Changes: Robert Wickens (Carlin Motorsport) has stepped into the gap left by the departure of Oliver Oakes, so with the Canadian in for this event only, there are now two RedBull backed drivers in the Carlin camp. Otherwise, everyone is...
Changes: Robert Wickens (Carlin Motorsport) has stepped into the gap left by the departure of Oliver Oakes, so with the Canadian in for this event only, there are now two RedBull backed drivers in the Carlin camp. Otherwise, everyone is present and correct with the exception of Max Snegirev (West- Tec) who isn't anywhere to be seen, apparently due to passport problems - which may be just as well given his form so far.
Late yesterday evening on the circuit that normally hosts the German Grand Prix, Renger van der Zande (Hitech Racing) was the class of the field, just edging out Daniel Ricciardo (Carlin Motorsport) for pole, with a time in the 1.32s, an impressive performance on a circuit where the F3 lap record currently stands at 1.38. In 3rd place was Max Chilton, also in a Carlin Motorsport car, a performance made all the more impressive as he, like Ricciardo, hasn't been here before. Van der Zande, on the other hand, already knows the track. National Class pole went to Gabriel Dias (T- Sport), from Daniel McKenzie (Fortec Motorsport) and Victor Correa (Litespeed F3). However, after a number of penalties were handed out, the final grid was only issued this morning.
At the start of the session, only Jay Bridger (Litespeed F3/Bridger Motorsport) was out at the end of what had been a very long day. The boys had two free practice sessions, the first of these at 9am, and now here we were at 5.15 in the evening, having to go out and qualify. It seemed a bit harsh really.
Anyway, after various offs in earlier sessions, now it was serious. Inevitably Bridger was the first driver to set a time, joined on the provisional front row not long afterwards by Wayne Boyd (T-Sport). He was soon demoted by Daisuke Nakajima (Raikkonen Robertson Racing), the Japanese again benefiting from the experience of Marcus Ericsson, who was spending his second weekend with the team before returning to his "day job" in the Japanese F3 championship. Actually, with the tyres not lasting too well on this immensely demanding track, most people were setting their fastest times quite early on, so it was no surprise when Ericsson launched his own challenge almost immediately. However, that was to overlook the third Raikkonen Robertson Racing driver, Carlos Huertas, who rocketed up to claim provisional pole while his team-mates were looking the other way. It didn't necessarily mean anything at this stage though, because there were only eight drivers out there.
Among the handful of early starters was also Henry Arundel (Carlin Motorsport), the youngster having had quite a big off in the afternoon free practice session, so much so that his tyre marks could be clearly seen on the barriers on the outside of turn 1. It didn't appear to have slowed him down any, as he was quickly up to 3rd, while Huertas was still fastest. It was fair to say though that the main threats were all still in pits at this point. Huertas, possibly overcome at being on pole, proceeded to have a minor off, which brought out the yellow flags and slowed everyone down for a while, but was soon mobile again. While he was busy exploring the vast outer reaches of the Hockenheim gravel traps, Boyd grabbed 3rd though the rest of the contenders were now starting to emerge. In the National Class, with only three runners anyway, Correa was sitting pretty on pole, but that was inevitable as was the only one out there yet. As the wave of runners continued to emerge, Nakajima was 4th. However, he was almost immediately replaced by Chilton, whose first flying lap was enough to put him 4th. Another with a very fast first lap was Ericsson, who went straight to pole, only to get displaced by that fine example of a Flying Dutchman, van der Zande, who went even faster. Ricciardo, meanwhile, slotted in to 4th.
The National Class changed hands with Dias getting ahead, but then he and McKenzie traded times for a while, the battle eventually going the way of Dias by the end of the session. Interestingly, Wickens was now on a charge, and his first real timed lap was enough for 2nd, while Chilton barged his way back up to 5th. The main competitors were now starting to lap in the 1.33s, and Ricciardo briefly occupied pole position, pushing van der Zande down to 2nd.
Adriano Buzaid (T-Sport) who had joined in late was now 6th, and with ten minutes of the session left, everyone was out on track and battling for position. Huertas displaced Wickens for 4th, only to have Wickens go 3rd the next time round.
With one third of the time left, Ricciardo was on pole from van der Zande, Wickens, Ericsson, Huertas, Buzaid, Chilton, Walter Grubmuller (Hitech Racing), Victor Garcia (Fortec Motorsport) and Boyd. However, it wasn't over yet. Grubmuller moved up to 6th, while Ricciardo edged his time down into the very low 1.33s (1:33.029), and it began to look as if a sub- 1.33 was possible. As indeed it was. The man to do it was, perhaps unsurprisingly, van der Zande with a 1:32.965. Ricciardo kept on trying, but the tyres were gone and a brief yellow flag period did nothing to help him. Ericsson snatched 3rd back, while behind him Buzaid went 5th with Chilton just getting ahead for 4th. A lap later he was up to 3rd, despite the yellow flags, but that was him finished too. Later his time would be disallowed, bumping him back down to 4th.
The only drivers still on the move were Riki Christodoulou (Fortec Motorsport) and Nick Tandy (JTR), neither of them looking as impressive as they had at Rockingham. Christodoulou was a lowly 13th, while Tandy would have been disappointed with 9th. That disappointment would have been compounded when he lost the place to Christodoulou a lap later.
And with less than 5 minutes left, there was the usual end of session drift to the pits. Frankly, given the heat, there was no point staying out on tyres that simply hadn't much left in them.
Van der Zande claimed an impressive pole, from Ricciardo, Chilton, Ericsson, Buzaid, Huertas, Wickens (who had his fastest lap disallowed for going over the track limits - which take the form of a red-painted patch on the outside of the Nordkurve - thus losing a place to Huertas), Grubmuller, Christodoulou and Tandy. Nakajima ended up 11th, ahead of Garcia, Boyd (another red-spot offender though he stayed where he was after his time was disallowed), Arundel, Bridger, Dias (on National Class pole), Hywel Lloyd (C F Racing) who wasn't feeling at all well, McKenzie, Stephane Richelmi (Barazi Epsilon) and Correa.
Weather: Hot, dry, sunny.