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“FIA F3: Schumacher wins again as title rival crashes out”

Mick Schumacher took his 5th consecutive FIA F3 race win this morning in dominant fashion, despite repeated safety car interventions.

Schumacher led an all-Prema Powerteam podium, with Marcus Armstrong and Robert Shwartzman taking 2nd and 3rd positions.

Despite overnight rain casting a damp (but drying) patch around his grid box, the German teen led from start, swatting Armstrong’s initial temptation for the lead, offering Shwartzman a shot at 2nd place.

Their brief fight for an early lead was halted Keyvan Soori Andres clattered into the rear of Sebastian Fernandez, ending both their days. Stranded, a safety car was required to clear the circuit.

Following the restart on lap five, Schumacher cleared away from Armstrong, setting four fastest laps in a row in the process and eventually extended his lead to 1.8s when the safety car was called for a second time.

This time the incident involved Artem Petrov and Alex Palou, with Petrov colliding with  Palou in an attempt to take the Spaniard around the outside of turn three right-hander.

The race would restart for a final time on lap 21 with Schumacher continuing to lead from Armstrong and Shwartzman, only to be neutralised again a lap later when Sacha Fenestraz (returning to the track following a turn two off) went side-by-side with title protagonist Dan Ticktum and Carlin’s Jehan Daruvala.

Creating a carbon sandwich on the long run to turn three, Ticktum touched the right rear of Fenestraz, sending both into a spin, while Daruvala spun on his own attempting to avoid the melee, only to collect an styrofoam advertising board before touching the barrier.

The race would continue under the safety car, with Schumacher tamely rolling his Mercedes-powered machine to the flag, extending his lead over Ticktum to a mighty 43 points, with only 100 still on the table.

With each restart, Schumacher truly looked under pressure and the German calmly and serenely went about its business.

Armstrong drove a strong race to claim his first podium since Misano Race 1. It is a result that allows the Kiwi to close to with 18 points of Ticktum at a track where Prema are showing some astonishing strength.

It was no easy feat however. Armstrong was forced to defend hard from Shwartzman during the race, particularly following the lap 19 restart, when the Russian attempted a move around the outside of his Prema stablemate, but it was not to be.

Jüri Vips secured 4th place, despite falling to 5th at the start. Overtaken by Jonathan Aberdein, Vips surprised his Motopark teammate on the first restart to steal 4th place back. Thereafter Aberdein challenged Vips for the position again, only to fall behind as he faced a late threat from Ralf Aron.

Having followed Fenestraz for much of the race, Aron capitalised when Fenestraz ran wide at turn two from the final restart. Thereafter, the Estonian made quick work of Aberdein to secure 5th place, with the latter settling for 6th.

The late Fenestraz/Ticktum/Daruvala debacle promoted Fabio Scherer to 7th, while Ferdinand Habsburg took 8th at his home race. Guanyu Zhou made a seemingly rarer visit to the top ten by ending the day 9th, while Sophia Flörsch finally scored a point for van Amersfoort, following her series debut at Zandvoort in a July.

Schumacher has another pole position for race 3 later today and on current form of seven wins in eight races, it is looking increasingly unlikely that the Schumacher train will be stopped.


“FIA F3: Schumacher wins again to take points lead”

Mick Schumacher’s rich vein of form continued at a wet Red Bull Ring this morning when the German soared to a fourth FIA European F3 win in a row.

The Prema racer finished ahead of teammate Robert Shwartzman and Hitech’s Alex Palou.

Schumacher led from the start, but had to defend hard on the opening pair of laps to keep Shwartzman at bay, with the latter switching focus to defend from Ferdinand Habsburg.

Amidst the thick spray, the gap between the leading pair draw out to just over a second by lap four, until Shwartzman clawed four-tenths back thanks to three successful purple laps.

Showing supreme confidence, Schumacher once again built the gap to Shwartzman and then began to extend it to approximately two seconds, defeating his teammate’s charge in the process.

There was still plenty of pace in Shwartzman with the Russian registering a brace of fastest laps in the final two tours, but the leader at this stage was content to bring things home.

It proved a far more eventful race for Palou. Starting 13th, the Spaniard navigated his way around the melee caused by the slow starting Dan Ticktum and Jehan Daruvala to rise to 7th on the opening lap.

