2012 Cooper Tires British F3 International Series Rounds 4-6, Qualifying Report

© Lynne Waite and Stella-Maria Thomas

Weather: Cool, overcast

Qualifying Report: At Monza today under overcast skies it was the F3 rookies who set the pace, with Carlos Sainz Jr (Carlin) and Felix Serralles (Fortec Motorsport) making the running and claiming a pole position apiece though the latter was by less than 0.02 seconds. That means that Serralles starts this afternoon’s race from pole, with Sainz taking the top slot for tomorrow’s feature race. Serralles and Sainz both also have a 2nd place each with Fortec’s Alex Lynn 3rd both times.

Early on the pace was set by Jack Harvey (Carlin), the returnee making the most of his experience to get the pedal to the metal early and snag provisional pole. The Fortec boys were already running him close at that point, despite a massed excursion through the chicane for reasons that remained a mystery. Perhaps they were waiting for each other to get a tow, perhaps they’d just forgotten where the track goes… Hannes van Asseldonk (Fortec Motorsport) was also quick to show his hand, replacing Harvey at the top of the times a lap later. Van Asseldonk promptly went even faster and the times started to fall in all earnestness. Harvey remained 2nd until Jazeman Jaafar (Carlin) and Pipo Derani (Fortec Motorsport) came round and Serralles proved that his pace in testing on Friday was no fluke. The Puerto Rican was soon the fastest man on the track by some way. Behind him Harry Tincknell (Carlin) moved to 4th, while van Asseldonk was running alone and again went faster as the dry line started to develop and the times plummeted. Jaafar again raised the bar and towed Pietro Fantin (Carlin) round to claim the front row temporarily. It didn’t last needless to say. Derani promptly went quicker and Lynn squeezed in a fast lap to move ahead.

After a slowish start, Sainz rocketed round to go 4th while van Asseldonk was still on a pole run too; he went faster but stayed 3rd. A further improvement from Jaafar suggested that yesterday’s engine change was probably a good idea, even though the Malaysian was soon edged out again by both Derani and Lynn. And then the pit stop run started, with Lynn coming in for new rubber, the old tyres steaming like a laundry on Monday. Clearly although there was a drying line, there was still plenty of moisture on the track too. As the pits started to fill up, Sainz suddenly appeared in 2nd before he too joined those in search of nice, clean, shiny rubber. It was now busier in the pit lane that it was on the track. The order settled slightly with Derani on provisional pole, from Sainz, Lynn (who was back out and enjoying the fresh grip), Jaafar, Harvey, Tincknell, Fantin, Serralles, van Asseldonk, and Geoff Uhrhane (Double R Racing). Behind him in 11th was Nick McBride (T-Sport), ahead of Fahmi Ilyas (Double R Racing), Richard “Spike” Goddard (T-Sport) on National Class pole with Duvashen Padayachee (Double R Racing) bringing up the rear.

As the drivers took to the track again and the new tyres started to come in, it started to get even more interesting. Sainz was only 0.005 seconds off Derani’s pace just before he pitted and with three of their five drivers in the pits (Tincknell seemingly for adjustments to the front wing as well as tyres) the Fortec boys had the field to themselves for a while, a fact that Lynn was quick to take advantage of. A faster time wasn’t enough to move him up from 3rd though. Another to go faster but stay put was McBride, back in 10th still. The first substantial improvement did come from Lynn though, with the fastest time so far though the session was clearly far from over. Serralles was digging deep now and was soon 7th, and a lap later he was 4th. He had the momentum, and while Jaafar slotted into 5th, Serralles took provisional pole once more. That provoked a response from Sainz Jr, the Spaniard on a track he already knows proving most impressive. He bettered Serralles’ time, only for Serralles to come right back at him. A late charge from van Asseldonk saw the Dutchman catapult past his rivals for 4th, but it was increasingly obvious that the later the run, the faster the times were likely to be, with the track continuing to dry out as the sun struggled to burn through the clouds.

A last minute shuffle came as Sainz crossed the line for the penultimate time, and again edges Serralles out, while a last lap effort on the part of Jaafar was enough to demote van Asseldonk to 5th, the Malaysian edging ahead as he crossed the line to take the chequered flag. It was just as well because team mate Harvey lost out to McBride in the closing stages, the series leader seeming a long way from his form at Oulton.

The order at the end of the session, and thus the starting order for Race 3 on Sunday was Sainz Jr, from Serralles, Lynn, Jaafar, van Asseldonk, Derani, Fantin, Tincknell, McBride and Harvey. 11th will be Uhrhane, from Ilyas (who had had a gravelly moment apparently in avoidance of Goddard), Goddard and Padayachee.

For Race 1 today the order is Serralles, from Sainz, Lynn, van Asseldonk, Fantin, Derani, Jaafar, Tincknell, Harvey and McBride. Uhrhane was 11th, from Ilyas, Goddard and Padayachee.

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