Lausitzring: points in the bag and fastest lap for SG Formula SG Formula already had a single-seater sitting in the Top 8 at Hockenheim in Race 1 of the opening F3 Euro Series race of the season. Unfortunately, a gearbox linkage problem forced ...
Lausitzring: points in the bag and fastest lap for SG Formula
SG Formula already had a single-seater sitting in the Top 8 at Hockenheim in Race 1 of the opening F3 Euro Series race of the season. Unfortunately, a gearbox linkage problem forced driver Henkie Waldschmidt out of that race, so a fortnight later it was good to see the Dutchman keeping up with the leaders all the way through from qualifying to Race 2. He was in the points in both races and clocked the fastest lap on the Sunday. This achievement is a measure of the progress made by the La Rochelle team.
"If we consider the quality and experience of the competition we were up against here then of course we are pleased with our performance," said team- manager Stephane Guerin, with a huge grin on his face. "It's all very encouraging and the future looks good," he said as he left the Eurospeedway track in Lausitz. Yet SG Formula's drivers looked anything but bookies' favourites during open practice! This was for the simple reason that this is only the team's second season at this level and the Lausitzring was not on the calendar last year. So this was the team's first outing on the track. The team's aim during practice was to test out the results of an ambitious and far-reaching R&D programme conducted during the closed season.
This sort of thing is hard enough to do in fine weather let alone when the elements decide to interfere! Although the rain held off, the track was still damp at the start of qualifying. Grip improved as the track dried out but it started raining again as qualifying drew to a close. Unfortunately, SG Formula drivers Andrea Caldarelli and Alexandre Marsoin were in the pits through the best period, which explains their 19th and 23rd positions after their timed laps. Henkie Waldschmidt, on the other hand, managed to dodge between the raindrops. He clocked a magnificent 6th fastest time in the session, his best qualifying position to date in F3.
Going into Race 1, however, the technical team was somewhat dubious. The data from practice on the dry turned out not to be valid under the conditions met during qualifying. "I was convinced we were on the right track," went on Stephane Guerin, "so I did all I could to reassure the engineers and managed to convince them it was just a matter of altering Friday's set ups in the light of the excellent feedback we were getting from the three drivers out on the track."
Henkie Waldschmidt only got off to an average start on the damper part of the track. Despite coming under a lot of pressure in the opening laps he soon settled down into a excellent rhythm. Henkie clocked the 4th fastest lap in the race and finishing 7th saw him pick up his first points. The reverse grid rule provided him with the added impetus of starting Race 2 on the outside of the front line. Once again the start of Sunday's race turned out to be an eventful one. Seeing two cars shoot past him going into the first turn, Henkie left his braking to the very last moment and in doing so blocked the front wheels of his car. Things soon sorted themselves out though, as the two offenders who had infringed the start procedure picked up penalties, allowing the 'Toyota Driver Program' driver to ease into 5th place, clocking the fastest lap along the way. He decided to play safe at the end of the race to make sure of adding two more points to his tally. Bravo Henkie!
This year Alexandre Marsoin is not considered to be a rookie in the F3 Euro Series because he raced in Formula Renault 3.5 last season. That doesn't alter the fact that unlike his rivals he was only just getting to grips with the category and was further handicapped by not being able to complete any practice before the first race. The changeable weather didn't help him either. Starting from well back on the grid he got off to a very good start and went into turn 1 vying for 15th place. But he left it too late to brake going into turn 2 and ended up colliding with Mustonen. Sunday's race saw him in good shape on a dry track until his gearbox gave up the ghost and forced him out of the race in lap 18.
The team's official rookie driver, Andrea Caldarelli, got off to an excellent start on the Saturday but unfortunately he span off after clipping the grass with one of his wheels. Pushed back to the 12th row on the grid for Sunday's race he went on to repeat the previous day's perfect start and was soon locking horns with Adrien Tambay, who eventually finished 7th. Unfortunately, SG Formula's Italian driver picked up a drive- through penalty, the reason for which was still a mystery at the time of writing.
"Bagging points and clocking the fastest lap of the race were just rewards both for Henkie, who has been working hard lately to rethink his approach, and for the whole team, who have put in a superhuman effort over the winter. I gave everyone two hours off to take a siesta after race 1 because none of our engineers or technicians had got enough sleep the night before because they were racing to get everything ready for qualifying. Andrea and Alex also demonstrated that they will soon be forces to be reckoned with. We have booked two days of testing at Magny-Cours, a track with which they are familiar, to follow on from the Masters meeting." Although it doesn't count towards the championship, this is a classic in the European race calendar. It takes place next June 13-14.