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“FIA F3: Double pole for Blomqvist”

Blomqvist took double-pole at Hockenheim. © FIA F3 Media Service.

Blomqvist took double-pole at Hockenheim. © FIA F3 Media Service.

Jagonya Ayam with Carlin driver Tom Blomqvist struck back at rival Max Verstappen when he claimed the final two pole positions of the FIA European F3 season this evening.

Blomqvist, who is battling Verstappen for the runner-up spot in the championship, destroyed the opposition with two laps in the 1’31s range – the only driver to do so today.

Blomqvist’s initial run – a 1:31.987s – had already set the Anglo-Kiwi almost three-tenths ahead of his nearest rival and teammate Antonio Giovinazzi, but a spectacular late effort scrubbed another 0.170s from that time.

It marked a good session too for Giovinazzi who backed up his 2nd place start for Race 2, with a 4th place qualifying for Race 3, while Mücke’s Lucas Auer collected a 3rd (Race 2) and a 2nd (Race 3).
With the end of a tough season approaching, Felix Rosenqvist showed some metal by twice qualifying in the top five, surrounded either way by Jordan King. Series champion Esteban Ocon twice secured 6th, while Prema Powerteam teammate Antonio Fuoco nabbed two 7th’s.

The surprise of the session was Zeller/Mücke racer Tatiana Calderon who recorded the 8th best time for Race 2 and will line-up just ahead of Max Verstappen.
Indeed in an unusual scene, Verstappen will also start from 8th in Rcae 3 – a stark contrast to the earlier qualifying session, where the van Amersfoort driver took pole.

The session was briefly red flagged when Roy Nissany spun off in the final sequence of corners, only for the Israelite to rejoin under his own steam once the qualifying had been neutralised.

2014 FIA European F3 Championship (Rd 11, Grid Race 2)
Pos Driver              Team/Engine                 Time/Gap
 1. Tom Blomqvist       Jagonya Ayam Carlin-VW      1:31.817
 2. Antonio Giovinazzi  Jagonya Ayam Carlin-VW        +0.335
 3. Lucas Auer          Mucke-Merc                    +0.428
 4. Jordan King         Carlin-VW                     +0.586
 5. Felix Rosenqvist    Mucke-Merc                    +0.597
 6. Esteban Ocon        Prema Powerteam-Merc          +0.605 
 7. Antonio Fuoco       Powerteam-Merc                +0.616
 8. Tatiana Calderon    Zeller/Mucke-Merc             +0.937
 9. Max Verstappen      van Amersfoort-VW             +1.015
10. Sean Gelael         Jagonya Ayam Carlin-VW        +1.023
11. Roy Nissany         Mucke-Merc                    +1.105
12. Gustavo Menezes     van Amersfoort-VW             +1.133
13. Dennis van de Laar  Powerteam-Merc                +1.183
14. Ed Jones            Carlin-VW                     +1.222
15. Felix Serralles     Team West-Tec-Merc            +1.360 
16. Santino Ferrucci    Fortec-Merc                   +1.504
17. Jules Szymkowiak    van Amersfoort-VW             +1.574
18. Jake Dennis         Carlin-VW                     +1.655
19. Spike Goddard       T-Sport-NBE                   +2.073
20. Alexander Toril     T-Sport-NBE                   +2.077
21. Stefano Coletti     EuroInternational-Merc        +2.211 
22. Michele Beretta     EuroInternational-Merc        +2.545
23. Sandro Zeller       Zeller –Merc                  +2.580
24. Andy Chang          Team West-Tec-Merc            +2.631
25. Nick Cassidy        T-Sport-NBE                {no time}