From there, Palou swept by Jonathan Aberdein (lap 2), Jüri Vips (lap 3), Habsburg (lap 5) before assuming a very hard fought place from Marcus Armstrong on lap 9. It was a position he would not surrender.

Armstrong had a late battle with Habsburg to hold 4th. Having deemed to have passed Armstrong for 3rd illegally on lap 2, Habsburg allowed the Kiwi to retake his position on lap 4, only to also allow Palou and Vips through in the process.

Now 6th, Habsburg repassed Vips one tour later and set about chasing the Armstrong/Palou battle, registering a blistering pace in the process. Once Palou had moved to the podium spot, Palou closed in on Armstrong and took 4th on lap 12. But having taken too much from his wet Hankook’s, Habsburg faded in the later laps, allowing Armstrong to catch and retake 4th position three laps from the end, with Habsburg settling for 5th.

Vips secured 6th after a tussle with Aberdein. The Estonian fell under pressure from Aberdein immediately after losing 5th to Habsburg and Aberdein wasted little time doing the same again to Vips. Despite initially pulling away from Vips, Aberdein fell back toward the Motopark racer, with Vips snatching the position back from the South African on the last lap.

Former championship leader Ticktum’s poor start dropped him from 6th to 10th by turn one and there was slow progress from there. The Briton spent several attacking Daruvala for 9th, before Daruvala made a brief escape by passing Fabio Scherer on lap nine.

Ticktum followed through two laps later and quickly restarted his attack on Daruvala, finally grabbing place with an audacious move on lap 16 to snatch 8th. Once taken, Daruvala fell under pressure from a resurgent Scherer, but was unable to hold off the Motopark man with Scherer assuming 9th on lap 17, relegating Daruvala to 10th place the final point.

The result was more than enough to gift Schumacher an 18-point lead over Ticktum with five races to go; however following race one, Schumacher claimed a further two poles for races two and three. While Schumacher cannot win the title this weekend – it will be decided at Hockenheim – he can certainly do a great deal of damage to Ticktum’s chances tomorrow.

“DTM: Rast takes spoils after Juncadella penalty”

Rene Rast scored his third consecutive DTM victory to close in on new points leader Paul di Resta at the Red Bull Ring this afternoon.

His Audi stablemates Mike Rockenfeller and Nico Müller played the team game on the final lap to allow Rast to take full points in the race.

Starting 9th, Rast avoided a spun Robin Frijns to move to 8th staying there for the first third of the race when pit stops began in earnest. With the track relatively slow to dry, Rast stayed out until lap 17, emerging behind former champion Marco Wittmann (BMW), all the while maintaining a solid pace.

He rose to 4th as the varied strategies played out, surrounded this time by a pack that included Wittmann, Müller and Mercedes trio di Rest, Lucas Ayer and Edo Mortara.

Rast fell to 6th just before the second safety car period, when an aggressive Wittmann pushed him out wide on the back end of the circuit.

Following a brief stoppage to clear Timothy Glock’s broken BMW, Rast jumped past Wittmann and di Resta on the restart and was then gifted two further positions when Rockenfeller and Müller stepped aside in the final corners.

Initially Mercedes racer Dani Juncadella looked to have taken the main prize, only for a late race penalty to drop him to the rear of the field. The Spaniard was adjudged to have impeded Rockenfeller during a late safety car restart, giving himself an easier run into the first corner. The penalty demoted Juncadella to 14th in the final standing and promoted Rast, Rockenfeller and Müller, securing an all-Audi podium.

Di Resta took 4th and the series lead after Juncadella’s penalty, while a late off by Wittmann also gifted the Scot additional scores. Along with Wittmann, the Mercedes racer had also chased Augusta Farfus and Müller, before disposing of the former; however di Resta fell just three-tenths shy of the podium come race end.

Jamie Green made it four Audi’s in the top five, thanks to a stunning final restart during which he climbed from 10th to 6th, later becoming 5th with Juncadella’s penalty. Green has a fairly anonymous first half of the race, when he mostly ran 14th, but the Briton cleared Pascal Wehrlein (Mercedes) and Philipp Eng (BMW) during the stops and then 12th as the late pitters peeled off for new Hankook tyres.

