Flemish Masters might have painted a rosier picture Henkie Waldschmidt and Yann Clairay were going for a Top 10 place in SG Formula's first outing in the Formula 3 Masters but events in the race were to decide otherwise. Nevertheless the SG...
Flemish Masters might have painted a rosier picture
Henkie Waldschmidt and Yann Clairay were going for a Top 10 place in SG Formula's first outing in the Formula 3 Masters but events in the race were to decide otherwise. Nevertheless the SG team's star continues to rise.
The Masters is the top race in the European Formula 3 calendar. It's a bit like an Olympic final, with the best F3 drivers in the Euro Series pitting their wits against the best from the British championship over a single race.
Qualifying takes place in an unusual format. On the Saturday morning the field is separated into two groups, one for drivers with even race numbers and one for those with odd numbers. Then the best twenty qualify in Group A to fight it out in a kind of 'superpole' decider; upon the outcome of which depends the drivers' position on the first ten lines of the grid.
Dutchman Henkie Waldschmidt was in good form just over the border from his home country, racing in a region in which they speak his native tongue and where last season they saw him shine in Formula Renault. He was the only SG driver to qualify in Group A, picking up 14th place on the starting grid. Yann Clairay and Daniel Ricciardo were right back down in 23rd and 27th position, but their spirits were lifted at the sight of rain, renewing the hopes of the French driver from Laval and his young Australian team-mate.
At 2:30pm sharp 37 cars leapt out of the blocks for 45 minutes of excitement on a wet track. Rookie Daniel Ricciardo got clipped at the very first chicane and there he stayed. On the other hand, the stock of Henkie Waldschmidt and Yann Clairay was rising. The Toyota Driver Program's flying Dutchman overtook several rivals, including current Euro Series leader Mortara. He also got past Bird, who was later to finish 7th in the race. About half way through the race, Richard Philippe collided with him after cutting straight through a chicane! Yann Clairay started the race by losing some time as he avoided a crash at the off. However, the man from Laval doesn't hang around once he decides to start overtaking. Three laps from the end of the race he pulled off a daring move to get past Alguersuari on the outside and moved into 8th place. Unfortunately the Spaniard clipped Clairay's rear wheel, sending the handsome black and orange car headlong into the wall.
So at the end of the day team-manager Stephane Guerin had mixed feelings: "In terms of pure performance I don't think we've ever been so good. We had little to go on in open practice during which weather conditions were changeable. Despite that, our set-up proved competitive from the off during qualifying. Coming on the back of two difficult outings, it was good to see Henkie getting into Group A. He might even have got a 3rd row start position had it not been for a small mistake in his fastest lap. Like a number of others he lost out big time when the red flag came out at the end of the qualifying session. He was full of promise all weekend and drove a steady race before being forced to drop out. You can't say Richard Philippe put him out deliberately. On the other hand, Yann was clearly quicker than Alguersuari and had got past him before getting nudged off the track. This accident came as a blow because the car is supposed to be testing on Wednesday. As for Daniel, things didn't go as well. In what was only his 2nd race in F3, it was tough for him to get used to Zolder on a day when the field was so strong. You can't blame him for not risking everything during qualifying."
One final remark: "it was good to see two drivers who cut their teeth in Formula Renault 2.0 with SG Formula last season - Jules Bianchi and Jon Lancaster - finish first and third in the race. Last season already two former drivers of ours were on the Masters podium, although not in first place! So things are progressing!" said Stephane Guerin.
For the second time in the season SG Formula will be racing on two fronts this coming August 30-31. The F3 Euro Series will be at Brands Hatch for its British leg, while the Formula Renault 2.0 Eurocup will be off to Germany for the Nurburgring race.