At Spa late on Friday afternoon the F3 sprint race was won by Jean-Eric Vergne (Carlin) despite the Frenchman starting from 7th on the grid. If his drive in the first race of the weekend had been impressive, this was something else again, and ...
At Spa late on Friday afternoon the F3 sprint race was won by Jean-Eric Vergne (Carlin) despite the Frenchman starting from 7th on the grid. If his drive in the first race of the weekend had been impressive, this was something else again, and demonstrated just why he is leading the championship by an ever increasing margin. Second went to the man who started from pole, Felipe Nasr (Räikkönen Robertson Racing), while Daniel McKenzie (Fortec Motorsport) held off a determined James Calado (Carlin) to claim 3rd. The National Class honours went to Menasheh Idafar (T-Sport) from James Cole (T-Sport) after the pair of them spent most of the race embroiled in a tussle with the Invitation Class runners, most of whom were having a day to forget. The Invitation Class was won by Carlos Muñoz (Mucke Motorsport).
At the start there was chaos with Adriano Buzaid (Carlin) making an ill-advised dive for the lead that was never going to work, at least not if Nasr had anything to do with it anyway. In the middle of the field a series of related incidents kicked off. Idafar was being pushed by Daniel Juncadella (Prema Powerteam) and had to jink sideways to avoid being taken out altogether. As a result the National Class man just clipped Jazeman Jaafar (Carlin), sending the unfortunate Malaysian crashing straight into the pit wall, while Juncadella then managed to crash into his team-mate Nicolas Marroc, putting the latter out of the race there and then. Jaafar cannoned off the pit wall and eventually came to a halt on the outside of La Source; he was lucky that no-one else collected him and walked away from an alarming looking crash. Idafar was able to continue despite minor damage, as did Juncadella, though not for very much longer, retiring to the pits. Just for good measure something happened to Jim Pla (ART Grand Prix) while Alexander Sims (ART Grand Prix) was lucky to come out with no damage at all as complete mayhem broke out all around him. It was hard to be certain as to what exactly was going on in the general melee, but whatever it was, it was enough to drop Pla to the back of the field.
What was certain was that Buzaid wanted the lead. As they reached Eau Rouge, he tried to get alongside Nasr, who resisted with the result that Buzaid went wide and lost a lot of ground, thus leaving Nasr clear at the front. But not for very long. Vergne made up a couple of places as a result of Buzaid, who also tripped up Calado and dropped him down the order, and then made three places by his own efforts at Les Combes, taking to the outside to emerge in 2nd place. He then started to reel in Nasr, catching the youngster next time round and again blasting past at Les Combes and into the lead. And as far as the lead was concerned, that was it - Vergne would never be challenged again, though to be fair Nasr was able to stay with him, he just couldn't quite close the gap enough to try and reclaim the lead. Behind them Daniel McKenzie was having a tough time of it, his car handling very badly through the tricky Spa bends, and looking especially evil on the exit from the Bus Stop. Whatever Fortec Motorsport had done to his car, they'd clearly done the same if not worse to Oliver Webb's car because it really looked to be an unruly handful. It was quick enough that the pair of them were initially running 3rd and 4th, until a recovering Calado dived through to snatch 4th, and set off up the road after McKenzie. That left Webb to try and hold off Muñoz, who in turn was being badgered by Lucas Foresti (Carlin), with Rupert Svendsen-Cook and Hywel Lloyd (C F Racing with Manor Motorsport) keeping a watching brief and waiting for it all to go wrong.
At the front Vergne and Nasr were a long way ahead of the battle for 3rd, which was intensifying as McKenzie struggled with his car and Calado looked for a way past. It was a tougher proposition than might have been expected, McKenzie proving very resistant to the idea of losing out on a Spa podium. Meanwhile, Idafar, who was still leading the National Class. was all over Gabriel Dias (Hitech Racing), while just behind him Cole was having a spot of bother with Nathanaël Berthon (ART Grand Prix), and had William Buller (Hitech Racing) trying to get through and back into the International Class points if possible. It was all getting a bit wild but the two National Class men seemed to be having a fine old time out there. Someone not having a fine old time was Carlos Huertas (Räikkönen Robertson Racing), who was a long way forward for a man who'd started dead last, and was busy setting about team-mate Daisuke Nakajima. He finally got on terms with Nakajima only to have it all go wrong when he tried to take on Buzaid, putting both of them out of the race on the spot.
They weren't the only ones to blot their copybook big time. On lap 5 Foresti made a wildly over-optimistic lunge at Muñoz as they exited the Bus Stop just behind Webb. It was never going to work because Webb was almost sideways across the track as he fought to control his Dallara, which meant Muñoz had to lift to avoid hitting him, and the line he had to take as a result left Foresti with no place to go. The Brazilian spun and ended up stranded on the outside line. Everyone else went past without incident and the marshals were able to drag his car to a place of safety, which meant his race was over.
Calado meanwhile, made one final attempt to snatch 3rd from McKenzie as they came out of the Bus Stop for the last time. However, it didn't quite work. Calado spun and was lucky that the gap to 5th was sufficient that he had time to recover and get going again before Webb could arrive and reclaim the place.
And so, Vergne came home to claim another victory, his 10th of the season so far. Nasr was 2nd, slightly disappointed to lose out on a potential win, but heartened by the fact that the car now seems to be much better. McKenzie was 3rd with Calado lucky to hang onto 4th. 5th was Webb ahead of Muñoz, Svendsen-Cook, Lloyd, Nakajima and Sims. Dias was 11th after holding off Idafar, who led home Berthon, Cole, Alex Brundle (T-Sport), Adderley Fong (Sino Vision Racing) and a very distant Max Snegirev (Fortec Motorsport).
Fastest laps went to Nasr, Idafar and Berthon.
Weather: Clear, sunny.