Lucas Auer (Mercedes) followed Green home to take 6th, but he enjoyed a comfortable gap to Wittmann who lost five seconds to the leading pack in the final few tours. Eng (8th) crossed the line almost door-to-door with Wittmann and Mortara.

Like Juncadella, Mortara received a 30s post race penalty that dropped him to 16th, promoting Farfus to 9th and former points leader Paffett to 10th

It was a surprising score for Paffett who took damage to the front and rear following a first lap incident with Robin Frijns, Eng and Duval that caused the latter to retire with heavy damage.

Frijns also stopped but rejoined toward the rear and eventually climbed to 11th. Guest driver Sebastien Ogier scored a respectable 12th place on his DTM debut, ahead of Wehrlein, the penalised Juncadella, Joel Eriksson (who suffered an early off).

Timo Glock retired with six laps to go and the placement of his stricken BMW initiated the second safety car. After an anonymous weekend, Bruno Spengler retired seven laps from the end.

“Impressions of Youth (or “The Variables that Deposit Themselves Upon the Youth of Today in a Manner Unlikely to Win Friends, Enemies or Influencers”)”

Yesterday’s announcement that Stoffel Vandoorne is to split with McLaren at the end of this season was inevitable given the results on offer in 2018.

However that does not make it any less sad for a driver whose career seemed so promising, yet has turned sour.

The downturn for Stoffel Vandoorne’s reputation has been sharp. The Belgian has rarely looked at ease with McLaren’s uncooperative MCL33 machine, but while the news of his dismissal emerged this week, one can’t help but wonder if the decision was delivered to him much earlier, coinciding with his decline in results, particularly in qualifying.

Like all other things in sport, life and everything else, so much of success in motorsport is about confidence and belief and it was Vandoorne’s quiet confidence and belief in his abilities that made him such a potent threat on the long ladder to Formula One.

While the true value of championships that use spec cars must be always questioned, the fact is Vandoorne has pace and intelligent racecraft. Making his Formula One and McLaren debut at Bahrain in 2016, when he substituted for a sidelined Fernando Alonso, the Belgian looked comfortable in a McLaren that was enjoying a quicker and more efficient Honda power unit package. That weekend, Vandoorne scored a point (the first McLaren driver to do so in 2016), yet apart from some peaks last year, he has rarely looked quite a sharp as he did that weekend and even then, his and McLaren’s almost drunken stumble since June of this year has been rather startling.

Yet there is a part of that analysis which paints Vandoorne rather unfairly. Whereas Alonso has roundly beaten his younger teammate in the near two seasons they have had together, Vandoorne’s deficit has not been so significant as many would think. Certainly he has closer to Alonso than Kimi Raikkonen has been to Sebastian Vettel or Valtteri Bottas to Lewis Hamilton, but that quartet regularly occupy the top four, where interlopers – even Red Bull coloured ones – don’t often penetrate.
That three-tenths that covers Alonso and Vandoorne could cover the front two rows on a Grand Prix qualifying Saturday, but it can also cover a large portion of an intense midfield fight that also includes Sauber, Toro Rosso and – circuit depending – variations of Renault, Force India and Haas. It is true that the first person one must beat in motorsport is your teammate and Alonso has may sure of that, but that gap is not obvious as it might initially seem.

There is another angle though, albeit one filled with cynicism and suspicion. In the same way Kevin Magnussen – a Martin Whitmarsh protégé – was eventually ejected in late 2014 by the returning Ron Dennis, so Vandoorne – a Dennis protégé – has been let drop by Zak Brown, currently McLaren Racing’s CEO. Vandoorne’s place, meanwhile, is going to talented British racer Lando Norris – a Brown protégé no less, although there is a touch base covering in Brown’s move to promote Norris.
If what I have heard is correct, then McLaren’s 2019 option on Norris was fast running out and Toro Rosso have repeatedly signalled their interest in the young Englishman. Coming from an almost entirely spec-series background, it will be interesting to see how Norris takes to a category that is ever changing. Although Norris did compete in Formula 3 last year, by then it was almost largely spec cars in all but name.