2014 FIA European F3 Championship (Rd 11, Grid Race 3)
Pos Driver              Team/Engine                 Time/Gap
 1. Tom Blomqvist       Jagonya Ayam Carlin-VW      1:31.987
 2. Lucas Auer          Mucke-Merc                    +0.299
 3. Felix Rosenqvist    Mucke-Merc                    +0.442
 4. Antonio Giovinazzi  Jagonya Ayam Carlin-VW        +0.558
 5. Jordan King         Carlin-VW                     +0.682
 6. Esteban Ocon        Prema Powerteam-Merc          +0.723 
 7. Antonio Fuoco       Powerteam-Merc                +0.776
 8. Max Verstappen      van Amersfoort-VW             +0.859
 9. Sean Gelael         Jagonya Ayam Carlin-VW        +0.861
10. Gustavo Menezes     van Amersfoort-VW             +1.126
11. Ed Jones            Carlin-VW                     +1.214
12. Roy Nissany         Mucke-Merc                    +1.343
13. Felix Serralles     Team West-Tec-Merc            +1.346 
14. Dennis van de Laar  Powerteam-Merc                +1.369
15. Jules Szymkowiak    van Amersfoort-VW             +1.405
16. Tatiana Calderon    Zeller/Mucke-Merc             +1.469
17. Santino Ferrucci    Fortec-Merc                   +1.526
18. Jake Dennis         Carlin-VW                     +1.640
19. Spike Goddard       T-Sport-NBE                   +1.962
20. Alexander Toril     T-Sport-NBE                   +2.025
21. Stefano Coletti     EuroInternational-Merc        +2.101 
22. Andy Chang          Team West-Tec-Merc            +2.563
23. Michele Beretta     EuroInternational-Merc        +2.571
24. Sandro Zeller       Zeller –Merc                  +2.576
25. Nick Cassidy        T-Sport-NBE                {no time}
© FIA F3 Media Service.

© FIA F3 Media Service.

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“FIA F3: Verstappen takes first pole for Hockenheim finale”

Verstappen took another pole in Hockenheim. © FIA F3 Media Service.

Verstappen took another pole in Hockenheim. © FIA F3 Media Service.

Max Verstappen took pole position for the first FIA European Formula 3 race of the weekend at Hockenheim today.

The Dutch racer set a best tour of 1:32.002s; ending the session just 0.018s up on Mücke’s Lucas Auer.

It was Verstappen’s 7th pole of the season, crucially giving the van Amersfoort racer a two-place head start over Tom Blomqvist (Jagonya Ayam Carlin), with whom he is battling for 2nd in the championship.

Of the pole position effort, Verstappen was naturally pleased: “Qualifying went well. It was pretty close between the three of us in front, but my lap time wasn’t so bad and, of course, I am delighted with my pole position.”
The future Toro Rosso star added: “The track is very demanding for the tyres, so you don’t have many laps to set a fast time. For me, it worked out quite well today.”

Blomqvist did run the front row pair close. After heading the times come the halfway mark, his best of 1:32.070s was ultimately just shy of was necessary to depose the Verstappen / Auer duo. It is an all-Jagonya Ayam Carlin second row, with Antonio Giovinazzi set to line-up alongside Blomqvist.

Jordan King (Carlin) slotted into 5th spot, with newly crowned champion Esteban Ocon (Prema Powerteam) taking 6th. Meanwhile Felix Rosenqvist (Mücke Motorsport, 7th) and Sean Gelael (Jagonya Ayam Carlin) grabbing 8th – his first top ten qualifying result of the season.
Felix Serralles (Team West-Tec) and Gustavo Menezes (van Amersfoort) round out the top ten.

There was some frantic action in the Carlin awning prior to the session, as engineers fought against time to change Jake Dennis’ engine. As a result, the Briton will drop ten places for each of this weekend’s races.

Meanwhile, Lucas Auer headed both of this morning’s practice sessions ahead of Felix Rosenqvist and Esteban Ocon respectively. Jules Szymkowiak showed some pace in the opening session when he set the 4th quickest time; however as the circuit rubbered in, the Dutch driver could not quite repeat the feat.

