, Oakes was firmly bottled up behind the Irishman (Boyd) and the Welshman (Lloyd) but it wasn't proving to be a very good joke. Lloyd tried to get round Boyd at Old Hall and lost ground as a result, which put Oakes squarely back on the C F Racing rear wing. None of them could afford to make a mistake. The other battle in the back was developing nicely too, with Bridger and Huertas firmly glued together. Huertas would get ahead only for Bridger to come back at him. It was just a pity the two of them were so far back in the pack. The battle would last to the end of the race, Huertas finally coming out on top after Dias got between them. It was a great battle, though probably not as good as the one for the lead.
Ricciardo was having to drive very defensively and when he went wide at Old Hall Tandy lunged at him, though he couldn't get through. It did mean he was right back with the Australian again, though a lap later he did the same thing, giving the leader some much needed breathing space. And then things became a little more controversial, when Chilton slowed abruptly and let his team mate, Ricciardo, through, this protecting him from Tandy. A lap later he would let Tandy through, which resulted in an infuriated Tandy claiming that Max had cost him the race. Whether he could have passed Ricciardo is now academic, but the point is we shall never know. If it was done on team orders then it was ineptly done, and Carlin really should know better. The fact that Chilton was wavering around and then speeded up again once Tandy passed him does not speak in the teenager's favour frankly and it may be a while before the results are confirmed. It takes nothing away from Ricciardo, as he did what he needed to do and brought it home to a respectable win in his first outing in the formula.
Tandy was 2nd after a terrific drive and looks to be a major threat this year, the car having pace and the driver having experience and bravery. 3rd was Grubm?ller, relieved at finally getting onto a podium, after a fairly quiet run to the flag. 4th was Nakajima, from Christodoulou, Buzaid, Boyd (who managed to hold Lloyd off after a sterling effort from both of them), Oakes, and Garcia. 11th (and National Class winner) was McKenzie, who held off Arundel for the last few laps, while 13th was Richelmi, the Monegasque driver taking the Snegirev route towards the end. Huertas came in 14th, ahead of Dias, Bridger, Chilton and Snegirev (who ended up being shown the driving standards flag for persistently cutting the chicane and generally being a mobile roadblock).
Fastest laps went to Tandy and McKenzie.
Weather: Fine, sunny.
Temperatures: Track 14 C; Air 12C.