2014 FIA F3 European Championship, Rounds 20 and 21 – Qualfying Report

FIA F3 European Championship
Rounds 20-21,
MoscowRaceway, Russia, July 11th/13th 2014
© Lynne Waite and Stella-Maria Thomas

Weather: Sunny, clear, dry.

Qualifying Report – Rounds 20 and 21 (Races 2 and 3):
The story of the second qualifying session (for races 2 and 3) at Moscow Raceway was very similar to the first, with Esteban Ocon (Prema Powerteam) again dominating proceedings, even though he again probably got less track time than anyone else, leaving it late in the session before he opted to join in. Once again also numerous drivers had lap times disallowed for disrespecting track limits, to the point that only three drivers escaped unpunished.

Initially it looked as if most of the other drivers had taken a leaf out of Ocon’s book, and there wasn’t exactly a mad rush to get out there until someone else had cleaned the somewhat dirty track. The early leader was Dennis van der Laar (Prema Powerteam), the Dutchman often one of the first ones out. With a 1:29 he was quite a way off Ocon’s Friday pace, and it was clear to all that it wouldn’t stand for long.

Of course given the track limits issues that were plaguing the session, it wasn’t just provisional pole position that wouldn’t stand for long. Max Verstappen (Van Amersfoort Racing) was a case in point, two of his lap times vanishing from the screen almost before anyone could register they’d been there. He wasn’t the only one, which really does make you wonder about the “not respecting track limits” epidemic that seems to infest the sport these days. There must be a better way of ensuring drivers do not gain an advantage that doesn’t mean people just keep right on doing it…

Meanwhile, van der Laar pitted with 13 minutes still to go, this time not triggering the general rush for fresh rubber, mainly because most of the rest of them had only just ventured out for the first time. That left the way clear and the next man to top the times was Verstappen, edging ahead by the smallest of margins. With a good ten minutes still available, it remained to be seen if it would be enough. Van der Laar was still 2nd, from Roy Nissany (kfzteile24 Mücke Motorsport), Felix Rosenqvist (kfzteile24 Mücke Motorsport) and Tom Blomqvist (Jagonya Ayam with Carlin). That was obviously going to change before the session ended.

Shortly afterward, Jordan King (Carlin) was the new leader, but he held on for no time at all before Antonio Fuoco (Prema Powerteam) came charging round. It was a sign perhaps of things to come. With eight minutes of the session still available, Ocon went for it, slamming in a 1:27.6, a massive three quarters of a second quicker than Fuoco. It looked as if the Lotus junior driver was about to do it again and set his stamp on this meeting. Blomqvist fought back for 2nd, pushing Fuoco down a place, while Dennis was not 5th from van der Laar. It was still a long way from over though.

Lucas Auer ((kfzteile24 Mücke Motorsport) was next to improve, snatching 3rd, just ahead of Verstappen. However, that man Ocon seemed immovably entrenched at the top now and time was running out. Five minutes remained in which to try and dislodge Ocon. Blomqvist was still pushing on, as was Fuoco, the two of them battling hard for 2nd, the young Italian winning out as the last couple of laps were run. There was no question that Ocon had netted both pole positions, but we had to wait a while for the rest of the positions for both grids to come clear.

Ocon, as already stated, was on pole for Race 2, from Fuoco, Blomqvist, Verstappen, Auer, King, Dennis, van de Laar, Rosenqvist and Nicholas Latifi (Prema Powerteam). 11th went to Felix Serralles (Team West-TecF3), from Santino Ferrucci (Eurointernational), Gustavo Menezes (Van Amersfoort Racing), Antonio Giovinazzi (Jagonya Ayam with Carlin), Jules Szymkowiak (Van Amersfoort Racing), Nissany, Tatiana Calderon (Jo Zeller Racing), Hector Hurst (Team West-TecF3), Michele Beretta (Eurointernational) and Sean Gelael (Jagonya Ayam with Carlin), the Indonesian driver oddly off the pace all weekend.

Race 3 again has Ocon on pole from Blomqvist, Verstappen, Fuoco, King, Dennis, Auer, van de Laar, Menezes and Rosenqvist. Ferrucci will start 11th, from Latifi, Szymkowiak, Calderon, Nissany, Serralles, Hurst, Gelael, Beretta and Giovinazzi.

Interestingly, the only drivers not to have times disallowed were van de Laar, Szymkowiak and Calderon.