2014 FIA European F3 Championship (Rd 11, Grid Race 1)
Pos Driver              Team/Engine                 Time/Gap
 1. Max Verstappen      van Amersfoort-VW           1:32.002
 2. Lucas Auer          Mucke-Merc                    +0.018
 3. Tom Blomqvist       Jagonya Ayam Carlin-VW        +0.074
 4. Antonio Giovinazzi  Jagonya Ayam Carlin-VW        +0.339
 5. Jordan King         Carlin-VW                     +0.377
 6. Esteban Ocon        Prema Powerteam-Merc          +0.412
 7. Felix Rosenqvist    Mucke-Merc                    +0.483
 8. Sean Gelael         Jagonya Ayam Carlin-VW        +0.533
 9. Felix Serralles     Team West-Tec-Merc            +0.674
10. Gustavo Menezes     van Amersfoort-VW             +0.758
11. Ed Jones            Carlin-VW                     +0.808
12. Roy Nissany         Mucke-Merc                    +0.813
13. Antonio Fuoco       Powerteam-Merc                +0.844
14. Tatiana Calderon    Zeller/Mucke-Merc             +1.029
15. Nick Cassidy        T-Sport-NBE                   +1.042
16. Jules Szymkowiak    van Amersfoort-VW             +1.150 
17. Dennis van de Laar  Powerteam-Merc                +1.209
18. Jake Dennis         Carlin-VW                     +1.272
19. Santino Ferrucci    Fortec-Merc                   +1.434
20. Stefano Coletti     EuroInternational-Merc        +1.514 
21. Michele Beretta     EuroInternational-Merc        +1.734
22. Alexander Toril     T-Sport-NBE                   +1.821
23. Spike Goddard       T-Sport-NBE                   +1.895
24. Sandro Zeller       Zeller –Merc                  +2.049
25. Andy Chang          Team West-Tec-Merc            +2.239
2014 FIA European F3 Championship (Rd 11, Free Practice 1)
Pos Driver              Team/Engine                 Time/Gap
 1. Lucas Auer          Mucke-Merc                  1:33.206
 2. Felix Rosenqvist    Mucke-Merc                    +0.488
 3. Esteban Ocon        Prema Powerteam-Merc          +0.765
 4. Jules Szymkowiak    van Amersfoort-VW             +0.858
 5. Max Verstappen      van Amersfoort-VW             +0.874
 6. Felix Serralles     Team West-Tec-Merc            +0.902
 7. Sean Gelael         Jagonya Ayam Carlin-VW        +0.979
 8. Antonio Giovinazzi  Jagonya Ayam Carlin-VW        +1.003
 9. Jordan King         Carlin-VW                     +1.038
10. Gustavo Menezes     van Amersfoort-VW             +1.101
11. Roy Nissany         Mucke-Merc                    +1.172
12. Antonio Fuoco       Prema Powerteam-Merc          +1.231
13. Tom Blomqvist       Jagonya Ayam Carlin-VW        +1.282
14. Stefano Coletti     EuroInternational-Merc        +1.363
15. Ed Jones            Carlin-VW                     +1.534
16. Jake Dennis         Carlin-VW                     +1.555
17. Nick Cassidy        T-Sport-NBE                   +1.601
18. Santino Ferrucci    Fortec-Merc                   +1.664
19. Tatiana Calderon    Zeller/Mucke-Merc             +1.764
20. Spike Goddard       T-Sport-NBE                   +2.055
21. Michele Beretta     EuroInternational-Merc        +2.311
22. Andy Chang          Team West-Tec-Merc            +2.403
23. Alexander Toril     T-Sport-NBE                   +2.669
24. Sandro Zeller       Zeller –Merc                  +3.240
25. Dennis van de Laar  Prema Powerteam-Merc          +6.272

2014 FIA European F3 Championship (Rd 11, Free Practice 2)
Pos Driver              Team/Engine                 Time/Gap
 1. Lucas Auer          Mucke-Merc                  1:32.861
 2. Esteban Ocon        Prema Powerteam-Merc          +0.177
 3. Max Verstappen      van Amersfoort-VW             +0.271
 4. Tom Blomqvist       Jagonya Ayam Carlin-VW        +0.297
 5. Antonio Fuoco       Powerteam-Merc                +0.385
 6. Felix Serralles     Team West-Tec-Merc            +0.535
 7. Jordan King         Carlin-VW                     +0.580
 8. Nick Cassidy        T-Sport-NBE                   +0.645
 9. Gustavo Menezes     van Amersfoort-VW             +0.723
10. Dennis van de Laar  Powerteam-Merc                +0.725
11. Sean Gelael         Jagonya Ayam Carlin-VW        +0.932 
12. Tatiana Calderon    Zeller/Mucke-Merc             +0.998
13. Felix Rosenqvist    Mucke-Merc                    +1.006
14. Jules Szymkowiak    van Amersfoort-VW             +1.065 
15. Antonio Giovinazzi  Jagonya Ayam Carlin-VW        +1.136
16. Roy Nissany         Mucke-Merc                    +1.191
17. Santino Ferrucci    Fortec-Merc                   +1.332
18. Jake Dennis         Carlin-VW                     +1.455
19. Ed Jones            Carlin-VW                     +1.566
20. Spike Goddard       T-Sport-NBE                   +1.583
21. Sandro Zeller       Zeller –Merc                  +1.792
22. Andy Chang          Team West-Tec-Merc            +1.881
23. Stefano Coletti     EuroInternational-Merc        +1.962 
24. Alexander Toril     T-Sport-NBE                   +2.017
25. Michele Beretta     EuroInternational-Merc        +3.284

