Changes: This time Raikkonen Robertson Racing's spare car is in the hands of Dominic Storey from New Zealand, though how the inexperienced youngster will cope is anyone's guess for now. There seems to be no stopping the Flying Dutchman!...
Changes: This time Raikkonen Robertson Racing's spare car is in the hands of Dominic Storey from New Zealand, though how the inexperienced youngster will cope is anyone's guess for now.
There seems to be no stopping the Flying Dutchman! Once more Renger van der Zande (Hitech Racing) claimed pole position for the latest round of the British F3 International Series, this time at Donington Park. He finished the session just ahead of team-mate Walter Grubmuller, and current series leader Daniel Ricciardo (Carlin Motorsport). The National Class pole position went the way of T-Sport's Gabriel Dias, the Brazilian absolutely flying this time out. Second was Daniel McKenzie (Fortec Motorsport) while Max Snegirev (Team West-Tec) was 3rd.
As the lights went green for the start of the session there was a major rush for the track, presumably because the weather was looking very changeable. If we were lucky it would hold, but there were some very threatening looking clouds lurking on the horizon. With most of the field out there immediately, Henry Arundel (Carlin Motorsport) was leading the pack, both physically and in time terms. However, he didn't get to stay there long as Riki Christodoulou (Fortec Motorsport) leaped to the top of the order. He was almost immediately nudged back down by Victor Garcia (Fortec Motorsport). He was booted down one by Jay Bridger (Litespeed F3/Bridger Motorsport) which suggested we were a long way from reality yet. Newcomer Storey was running 3rd at this point which suggested he hadn't wasted his time in Friday's testing session.
A lap later and Christodoulou came round again to take pole, just for Bridger to again take it back. And then they all got moved down the order by Daisuke Nakajima (Raikkonen Robertson Racing) who was joined on the front row, at least for the time being, by Storey. Christodoulou (who should probably be known as "the man with too many vowels") found a response again, only to see Bridger edge ahead yet again. It must have felt a bit repetitive. The pattern was finally broken by Nakajima, the Japanese holding pole for a while, only to have his team-mate Carlos Huertas (Raikkonen Robertson Racing) push him down a place.
While all that was happening, Ricciardo finally decided to join in and make an attempt to break the Double R stranglehold. He wasn't alone in now beginning to make an impression. Grubmuller was also now out of the pits and on the track. They still needed to start setting times however, so there was no point watching them yet. There was plenty of action elsewhere anyway. The next improvement of any significance came from Max Chilton (Carlin Motorsport), the teenager going 3rd. Meanwhile, Christodoulou improved again to go 2nd while Dias entered the fray by landing in the top ten on his first flying lap. Provisional pole man Huertas was still pushing ahead, and he was into the 1:02s and flying.
Dias, meanwhile, was leading the National Class from Victor Correa (Litespeed F3), though this was probably because McKenzie had not set a time yet. In the International Class, meanwhile, Adriano Buzaid (T-Sport) was now 2nd and appeared to have given Dias a tow, as the National Class man was now 4th overall behind Huertas, Buzaid and Christodoulou. That all changed when Grubmuller shot up to 3rd with Wayne Boyd (T-Sport) just behind him. And lurking further back at this stage, though clearly winding himself up to a real effort, was Ricciardo who claimed 6th on his first flying lap.
The late starters were now beginning to feature near the top of the list. McKenzie had edged up to 2nd in the National Class but there were eight cars between Dias and himself. Ricciardo was progressing well too and was now 3rd. What was a bit odd was that there was no sign of van der Zande in the top ten at this stage. It seemed most uncharacteristic. And during all of this Dias was getting steadily pushed back down to what some probably considered his proper place as a National Class man. It was just that no one had told him that was where he should be. It wasn't long before he was back up to 6th overall, determined to mix it with the big boys.
With half the session gone, Huertas was still on pole from Buzaid but now Grubmuller was 3rd from Ricciardo. Chilton claimed 7th and Nakajima was 8th, just getting ahead of Christodoulou. And then it was business as usual with van der Zande grabbing 2nd. He was being tracked by Ricciardo now, and the Australian went 3rd. A lap later and he was on pole, but could he keep it? The question was could anyone set a faster time, after an outbreak of falling off. Chilton was off on the grass and some moments later Garcia came in with a damaged nose. The two may well have been connected. Anyway, the resulting yellow slowed everyone down briefly. And then, just as it seemed as if the changes were all over with, Grubmuller sped up for 4th, and then van der Zande nabbed pole from Ricciardo. And to add further insult to the Australian's injury, Grubmuller joined him on the front row.
Christodoulou managed a further improvement to claim 6th, and van der Zande went faster - presumably just because he could. It certainly wasn't because he needed to. Any further progress then evaporated because Storey blotted his copybook by going off at the Old Hairpin. That resulted in quite a prolonged yellow flag period which only came to an end with about four and a half minutes left to run. At least by this stage of the season the message about slowing down when the yellow flags are shown seemed to have percolated all the way down and no one actually went faster. That was saved for afterwards. While Ricciardo and Dias both pitted and climbed out, Chilton managed to find some more speed from somewhere, though it was only enough to move him to 7th. This wasn't what he'd had in mind for his third season of F3. Someone else not having the best of days was Hywel Lloyd (C F Racing) though he was ten places further back in 17th.
Van der Zande was the next to abandon ship, seeing no point in staying out there any longer. The final improvements came from Boyd, who went 9th and Nakajima who managed to round out the top ten. Chilton, meanwhile, snatched 5th in the closing stages at cost to and Buzaid and Christodoulou. That was the last of the improvements.
All of this meant that van der Zande was on pole again, ahead of Grubmuller, Ricciardo, Huertas, Chilton, Buzaid, Christodoulou, National Class pole man Dias, Boyd and Nakajima. 11th was Bridger, from Arundel, Philip Major (Carlin Motorsport), Garcia, McKenzie, Storey, Lloyd, Snegirev and Correa.
Weather: Cold, cloud clearing, sun breaking through.