Tough final round rounds off a successful first tour around Europe SG Formula's first season in the F3 Euro Series drew to a close in Hockenheim. The tenth round of the series was not the happiest for the team from La Rochelle, with qualifying a...
Tough final round rounds off a successful first tour around Europe
SG Formula's first season in the F3 Euro Series drew to a close in Hockenheim. The tenth round of the series was not the happiest for the team from La Rochelle, with qualifying a disappointment for its drivers. Richard Philippe was the best of the bunch in 14th place on the Race 1 grid before he hit problems in the pack. Henkie Waldschmidt managed to climb ten places to finish the race 10th on Saturday. Yann Clairay climbed four slots on the Sunday to slip into the Top 10, despite three stoppages that practically eliminated any chance of overtaking for the better part of the race.
Totting up SG Formula's performance in its maiden season the plus points are that it won points in seven out of ten meetings and that Yann Clairay was on the podium three times. Team-manager Stephane Guerin gave us his thoughts on the season and told us about what was to come.
What are your feelings about the closing meeting?
We have often struggled this year on tracks which offer less adherence and it happened again here in Hockenheim. The problem was exacerbated by the poor way our drivers went about qualifying. If it hadn't been for that we might have clocked a top ten time.
Can you comment on how your troops have performed this season?
Overall, 2008 has been very positive for us. We knew the challenge was going to be a tough one. We got our first two podium places in Mugello and Zandvoort, albeit with a little help from the reverse grid system, which is not one I particularly care for, although it does help teams and drivers to progress. I prefer to remember our top performances in terms of pure speed. At Brands Hatch, Yann Clairay got on the Race 1 podium, i.e. with no help from the reverse grid. He followed that up by qualifying 2nd fastest in Barcelona, before leading and doing battle on used tyres with the championship leader, no less, who was racing on new tyres. More experienced teams than us were often not up to this level of performance. Unfortunately things didn't go well for us in the last two meetings.
Will we see you at the Macau Grand Prix?
We are concentrating 100% on 2009 at the moment. We decided it was best not to go to Macau, despite pressure from some of our partners, Toyota for example. It is the world's biggest F3 race but you need heavy logistics if you are going to race there. It would have meant foregoing a month's testing with all our cars. We think we have more to gain by staying in Europe so that we can progress technically with our 2009 drivers. We already have two days a week of testing lined up in Portugal, Spain and France, taking us up until December 18. Remember that after that date we are not allowed to take the cars out before official sessions start.
What are your priorities for the coming weeks?
Our first job is to choose the right drivers. We have applied to race a fourth car next season. Then we intend to reinforce or R&D programme. In 2008 we put the emphasis on the mechanics, particularly the braking - which is fundamental -- perhaps to the detriment of the aerodynamics. This year we plan to allocate more resources to wind tunnel and straight track testing. We've plenty of things up our sleeves for these sessions. We need to improve our weak points, especially on tracks offering poor adherence. The F3 Euro Series calendar includes some circuits the characteristics of which can be hard to read, but we have developed a knack for reactivity and for making rapid progress as the meeting unfolds. The lessons we learnt in 2008 will serve us well next season.
Next season will definitely be better than last, then?
We'll go into 2009 conscious of our strengths and weaknesses. We know the traps not to fall into, and know where we need to focus our efforts. It's similar to what happens to some drivers, you have to be wary of the second season, which at this level can be harder than the first. That's why we'll be mobilising all our forces in terms of drivers, engineering, management and logistics. There is work to be done and we need to be thorough because the hardest part is still ahead of us.