“Right to Reply – ‘Jolyon Palmer: A champion, but what next?'”

Jolyon Palmer, 2014 GP2 Series champion. © Charles Coates/GP2 Series Media Service.

Jolyon Palmer, 2014 GP2 Series champion. © Charles Coates/GP2 Series Media Service.

Earlier this week, Formula Renault 3.5 driver Cameron Twynham contacted me regarding Sunday’s post about the new GP2 Series champion, Jolyon Palmer.

As part of the operating policy of, this website is open to a ‘reply or comment’ from those involved in motorsport.

See also:
“Jolyon Palmer: A champion, but what next?”

Cameron Twynham (Formula Renault 3.5; Comtec Racing)
“[Jolyon Palmer] needs to get an opportunity [to drive in Formula One] in my opinion.

Junior championships including GP2 are for learning; some people learn fast, others take more time, but the end result is often better if you learn the correct way rather than accelerated or skipping steps.

His experience in GP2 is not just about winning, he has learnt how to qualify, how to race from the back, the middle and the front of a very aggressive grid and get to the end of the races with maximum points, not easy in GP2!

He has shown incredible pace this season plus amazing overtaking skills, and in a car as he says, is very similar to F1 speeds.
Not that F1 teams are listening to me but I really hope he gets there.”

My thanks to Cameron for submitting his thoughts.

Twynham races for Comtec in FR3.5. © Renault Sport Media.

Twynham races for Comtec in FR3.5. © Renault Sport Media.


© Leigh O'Gorman

© Leigh O’Gorman

It was suitably quiet – well, almost. One can not always capture these moments at just the right time, but at least the rustling of the leaves amidst the Autumnal trees could still be held to ear.

Occasionally a car would pass – at speed, of course. This is Imola after all and the youth of the FIA Italian Formula 4 Championship are getting their precious practice runs in. Some of them certainly need it more than others.

It feels strange to think that now almost the entire Italian F4 field was born after Ayrton Senna died following a crash at the infamous Tamburello corner at Imola on May 1st, 1994.

Many of these young drivers idolise the late Senna to some degree or other, having heard so many tales, watched the ‘Senna’ film and, or viewed numerous clips of his high speed exploits on YouTube.

Others still grew to love this sport during the dominant Schumacher years, but soon another generation will emerge who were born after Michael Schumacher’s original run ended. That final Ferrari drive at Interlagos, after all, occurred nearly eight ago already.

It also feels a touch strange that one should idolise a driver whose time passed before one had been born, but to criticise such a thing would merely make me a hypocrite.
As a fan of the great Jim Clark fan, I would know about that – the double World Champion Scot was killed some thirteen years before I was born, but this weekend, I will return to the Hockenheimring and hopefully capture another memorial in some soft silence.

Meanwhile, I held this moment. Around me, a birthday was being celebrated by a party in the park and people ventured out to walk and talk amongst themselves, while other racing fans arrived to capture their moment too.

Only then did a fly decide it was the perfect time to fly directly up my right nostril, sending me into a spluttering fit as I repeatedly swatted myself across the face.
If nothing else, my furious reaction to the winged insect got laughs from the assembled children…

“Esteban Ocon”

A podium was enough for Ocon to secure the FIA F3 title. © FIA F3 Media.

A podium was enough for Ocon to secure the FIA F3 title. © FIA F3 Media.

There was something poignant about Esteban Ocon, Max Verstappen and Tom Blomqvist all nabbing a victory each at the penultimate FIA European Formula 3 round at Imola this weekend.

The trio have been at the top of the championship for virtually its entire run this year, but it was Ocon who would be crowned champion.

And rightly so.

