DRIVE-THROUGH PENALTY ROBS MANOR OF MASTERS PODIUM Manor Motorsport saw hopes of a potential podium result in the blue riband event of the Formula 3 racing calendar, the BP Ultimate Masters, shattered at Zolder this afternoon after Franck...
DRIVE-THROUGH PENALTY ROBS MANOR OF MASTERS PODIUM
Manor Motorsport saw hopes of a potential podium result in the blue riband event of the Formula 3 racing calendar, the BP Ultimate Masters, shattered at Zolder this afternoon after Franck Mailleux was adjudged to have made a false start and served with a somewhat delayed drive-through penalty.
The French sensation, who has shown tremendous form during his first ever season of Formula 3 competition in the F3 Euroseries, lined-up a superb second on the grid for this afternoon's 28-lap race and as pole-sitter Romain Grosjean began to creep on the grid, Mailleux moved slightly but then realised his error and stood on the brakes.
As the lights went out, Mailleux made a fair getaway and held a strong second place behind German driver Nico Hulkenberg for the first half of the race -- Grosjean having stalled -- but then race officials decided to serve the Manor ace with a drive-through penalty on lap 15 for what they deemed to be a false start.
Confusingly late, the decision came as a bitter blow to the hopes of Mailleux and his Dinnington-based team and the net result saw him eventually cross the line on lap 28 in 17th position, far less than his performance all weekend had deserved -- second fastest in his group throughout free practice and then again in qualifying on Saturday.
Reflecting on this afternoon's race, Manor owner John Booth commented: "(Romain) Grosjean was creeping at the start as his clutch was about to fail and that spooked Franck a bit, he went to go but then realised his mistake and stopped.
"It's really unfortunate he was given a drive-through penalty as he looked well placed to finish second which would have been a terrific result. The officials didn't even make the decision to penalise Franck until lap 15 so it came as a surprise to say the least."
Dutchman Yelmer Buurman achieved the best finish of the four Manor drivers with eighth position but it could, and should, have been much more after he was punted off the circuit on the final lap by fellow F3 Euroseries competitor Renger van der Zande.
Starting 10th on the grid, Buurman raced well to climb into the top five and he looked set for a good finish until contact from van der Zande on the last lap ruined his chances. He did recover from the subsequent spin to end the race in eighth but it was a disappointing conclusion to his weekend.
Like Mailleux, James Jakes found himself served with a controversial drive-through penalty which ended any hopes of a solid result. Starting outside the top 20, the Yorkshireman made great progress into the top 13 and lapped with excellent pace but he was adjudged to have passed a rival under yellow flags.
Rightly frustrated by the decision to hand him a drive-through penalty, after serving the somewhat harsh punishment Jakes pressed on with his superb speed and on lap 24 he actually posted the quickest lap of all with a time of 1m 25.680s, a full three 10ths of a second faster than eventual winner Hulkenberg.
Chinese driver 'Franky' Cheng, taking part in his first ever F3 race in a Manor car, made good progress throughout the weekend and concluded his maiden outing in the BP Ultimate Masters in 19th position, a solid return for the A1GP and British F3 racer.
"The decision with James and the yellow flags was very marginal", added Booth, "He made a great start from outside the top 20 to be in 13th place but then the drive-through penalty came which didn't seem too fair. It's all the more frustrating when you consider how quick he was today.
"The lap times James produced were much quicker than anyone else towards the end of the race and on lap 24 he set the fastest lap of all. Like Franck, without the marginal penalty decision he would have had a very strong result."
Booth continued: "Yelmer raced well and the top five looked a certainty until Renger (van der Zande) punted him off on the last lap. He still recovered to finish in eighth place but the last lap incident soured the race for him and rightly so, it wasn't on. He did a great job though.
"Franky had a good weekend, qualifying 11th in his group on his first visit to the circuit, and the first time he's ever been in our F3 car, was fantastic actually. We may not have ended up with the results we wanted, or felt we deserved, but we did have good pace. Now our attention returns to the main championship and the Nurburgring in four weeks." Rounds 13 and 14 of the regular Formula 3 Euroseries season will take place four weeks from now on 1st/2nd September at the world-famous Nurburgring in Germany.