There are those who will claim that spec series make for a level playing field for drivers, but I am yet to be convinced. Indeed if I am to be brutal about, anyone who believes that they produce a level playing field is, quite frankly, living in la-la land. As has been witnessed in recent seasons, when monied drivers enter the cauldron, buying up the best of everything, then it no longer become a level playing field – particularly when it comes to testing, data acquisition and access, part maintenance (think engines) and spares. It was always thus, but now regulations have been created a situation that drives this aspect even harder.
In fact, the situation reminded me of a piece I wrote last November.

“It is not inconceivable that one will occasionally be sought out, in order to have a very deliberate conversation [in the paddock]. Recently during a meeting with two very senior members of the European Formula 3 paddock, I was informed that during a conference, a very senior individual in the Formula One community mentioned that “Formula 3 should be about entertainment and low costs” and that “driver development is not a key priority.” Upon contacting the office of the individual, his communications officer informed me that this comment was “made during a private chat and extrapolated out of its proper context, therefore […] cannot attribute it on the record…” Not exactly the strongest of rebuttals admittedly. Alas the message from the Formula 3 personnel was delivered, digested and coded and my return query was – to a degree – responded too as well.

“As a philosophical aside, this raises the question as to whether the very concept of junior categories in their original sense is now null and void, instead limiting the likes of Formula 3 to be merely support categories for your entertainment and drivers bish, bash, bosh and DRS-pass their way up reverse grid orders. This meeting in the paddock served to remind me of a rather tongue-in-cheek comment from a former colleague a few years ago as we pulled into the car park at Rockingham to cover a British F3 round. “If these championships were serious about driver development, then these races would be taking place on a Tuesday afternoon behind closed doors and without television cameras, followed by some sort of tuition…”

“The conversation with Formula 3 members also turned to disappointing news that Formula 3 will officially become a spec category from 2019, when it more or less replaces GP3 in all but name and car. The pairing lamented how drivers are learning less and less in these junior categories, while Formula One continues to accelerate development at a rate never before witnessed. There were mentions of how the spec cars become more expensive due to the part restrictions placed in the regulations.
“It was cited, for example, the cost of a new carbon fibre front wing, should even an endplate become damaged; the purchase of which could only be made from the manufacturer, as per the regulations. In theory, a new front wing could come to over £1,000, whereas the team have in their factory the people, tools and materials to construct the spare part for approximately one-quarter of the price, albeit from aluminium.”

“Defining the Message” (Nov 17th, 2017)

Meanwhile, back on topic (ish), for 2019, the benchmark has completely changed for McLaren. With Vandoorne’s ousting and Fernando Alonso’s departure, McLaren will field a whole new driver line-up, as Carlos Sainz will take the seat vacated by Alonso. There are changes in the background too, after the departures of Tim Goss (Technical Director) and Eric Boullier (Racing Director), followed by the import of Gil de Ferran (Sporting Director), Pat Fry (Engineering Director) and – eventually – James Key (Technical Director). Considering Goss departed back in April, one wonders just how far the team are into their 2019 car.
Both Sainz and Norris will be hoping there is an upturn soon and that McLaren can provide them with the machinery to be successful. As Brown noted in a recent McLaren press release, “It’s clear we haven’t provided Stoffel with the tools to show his true talent, but throughout our relationship he’s proved to be a fantastic team player.” So many changes rarely make for an easy time and McLaren may feel it is 2020 before things start to truly come together. By then, they will be in the third year of their deal with power unit supplier Renault in what could be the final year of the current PU regulations – although that too has yet to be confirmed, as the FIA umm and ahhh as to whether new regulations should now be introduced at all.

Meanwhile Sainz – along with Magnussen, Vandoorne, Red Bull’s Pierre Gasly and Williams racer Sergei Sirotkin – is one of the last remaining graduates from the Formula Renault 3.5 Series, before its own sharp descent into hell. At the time, I was greatly interested by the fact that Red Bull allowed Sainz to develop, both as a driver and a person, something unheard of in previous years, as the Austrian team seemingly rifled through juniors too young and immature to know what day it was.
Despite years in Formula 3 and GP3 that were peppered with as many wins as there spins, I was told on a few occasions that Sainz’ retention in the Red Bull Junior Programme for 2014 also had something to do with pressure from the Spanish wing, particularly as Carlos’ father – the original Spanish legend – was still seen as a significantly influential member of the motorsport. By year end, Sainz (then Jr) had taken the title, despite a minor mid-season slump when he was derailed by the “Max Verstappen-to-F1” thunderbolt.
But Sainz’ reputation, which had been so impressively built at Toro Rosso alongside Verstappen and Daniil Kvyat, has taken a significant knock at Renault. Although performing well and scoring some occasional points, Sainz has not been able to match Nico Hülkenberg’s level of performance on a regular basis and it has stunted the Spaniard’s position amongst the movers and the shakers.