The French teenager has excelled this season and while Verstappen may be about the grab the headlines as Red Bull’s latest protégé in Formula One, there is little doubt that he and Ocon will have a rivalry that will endure for many years to come.

With Formula Renault 3.5 on the horizon for Ocon, it only remains to see whom he will be driving for in the Renault Word Series category. A couple of rounds with Comtec whetted his appetite, but it is unlikely that they will be his ultimate destination.

Blomqvist too has shun bright, but a lack of funding meaning his future is somewhat less clear.

Soon we will know all their futures and declarations of intent, but first there is the matter of the FIA European F3 finale at Hockenheim next week and then the Macau F3 Grand Prix in November and that will be one stellar battleground for these fabulous talents.

Ocon's Prema Powerteam team boss René Rosin celebrated... © FIA F3 Media.

Ocon’s Prema Powerteam team boss René Rosin celebrated… © FIA F3 Media. did the rest of the Prema Powerteam squad. © FIA F3 Media.

…as did the rest of the Prema Powerteam squad. © FIA F3 Media.

“FIA F3: Verstappen wins, but Ocon champion”

Ocon is teh 2014 FIA F3 champion. © FIA F3 Media.

Ocon is teh 2014 FIA F3 champion. © FIA F3 Media.

Max Verstappen won the final FIA European F3 race of the weekend at Imola today, but Esteban Ocon’s 3rd place was enough to secure the championship title.

Verstappen started from pole, but a sluggish getaway after nearly stalling on the grid allowed Prema Powerteam’s Antonio Fuoco to slip into the lead, while Ocon fell to 3rd having started on the outside of the front row.

Thereafter it became a race stuttered by safety car periods, as the Alfa Romeo 4C was needed on three separate occasions.
Fuoco bravely held the lead following two restarts, but there was little he could do to stay ahead of the feisty Verstappen when the race went green on lap nine, with the Dutch racer pushing Fuoco to the limits and passing on the approach to Tamburello.

Verstappen led with ease for two laps, until the race was neutralised for a final time on lap eleven when Felix Rosenqvist locked wheels with Jordan King, pitching the Swede hard and backwards into an exposed section of wall at Tamburello.
Rosenqvist was fine, but it would take a further three laps before the race could restart, at which point Verstappen pulled away from the chasing Fuoco, to win by 2.1s in front of the Fuoco’s band of travelling supporters.

Ocon held his nerve to maintain a gap over Nicholas Latifi and Tom Blomqvist – a result that puts him too far ahead of Verstappen and Blomqvist to be caught. Verstappen’s victory puts him back into 2nd in the standings ahead of Blomqvist and into a fight that will be settled next week at Hockenheim.

Latifi jumped from 6th to 4th at the start and maintained that position from there, while Blomqvist could do no better than 5th, although the Carlin racer did spend some time fending off Will Buller after the final green flag.
Buller had a time defending against Jake Dennis and briefly lost the position on lap 11 when Dennis tried for a move into Villeneuve; however Buller forced his Signature machine back ahead.

Dennis would keep 7th, but only just ahead of Lucas Auer, with the Austrian attacking the Englishman having already passed Felix Serralles on the third lap. Serralles continued onward to 9th place, with Gustavo Menezes just one second adrift.
The American Menezes fought a brave race – having started 17th, the van Amersfoort man took five places off the line, before sweeping by Roy Nissany (lap 3) and King (lap 15). Menezes did have a brief battle and position swap with Rosenqvist at the halfway point in the race, prior to the Swede clashing with King.

The two other safety car periods came early on. As the field ran through the exit on Tamburello and on the way to Villeneuve on the opening lap, Ed Jones and King touched, which pitched the latter into Antonio Giovinazzi, shredding Giovinazzi’s right rear tyre and stranding him on the circuit.
The second safety car was called on lap five Sandro Zeller suffered a high speed spin on the entry into Tamburello which briefly pitched his Zeller Racing machine airbourne.
A lap later Tatiana Calderon retired with a broken right front suspension arm.

“FIA F3: Blomqvist takes dominant victory”

Blomqvist took another FIA F3 win at Imola. © FIA F3 Media.

Blomqvist took another FIA F3 win at Imola. © FIA F3 Media.

Carlin’s Tom Blomqvist took a dominant fifth FIA European F3 victory of the season at Imola this morning.

