Changes: Come on, you knew there'd be changes. There always are. It wouldn't be British F3 if they weren't playing musical chairs all over the place. Ronayne O'Mahony (Fortec Motorsport) was missing because he needs to concentrate on academic...
Come on, you knew there'd be changes. There always are. It wouldn't be British F3 if they weren't playing musical chairs all over the place.
Ronayne O'Mahony (Fortec Motorsport) was missing because he needs to concentrate on academic life at present and has exams coming up very soon. So we were one down. The numbers were to have been increased by Marcus Marshall (Carlin Motorsport) but he'd managed to come down with a nasty case of whatever it was that was striking the Carlin boys down dramatically, and after 20 laps of testing on Friday he felt so bad he knew he wasn't going to be able to race, especially as he couldn't even hold his head up. Rather than going out and totalling the car, he decided to sit this one out.
We did have one new face, in the shape of Lars Sexton. The former Formula Campus runner has been threatening to turn up in British F3 for some time now (he was on the pre-season entry list last year) along with Planet Racing, but it was beginning to seem as if he - or they - might be mythical. However, he was present and correct in the paddock on Saturday morning after a rather trying test session on Friday, which saw him complete a total of two laps before a fuel pump problem sidelined him for the rest of the day.
Weather: Cold, dry
The track was messy at the start of the first F3 session of the day, and it certainly wasn't helped by the Carlin Motorsport duo of Clivio Piccione and Alvaro Parente, both of them proving to be rather keen on spinning off. With engine problems plaguing both of them, they ended the morning a lot further down the order than anyone could have expected, the pair of them occupying a lowly 14th (Parente) and 15th (Piccione) slots. It would have looked very bleak at Carlin, had it not been for Danilo Dirani. With the whole team down with what appeared to be some sort of superbug ("Well, it must be, it seems to be able to resist the amount of alcohol we threw at it") the team were not at all happy on Saturday. Dirani at least managed to go some way towards challenging James Rossiter (Fortec Motorsport) for pole position. It wasn't quite enough and the youngster took his place early on, demoting early pacesetter Nelson A Piquet (Piquet Sports) with surprising ease for a rookie, leaving the current series leader sitting on row 2 for round 3. He was joined by a remarkably on the pace Will Power (Alan Docking Racing), the Aussie seeming to be unusually communicative in the paddock afterwards. Danny Watts (Promatecme F3) was back on form in the rebuilt Lola-Dome, with sponsorship from a local "gentlemen's" club - which is ironic given that when describing Danny the word gentleman doesn't tend to be the first one that you think of. He'd managed to get himself between the two Championship Class Australians, with Will Davison (Menu Motorsport) sitting alongside him.
A rather oddly subdued Ernesto Viso (P1 Motorsport) was next up, the Venezuelan having spent the early part of his morning discussing what happened at Donington with the Clerk of the Course, Ian Watson. We could tell Ernesto wasn't quite himself when his usual greeting was replaced by a singularly polite (and more than a little unexpected) hand kiss instead of the normal full scale hug. Still, he was faster than team-mate Adam Carroll, who looked seriously off the pace and was back in 9th, separated from Viso by Lucas di Grassi (Hitech Racing). Di Grassi may have been disappointed in his own efforts, but he was highest placed of the Hitech boys, all of whom seemed to be struggling at Silverstone. Andrew Thompson was next up of the four, the Scot in 10th place. Really he should be higher up than that this year, and certainly at Donington it looked like his late- 2003 improvement hadn't been just a flash in the pan. Watching him at Silverstone, though, you had to wonder whether he wasn't regressing.
In 11th was the man that was tipped for a front-runner's spot by some (though not by us) after showing very well in pre-season testing, Fairuz Fauzy (Promatecme F3). He's not bad, but he's not that good either, and as soon as the pressure is on, he seems unable to match what he can do in testing. If he really is the great hope of Malaysian motorsport, they're in a lot of trouble. Someone else who seems to be having difficulties at present is Karun Chandhok (T-Sport), though part of this is probably down to the fact that the team have made the move from the Scholarship Class to the Championship Class along with their driver. It's not as if Russell Eacott and the lads aren't experienced at that level, but it's been a while, and whatever Russell says, there are difficulties in only having one car in each category, not least of those difficulties being a lack of data. Whatever the cause, Chandhok was an unhappy 12th on the grid, ahead of rookie Marko Asmer (Hitech Racing) in 13th. Next up were the two Carlin lads, Parente and Piccione, whose troubles have already been referred to. Ignition problems are not what you need on a fast circuit, but keeping out of the gravel helps too!
James Walker (Hitech Racing) is finding the learning curve to be pretty steep at present too, and was 16th, just ahead of the man who has so far managed to dominate the Scholarship Class, snatching a pair of wins at Donington from under the noses of the Performance Racing pair of Stephen Jelly and Barton Mawer, Ryan Lewis (T-Sport). Lewis scored maximum points at Donington and was quite obviously planning on continuing the way he'd started. Meanwhile, Jelley was just behind him, and not planning on continuing the way he's started, losing out at Donington in the closing stages. It's fair to say that Stephen has a bit of a thing about Donington at the best of times, and these days he's convinced he won't go well there - and we all know what drivers are like once they get those sorts of ideas in their heads. On the other hand, he seems to like Silverstone, and was doing some sort of rain dance with intent to improve his chances if he could.
Mawer was further back this time, separated from Jelley by Adam Langley- Khan (Alan Docking Racing), who is frankly far too tall to be a racing driver, but who seems determined to try and be one anyway. Certainly third in class wasn't going to do him any harm, if he could just hold Mawer off when the lights turned green. Promatecme F3's Scholarship Class runner was next up, Vasilije Calasan having Bruce Jouanny on hand to try and help if he could. It didn't seem to be working, to be honest. Sexton was last but one on his debut, well clear of Ajit Kumar (Mango Racing) who had investigated the run off area at Copse in great detail during the course of the morning - the spin that caused the investigation was probably the fastest he went in the entire 30 minute session.
By: Stella-Maria Thomas and Lynne Waite