Weather: Warm, sunny.
Race Report – Round 10 (Race 1):
At the end of the first race of this final meeting of the British F3 International Series here at the Nurburgring, Jordan King (Carlin) is now within a hand’s reach of claiming the title after his main rival, William Buller (Fortec Motorsport) had a morning he will want to forget, his championship hopes literally going up in smoke. Second went to Antonio Giovinazzi (Double R Racing) from Felipe Lopes Guimaraes (Fortec Motorsport). The National Class was won by Sun Zheng (CF Racing), the Chinese driver having already taken the 2013 category title.
There was major drama as the field lined up to take the start. Buller, starting second alongside King, and with it all to play for, suddenly found the rear of his Fortec Dallara engulfed in flames. The Northern Irishman duly started to unbuckle his belts, ready to dive for safety, when the fire just as abruptly went out again. In the meantime, the start was aborted and the marshals rushed to drag the stricken F3 car to the relatively safety of the pit lane.
Buller’s team duly scrambled to his aid, swarming over the car and arguing the case for letting him start the race from the pitlane. Meanwhile, the race was shortened to 27 minutes and they were all given an extra formation lap. As Fortec’s Team Manager argued his case, and lots of red-and-black-clad engineers peered intently at the Mercedes power unit, the race got underway.
King got a tidy start, pulling ahead of Giovinazzi, while Nicholas Latifi (Carlin) and Jann Mardenborough (Carlin) scrapped over when would end up being 4th place, Mardenborough squeezing his team-mate out quite forcefully. All of that let Guimaraes settle into third, presumably grateful to be out of that particular battle. In the middle of the pack Sean Gelael (Double R Racing) and Tatiana Calderon (Double R Racing) were fighting over 6th, Gelael getting ahead as the lap progressed.
Further back, newcomer Alfonso Celis (Fortec Motorsport) had messed up his start and stalled on the grid, getting away dead last, while in the pack Chris Vlok (Team West-Tec) and William Barbosa (Team West-Tec) tangled at the first corner. They both survived. The upshot was that Zheng led the National Class comfortably.
At the end of the first lap King was already starting to open up a gap over Giovinazzi, while Guimaraes was beginning to come under pressure from Mardenborough, who was towing Latifi with him. Gelael was holding off Calderon, who wanted her place back, while Richard “Spike” Goddard was just behind them. Zheng was 9th, from Vlok, the recovering Celis and Barbosa.
Two laps later they were back up to 13 cars, when Buller was permitted by the Race Director to rejoin the fray. He was three laps down and not what you would call happy, but if he could finish the worst he could expect was a point for 10th place, and possibly an extra one for the fastest lap of the race. And there was always the possibility – no matter how unlikely – that something might happen to King.
Nothing seemed to be happening, at least at this stage, as King continued to steadily extend his lead, while Giovinazzi could do nothing to rein him in, and Mardenborough continued worrying away at Guimaraes with terrier-like tenacity.
A lap or two later and Mardenborough was even closer to Guimaraes, with Latifi still going with him. Catching was one thing though, passing quite another, If Guimaraes kept his head, he would probably be fine. Part of that might mean not looking in his mirrors. If he had he would have seen the white and red Carlin car getting very sideways, white smoke streaming from the tyres as they locked up.
While Buller pressed on, setting a new fastest lap of the race, he was rapidly coming up on the train that was behind Gelael, who still had Calderon and Goddard bottled up behind him for 6th. King responded to Buller’s fastest lap with a new one of his own, while Buller battled his way past Celis and onto the tail of Goddard.
With Mardenborough still proving a nuisance to Guimaraes, Goddard was coming under pressure from Buller. The Fortec powered past, and Goddard reacted by dropping back, losing touch with the Calderon/Gelael battle. That would resolve itself with three minutes left on the clock. The Venezuelan saw her chance as they moved into the section in front of the Mercedes grandstand, and she squeezed past to claim 6th from her team-mate. He tried to fight back, but she was not giving way for anything. He gave in and settled down to take the flag in 7th.
With King having lapped Barbosa, he was now well ahead and his lead was never challenged. The Carlin driver came home after 27 minutes well ahead of Giovinazzi, with Guimaraes holding off Mardenborough all the way to the flag. 5th was Latifi, from Calderon, Gelael, Goddard, Celis and National Class winner Zheng. 11th went to Vlok, despite a last lap off course excursion, ahead of Barbosa and Buller.
King is now 28 points ahead of Buller in the series with a maximum of 39 points still up for grabs. Buller, meanwhile, is just a single point ahead of Giovinazzi. In theory all that King needs to do is finish ahead of both of them in this afternoon’s race for it all to be over in the Carlin driver’s favour. However, Goddard starts on pole after King drew the 8-ball for his starting position for Round 11, thus reversing the first eight from this morning. This could make life very interesting for everyone…
Fastest laps of the race went to King and Zheng.