In the distance, Max Verstappen nabbed a last moment 2nd place from Antonio Giovinazzi when the latter lifted off just before the line.

The 20-year-old Blomqvist led from the start with relative ease, making easy work of the gap to the hard working Giovinazzi.

Immediately, the race was in the hands of the Anglo-Kiwi driver, who had built a 2.01s lead after the opening pair of laps – a lead that extended to 3.8s after seven tours, at which point the race was neutralised under the safety car when Alexander Toril spun and stalled on the lead into Acque Minerali.

When the race resumed on lap eleven, so too did Blomqvist’s dominance, with Jagonya Ayam Carlin racer building a lead of 4.26s over the course of the next nine laps.

For Giovinazzi, while not in Blomqvist’s league today, the Italian did deserve the runner-up spot at least, only to be denied at the final possible moment.
Under pressure from Verstappen from lap fifteen onward, Giovinazzi drove a measured race, until a touch a wheelspin exiting the second part of the Rivazza on the final tour dropped the Carlin man back toward Verstappen as they drew toward the flag.
Whereas Verstappen kept his foot on the throttle, Giovinazzi defended hard initially and then lifted off slightly as they approached the line, with the Italian assuming the finish was earlier on the straight.

As the crossed the actual timing beam, Verstappen had edged ahead of Giovinazzi by just 0.019s of-a-second, leaving the Carlin team somewhat dumbstruck on the pitwall.
It had been a stellar drive from Verstappen, who, despite setting the fastest lap in qualifying, was relegated to 11th on the grid following an engine change penalty left over from the Nürburgring round in August.
From the start, Verstappen took one place, before sweeping by Roy Nissany and Lucas Auer during the opening tour. Thereafter the Dutch teenager took Jake Dennis (lap 3), Will Buller (lap 5), Nicholas Latifi (lap 11) and Esteban Ocon (lap 12) before a pitting Antonio Fuoco gifted Verstappen another position.

Championship leader Ocon drove a quiet race to 4th. As he edges close to the title, the Frenchman peddled around near front, but was passed by Giovinazzi on lap three and then by Verstappen later.
Lucas Auer rounded out the top five. The Austrian made hard work it however – having started 9th, Auer made hard and aggressive moves of Dennis, Buller and Latifi to slot into the lead group.
Latifi could do better than 6th ahead of the Dennis and the quiet Felix Serralles, with Felix Rosenqvist (9th) and Gustavo Menezes (10th) rounding out the points finishes.

With only four races left in the season, Ocon continues to lead by a long way and now has an 84 point lead over Blomqvist and a 96 point advantage over Verstappen.
Only 100 points are left on the table.

© FIA F3 Media.

© FIA F3 Media.

“Jolyon Palmer: A champion, but what next?”

Jolyon Palmer took the GP2 Series title in emphatic style at Sochi Autodrom on Saturday, to the delight of his DAMS team and former F1 racer father Jonathan.

For Palmer, this title was suitable reward for a year of hard work, consistency and dedication.

Whereas in previous seasons, Palmer’s form had been patchy, the Englishman pulled the year together to firmly beat chief rival Felipe Nasr.
“We fought for every pole and every feature race win,” said Palmer after the race. “We barely made any mistake. It’s been an absolute dream season and to be Champion at the earliest opportunity for me is the icing on the cake.”

Naturally some will look to this champion and comment that after four years in GP2, he should be at the top by sheer virtue of experience, but that would do some disservice to the Briton, whose work ethic has improved greatly since joining the DAMS team.
Palmer continued: “We tested with DAMS and they were very keen to sign me for the year. We went for that option and straight away, on the first day with the team, I realised that the hunger was there for them as well.”

Irrespective of DAMS’ obvious qualities, Palmer was initially wary, but any fears were quickly set aside by the team’s level of performance. “Going to a new team, you never know how that’s going to pan out. The first day of testing in Abu Dhabi, we topped and from there we never looked back really. We took the first pole in Bahrain and we took a win that weekend as well. I’ve gotten so well with the team. They’ve done a really good job all year. The mechanics, the engineers…
“I think the only mistake all year was Monza qualifying. Even so, that weekend turned out great as well. I love working with the team and together we’ve done a very good job.”

