2014 Masters of Formula Three, Second Qualifying – Report

Masters of Formula 3, Zandvoort Park, The Netherlands
July 4th/6th 201
© Lynne Waite and Stella-Maria Thomas

Weather: Hot, dry, sunny.

Qualifying Report (2nd Session):
At a very windy but mercifully dry Zandvoort this afternoon Max Verstappen (Motopark) took pole by over half a second after a session of rapid changes in fortune, becoming the first VW powered driver to set pole at the Masters. 2nd in the end went the way of Sam Macleod (Van Amersfoort Racing), the youngster beating out Nabil Jeffri (Motopark) in a fine effort from both of them to try and catch the local hero, despite the fact that it was quite clearly going to be heavy going.

At the start of the session it was provisional pole sitter Jules Szymkowiak (Van Amersfoort Racing) who set the initial pace, while Macleod was up there with him, the two of them trading places for a while as they tried not to get blown onto the beach by the fierce tailwind on the main straight. Dennis van der Laar (Double R Racing) was soon up in 3rd from Steijn Schothorst (Performance Racing). Andy Chang (Double R Racing) edged past Schothorst into 4th, and the only other driver out there at this stage, Camren Kaminsky (Double R Racing), was 6th on his first timed lap.

A sense of urgency seemed to finally get a hold and as the session moved towards the halfway mark, finally everyone meandered out. Schothorst went fastest of all, from van der Laar, but then Szymkowiak went 2nd. There followed a brief lull before Chang went even quicker to slot into the top slot, a somewhat unlikely development to anyone who has been following British F3 this year, but the timing beam never lies…

He was replaced immediately by Schothorst, and then Macleod went quicker yet. He was pushed down by van der Laar with a time of 1:34.312, but none of them could match Verstappen who rocketed round in 1:33.952 to beat everyone out, the first man to get below 1:34 all weekend. Shortly after that Chang improved for 4th, but then it all went quiet as the pit stop run started with around 11 minutes of the session left to run. The order at this point was Verstappen, from van der Laar, Macleod, Jeffri, Chang, Indy Dontje (Motopark), Schothorst, Szymkowiak, Martin Cao (Fortec Motorsport), Kaminsky and Nikita Zlobin (ADM Motorsport).

As the pack came back out newly fettled and shod, Verstappen went quicker yet but the rest of them weren’t done yet. Cao moved ahead for 5th now and Zlobin gained a place on Kaminsky to move to 10th. Dontje meanwhile was 7th at the expense of Schothorst. And then things really started to change, with Jeffri moving up to 2nd. The top three were now in the 1:33 while everyone else wanted to be. Further progress came from Szymkowiak for 5th, Chang for 6th, and Kaminsky retaking 10th from Zlobin.

A lap later Szymkowiak came back to claim pole, while Dontje took 6th from Chang. Chang wasn’t taking it lying down and fought back to claim 4th, prompting mutterings of “Here is Andy Change and what have you done with him?” from the more cynical observers. He didn’t get to stay there for long, however, as Schothorst came back at him in his efforts to mitigate the effects of a three grid place penalty awarded yesterday for a yellow flag infringement. He’d got quite a bit of work to do, then…

Meanwhile, out on track, van der Laar had hit some sort of technical issue and was slowly making his way to the pits. That was his session effectively at an end, as there was now less than 2 minutes to go to the chequered flag. Even if the problem could be fixed it was unlikely he’d get another timed lap. Verstappen, on the other hand, seemed unable to do anything apart from flying laps, flinging the car round in 1:32.813, a whopping 0.740 seconds faster than anyone else! How he managed it, with no prior experience of the track, and as a rookie single-seater driver is anyone’s guess, but it’s becoming very clear that the boy has vast reserves of talent.

Jeffri was in hot pursuit now, and moved into 2nd but an even faster lap from Verstappen meant the Dutch teenager’s advantage was now 0.840 seconds. Macleod was next to challenge, getting a little closer to claim 2nd with just 10 seconds left on the clock. Verstappen would remain ahead until the flag, only Schothorst managing a last gasp improvement to claim 4th (which means he will start tomorrow’s 25-lap race from 7th).

Verstappen was pleased with his pole, saying: “My first run was not perfect so I did a few laps and boxed for a little change and new tyres. The second run compared to the first one I was just better into the faster corners, a lot better. This older car is a lot harder to drive as I have to shift by hand and not on the steering wheel, and it’s also a different team so we have to adapt my different driving style. As I qualified on pole I want to win the race and need to get a good start.”

MacLeod was pleased too after a difficult time yesterday and a red flag to his credit this morning. “It’s a big improvement on yesterday and the team have done a solid job improving a bit on the first run. I’m quite happy with my performance. The new tyres really have an influence on the set up of the car so we adapted around it and are getting closer. It was very slippy into the first turn, but in the end it didn’t cost us too much. Tomorrow I must get off the line and get a good start and we’ll see where the race goes from there. He” (Max) “wants to make a good start so I must also make a good start.”

Jeffri was happy if slightly surprised to be 3rd. “It was better than I expected. I am happy with it and couldn’t ask for better. Max is a lot better and I can learn from him. It’s the toughest rack I’ve been to but I hope to continue to improve in the race. I will have to get a better start then them” (Max and Sam) “but to get on the podium would be good for me.”

Schothorst was 4th in the order, from Szymkowiak, Dontje, Chang, van der Laar, Cao, Kaminsky and Zlobin.