In hindsight, it should not have been too unexpected for Hülkenberg to have made this step up – he had to in order to keep his own career afloat. But there is a suspicion that “The Hulk” is doing just enough to get the job done and that if he applied himself as he had in his earlier years, then maybe Ferrari’s interest may not have wandered. Let’s not forget, this was a racer who was expected to one day deliver championships and Grand Prix victories, yet after 149 starts, he has still not scored even a podium and his highest World Championship position is 9th.
His decimation of Jolyon Palmer aside – an entirely expected result – previous experience has seen the former GP2 champion ensure that his level of performance is just good enough that he ends seasons either just ahead of or level with the driver on the other side of the garage, and his marker with Sainz is another indication of that.
With each new teammate, Hülkenberg’s level appears to adjust and thus Sainz should not feel too bad following his Renault experience, as it appears the German had to raise his game when Sainz joined the team. Partnered alongside Daniel Ricciardo next year, Hülkenberg will need to step things up significantly, for he will be finally up against a proven Grand Prix winner who happens to be at the top of his game.

If nothing else, Renault swooping in to sign Ricciardo may be a sign of real input from the French manufacturer. Having spent the past two years apparently reassessing and rebuilding the team from the ground up, things may finally be moving at Enstone and Viry-Châtillon, with both sites having received plenty of renewed investment. Should this be the case and this investment pay off, Renault might in the next few seasons join the battle at or near the front, but probably not as long as the current power unit regulations remain in place.

We’ll see, I suppose.

“Juncadella takes first DTM win at Brands Hatch”

Mercedes racer Dani Juncadella took his maiden DTM win at Brands Hatch this afternoon, but had to come from behind to do it.

Augusto Farfus secured his first podium of the season, ahead of Lucas Auer (Mercedes).

From pole, the Spaniard Juncadella initially lost the lead to teammate Auer and Audi man Rene Rast, dropping to 3rd just ahead of BMW duo Philipp Eng and Farfus.

Juncadella didn’t need to wait long to claim 2nd spot, when Rast pulled into the pits immediately at the end of lap one, as did Timo Glock, Bruno Spengler (both BMW), the Mercedes of Paul di Resta and Robin Frijns and Loïc Duval (more Audi’s).

An off for Duval exiting the pits (see below), meant a slow zone through sector one, allowing Juncadella to keep Auer in sight; however when 3rd place Farfus pitted on lap six, Juncadella pushed hard to stay ahead of his Brazilian rival, before he too stopped on the eighth tour.

Juncadella made the best of his outlaps from the pits, reducing the gap to Auer – so much so that the Spaniard was right on the tail of his Mercedes stablemate.
A dive down the inside of Auer into Paddock Hill Bend destabilised the Austrian, allowing Juncadella to slide by and solidify the effective lead. With Auer wrong-footed, Farfus too pushed by the Mercedes exiting Graham Hill Bend.

Juncadella would eventually retake the lead once Edo Mortara and Pascal Wehrlein pitted on laps twelve and sixteen respectively, with Farfus and Auer moving up to 2nd and 3rd respectively.

From there, the Mercedes racer controlled the pace and the race to secure not just first DTM victory, but also his first win of any kind on British soil.

After passing Auer exiting the pits, Farfus slotted into a relatively unchallenged 2nd place and brought his BMW machine home 7.8s adrift of the winning pilot. Once settled into a rhythm, Auer held steady in the face of pressure from Rast and began to close in on Farfus to challenge the Brazilian, but Auer’s charge halted once he was within three seconds of Farfus.

Rast also dropped some 4.8s off of the podium, but finished well ahead of Eng who pressed the 4th placed man for a short time, before also dropping away. Indeed Eng spent the final quarter of the race keeping championship leader Gary Paffett behind. While on paper only 6th position, it was a result that allowed the Briton to extend his lead over Paul di Resta – a non-scorer today.