Yet lingering doubts do persist as to Palmer’s ultimate quality. As a driver, he has matured greatly in the past eighteen months, starting with an upturn in form in the second-half of last season and while Palmer rightly deserves his GP2 Series success, it will be interesting to see where the Briton goes next; however Formula One is, quite obviously, high on the agenda.
“I feel ready for it,” says the new champion. “I’m driving at the top of my game right now. I know the tyres thanks to GP2. It is the perfect Series to feed into Formula One: it is the same tyres, the same tracks, the cars are even now a similar speed especially into the corners. I feel absolutely ready for it and I am confident it can happen.”

However it has taken several seasons for the 23-year-old to get to this stage and in that time, his promotion to F1 has not been a subject discussed greatly and has not been part of any junior driver programme.
As the likes of Daniil Kvyat, Kevin Magnussen, Max Verstappen and Valtteri Bottas have already moved ahead, one wonders if the Formula One paddock has already looked beyond Palmer.
If he is looked over, the DAMS racer will become third consecutive GP2 champion and the fourth since 2008 not to obtain an F1 seat the following season, but Palmer is convinced this title will help his push to the top level. “The first priority was to win GP2 and I was always confident that if I did win GP2 I was going to be in Formula One. Now that’s done and I’m confident I’ll be in Formula One. I’m not saying it is going to be easy, but this title is a big help. We’re going to have to wait for a few weeks and see what happens.”

Palmer’s main rival Felipe Nasr has been rather ineffective at times this season and – this is not a sly remark upon Palmer’s efforts – the Brazilian far too often let his English rival take too many easy points.
Despite holding the position of Williams F1 reserve driver, the former British F3 champion was overlooked – an indication from the famed team that maybe Nasr has not done enough.

Whether the F1 paddock believe Palmer is deserving of a seat is another question and if he does make an appearance, it may prove to be an expensive move for the GP2 Champion.

“FIA F3: Ocon closes in on title”

Ocon took another victory at Imola. © FIA F3

Ocon took another victory at Imola. © FIA F3

Lotus junior driver Esteban Ocon took one step closer to the FIA European Formula 3 Championship crown this morning.

The French teenager took a lights-to-flag victory ahead of Jordan King (Carlin) and Tom Blomqvist (Jagonya Ayam Carlin) at Imola to extend his lead to 97 points over the championship’s new 2nd place man Blomqvist.

With five races remaining, 125 points remain to play for.

Ocon eased away at the start to lead from pole, while fellow front row man Antonio Giovinazzi endured a horror start to fall to 5th, allowing King, Blomqvist and Felix Rosenqvist to skip ahead.

Thereafter the Prema Powerteam racer kept a narrow lead over King throughout, with the gap consistently hovering between 1.2s and 1.8s.

Whereas King struggled to pressure Ocon, Blomqvist could do little about the Englishman ahead.
Late set-up changes to his car meant Blomqvist took time to feel his way into the machine; however as the race aged, the car came toward the Anglo-Kiwi racer, allowing Blomqvist to close in on King, but not enough to make a difference.

Rosenqvist’s topsy-turvy season continued with a drive to 4th. Although initially involved in a fight for position with King, Blomqvist and the attacking Giovinazzi, the Swede drew away from the 5th place, but lost pace with the podium sitters in the process.

Lucas Auer assumed 6th place, after he aggressively took Jake Dennis on lap 14. On the backfoot from a clash with Max Verstappen several laps earlier, Dennis could do little about the charging Austrian when their battle eventually came to blows.
Auer also fought with an aggressive Verstappen on the sixth lap, when the Dutch teenager barged his way past Auer’s Mücke machine in the Rivazza, following the latter’s attempt to intimidate Verstappen toward the back end of the circuit.

Dennis held a solid 7th over the Indy Lights-bound Felix Serralles (8th) and the ever more consistent Tatiana Calderon (9th), while Sean Gelael rounded out the points scoring finishers.

Verstappen was in the wars for much of the race. Beyond his clashes with Auer and Dennis, the Dutch teenager was crudely punted off by Antonio Fuoco on lap 15 in the Rivazza, only after losing two places with an unrealistic move in Villeneuve, that only served to push Verstappen into the gravel.
He then suffered another off when he made an ill-advised attempt on Roy Nissany around the outside of Tamburello toward the end of the race.

