Motorsport News - F3
British F3 title chase hots up
31st August 2012
After five months of battle and 22 races, British F3 has come down to a straight fight between three drivers - Britains Jack Harvey, Puerto Rican Felix Serralles and Malaysias Jazeman Jaafar - who are separated by 20 points with six races to go, three next weekend at Silverstone and three at the end of September at Donington Park.
It is the most open British F3 championship there has been since 2008, when Jaime Alguersuari nicked the title at the final meeting, and one which could result in the Carlin team losing its stranglehold on the top prize. Alguersuari was the first of Carlins four successive champions, pursued into the record books by Daniel Ricciardo, Jean-Eric Vergne and last year by Felipe Nasr.
This season has seen eight different race winners and 11 men on the podium steps and, although Harvey, Serralles and Jaafar are the only drivers with realistic title hopes, mathematically the top seven men in the championship are still within reach of the top.
Carlin man Harvey, 19 and from Lincolnshire, leads the championship to Silverstone with five wins under his belt, including one at Snetterton earlier this month. The Racing Steps Foundation-backed driver has four points in hand over Fortecs Serralles, the rookie revelation of the season, who won on his British F3 debut at Oulton Park and has gone on to claim three more victories during his stellar maiden season.
Nineteen-year-old Malaysian Jaafar is a further 16 points adrift. Approaching the conclusion of his third season in British Formula 3, Jaafar is the most experienced driver in the field. Three podiums in the opening four rounds paved the way for wins - his first in the championship - at Pau and Rockingham, and several podiums since have kept him in the title hunt.
However, the top three will have their work cut out not only to beat their title rivals but also to stay ahead of the best of the rest, headed by the prodigiously talented Carlos Sainz Junior. Just about to turn 18, Sainz has won five times for the Volkswagen-backed Carlin team this year - four of those victories taken in streaming wet conditions - and the Spaniard, son of the double World Rally Champion, has his sights set on further triumphs.
Sainz, whose championship hopes have been dented by five non-finishes, is 55 points off the top but could still make it to third in the championship if the others have problems, especially if the weather continues to favour his talents.
Fifth place in the championship is held by another of Fortecs promising rookies, Essex-based Alex Lynn, who shares the frustration with Hannes van Asseldonk and Nick McBride of having stood on the podium this season but not yet won a race. Lynn has proved prodigiously quick in pre-race testing for the Mercedes-powered Fortec squad but has yet to translate that into a pole position come qualifying.
Carlin men Harry Tincknell and Pietro Fantin hold championship sixth and seventh, with Exeters Tincknell a three-time race winner already and Brazilian Fantin a race victor in Germany in the summer. All Harrys wins have come in the reverse-grid sprint races and hes overdue a main race victory. Fortecs Pipo Derani is another with two sprint race wins on his CV; the Brazilian holds eighth, one place ahead of his team-mate van Asseldonk. Hannes has had a frustrating first season in British F3, with a second place at the Norisring his sole podium visit.
A long learning season brought its reward at Snetterton for Australian rookie McBride, who drove the Tomei-Nissan powered T-Sport Dallara on to the podium for the first time, and in difficult conditions. Alexander Sims proved at the Nrburgring a couple of weeks ago that the car/engine package has race-winning potential, and hopefully McBride will be able to end his season with further podium placings to cement his 10th place overall in the championship.
The final pairing in the International class are Double R men Svendsen-Cook and Geoff Uhrhane.
Race winner Rupert Svendsen-Cook is to return to the Cooper Tires British Formula 3 International Series next weekend (8/9 September) at Silverstone.
The 21-year-old from Suffolk will race a Mercedes-powered Double R Dallara at the British Grand Prix circuit and team boss Anthony Hieatt says he is optimistic that the talented Brit will deliver: Hes a very quick driver, a proven winner in F3 and fantastic to work with - we cant wait to get out there next weekend. In testing last week Rupert was fast and liked the car so we have high hopes for three strong races from him.
The deal is currently just for Silverstone but wed obviously like to run Rupert to the end of the season and also at Macau. Were confident hell put Double R back where we should be.
Svendsen-Cook, who will take over driving duties at Double R from Malaysian Fahmi Ilyas, joined British Formula in 2010 and spent two seasons with Carlin, winning once in his maiden season and twice last year on his way to championship fifth. Apart from a European F3 Open outing at Brands Hatch in July, in which he scored a podium finish, Rupert has been out of the cockpit since the end of last year.
Like his compatriot and 2011 Formula Ford sparring partner McBride, Uhrhane is an F3 rookie, but he came close to a podium with a fourth-place finish at the Norisring.
Theres still all to play for in the National class as well. This is the division for the less experienced drivers using older - and less costly to run - chassis powered by Neil Brown Engineering-tuned Mugen Honda powerplants.
There is a 34-point gap between the National title protagonists Spike Goddard and Duvashen Padayachee, Australians both. T-Sports Goddard has won the class 10 times and Double R man Padayachee on five occasions; Spikes advantage is large enough that he could afford to follow Duvashen home a few times between now and the end of the season and still take the title, but then again a non-finish for either driver in any of the remaining six races could prove decisive.
They will both have to keep a close eye on their class rival Pedro Pablo Calbimonte, the Bolivian racer who joined the battle with T-Sport at Spa in July. He has adapted impressively well to F3 and has led home both Goddard and Padayachee three times in the last four races.
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