The race was interrupted by a brief safety car period, when on the opening lap Santino Ferrucci and Martin Cao collided, which also took out William Buller.

Blomqvist is now 2nd in points. © FIA F3 Media.

Blomqvist is now 2nd in points. © FIA F3 Media.


Jules Bianchi scored points for Marussia in Monaco this year. © Marussia F1 Team.

Jules Bianchi scored points for Marussia in Monaco this year. © Marussia F1 Team.

Hindsight and reflection can be both beautiful and cruel things, but it can do much to lend an eye to solutions, while also exposing so many impracticalities.

Indeed hindsight and reflection have been high on the agenda this week in Formula One. Following Marussia driver Jules Bianchi’s horror shunt at the end of the Japanese Grand Prix on Sunday, there inevitable noises demanding immediate action, which was to be expected.

Realistically however, quick, easy and ill-thought solutions are not the way forward, nor have they ever been. If one is expected immediate alteration in the regulations, then they may be a touch disappointed.

At the moment the FIA Institute are involved in the investigation and not only has footage been pooled from outboard, onboard and fan-shot {note 1}, but numerous pictures of the scene were collated from photographers at the scene.
The FIA also have possession of the car’s “black box”, from which information such as speed, g-force measurements and other key indicators will have been recorded. A statement was taken from Adrian Sutil; however I am unsure as to whether the marshals present were also interviewed following the session.

In yesterday’s Driver Press Conference, when asked whether drivers could contribute to help F1 to learn the lessons of what happened last Sunday, reigning world champion Sebastian Vettel said: “I think it’s very difficult right now to give you the golden answer; […] I think for now we need to first of all digest what happened and then make the right conclusions. I think it would be wrong only a couple of days after, with all the events going on, with all the happenings we’ve had since Sunday, to come out with something that hasn’t been thought through.”

Ferrari pilot Fernando Alonso added: “There is an investigation going on. We don’t have all the details. We don’t have all the information necessary to suggest any change. So we let the people work and whatever idea, whatever things come from the drivers’ point of view we will share it.”
Some may consider their answers “safe”, but realistically they are both correct, for rash action in the name of safety may leave the competitors and trackside personnel open to other risks.

This week there has been some discussion as to whether recovery vehicles can be modified to “deflect” an out of control machine, but like everything else, this requires time to be investigated.
Other elements such as race start times have also come into focus, with FOM (Formula One Management) dictating in recent seasons that Grand Prix in Japan, Australia and Malaysia start later in the afternoon local time, in order to accommodate European television schedules.

Following the investigation, there may be a reappraisal of safety car and yellow flag procedures in light of this incident – and the timing for that may be right. Although certain aspects of safety car regulations have altered through the years, they have largely remained unchanged through an era where the safety regulations of cars and circuits have changed beyond recognition.
Yesterday, Force India’s Sergio Perez commented that if “there is a tractor coming out to pick up the car we need a safety car no matter what conditions,” which is a rather reasonable assumption, but one wonders if a middle ground can be found.

Several years ago, Creventic – organisers of the 24 Hour Series – pioneered a strategy called “Code 60” (alternatively “Code Purple”), whereby races are neutralised “in the event of an accident or other safety issue, without having to put a safety car on circuit.”
The Code 60 was so named because the regulation requires drivers to stick to a speed limit of 60kph; while track workers clear whatever malady they are presented with.
It has since been adopted by the ACO for the 24 Hours of Le Mans; however the French special uses it in a slightly different manner. Under the banner of “Slow Zone”, localised areas of a circuit can be kept at a strict speed limit (80kph in the case of Le Mans), while corner workers are operating.

Whether a Slow Zone concept could be applied to Formula One is something the regulators would need to work out. Like any other potential solution or alteration, this is not as simple as it sounds.
A Slow Zone would require a high enough speed limit to help keep tyre pressures high, but also low enough to make the environment as safe as possible, while deceleration zones might require additional analysis to accommodate individual circuits and corners.

As always, thoughts are with Bianchi, his family, friends and colleagues.

For now, the investigation continues. Let it do so.

{note 1}
As an aside, claims of the FIA’s attempts to avoid culpability, because FOM are sending takedown notices pretty much ignores the fact that FOM always send out takedown notices for everything F1 (from 1981-onward). It’s their job.


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