Wehrlein suffered a slow stop thanks to a stuck right rear tyre, losing the former champion several positions. He too would close in on Paffett, but ran out of laps to press Paffett in any significant way.
Mortara took 8th place ahead of double champion Marco Wittmann, but there was real fight for the final points position. With Glock losing pace in the latter part of the race, Robin Frijns went wheel-to-wheel with the ex-Formula One driver in Paddock Hill Bend for 10th. Then as the field poured around the back end of the circuit, Jamie Green got a run on Glock down Pilgrim’s Drop, only for Mike Rockenfeller to draft both and take 11th place.

On the final lap, Rocky stole the final points spot from Frijns, with the destabilised Frijns then also falling behind Green.
Glock ended the day a disappointing 13th, ahead of Joel Eriksson (BMW), Nico Müller (Audi), di Resta (Mercedes) and Spengler (BMW).
The race lasted only a lap and two corners for Duval, whose poor season continued in embarrassing fashion when he went off at Druids on his first tour from the pits.

“DTM: Juncadella secures Brands Race 1 Pole”

Dani Juncadella secured his 2nd DTM pole position of the 2018 season with a stellar late effort to dislodge Lucas Auer to ensure an all-Mercedes front row at Brands Hatch.

Reigning champion Rene Rast took 3rd on the grid in his Audi R5 DTM, while Philip Eng placed his BMW 4th bringing all three manufacturers to the front two rows.

The session had initially been dominated by Auer and Augusto Farfus (BMW), with the pair swapping times early on, before the Austrian solidified his position at the top of the timing sheets.

It was looking secure for Auer, until Juncadella jumped to the top of the order with a best of 1:18.069 in the final minutes. Auer did improve as the seconds ticked down, but he fell just under one-tenth short of the peak.

Rast also managed a quick late effort with a 1:18.255, edging Eng by two-thousandths of-a-second.

After initially looking very quick, Farfus fell to 5th by the time the chequered flag came down, squeezing ahead of championship leader Gary Paffett (Mercedes). It was a solid recovery for Paffett, who suffered an early off and scrub against the barriers at Paddock Hill Bend.

Timo Glock qualified 7th after denying himself a final run by spinning off at Surtees. Edo Mortara (Mercedes), Marco Wittmann (BMW) and Pascal Wehrlein (Mercedes) rounded out the top ten, pipping Audi’s Robin Frijns who looked quick in the early minutes of qualifying.

Championship challenger Paul di Resta could only mange 12th in his Mercedes C63, with a time only half-a-second shy of pole. Audi trio Nico Müller, Loïc Duval and Mike Rockenfeller secured positions 13th-15th, while BMW drivers took two of the final three positions on the grid, as Joel Eriksson qualified 16th and Bruno Spengler took 18th).
Former champion Jamie Green (Audi) recorded the a best time good enough for 17th on the grid as his miserable season continues.

“The Noise”

From some absurd Friday showers, the night has folded into a warm, beautiful sunny morning.

The damp streaks, marked so starkly with dark patches – obvious offline – was soon to be swept and scrubbed dry by fierce German technology.

But it’s the sounds of the morning at Brands Hatch that truly astounds. The DTM cars are bloody loud at the Kent circuit, probably moreso than anywhere else on the calendar. Brands Hatch acts like a bowl and the engine sound – note, not noise, but tuneful sound – reverberates in glorious undiluted fashion.

There is no point using headphones to listen to the circuit radio – you will never hear it.

It is not a shriek, but rather a guttural roar that really punishes, as the eighteen DTM machines – mixtures of Audi’s, BMW’s and Mercedes’ – ease through the gears exiting the final bend at Clark Curve and extending the throttle down the Brabham straight, before hanging on for dear life through Paddock Hill Bend.

There is only a few seconds before the cars briefly fall out of sight as they ascend Hailwoods Hill and into the hairpin at Druids, returning then down toward Graham Hill Bend.

As the second practice session finished, all three manufacturers were represented in the top four and they were close – thoughts on gaps and advantages or otherwise seem to pale into nothing when times are so close.

When the DTM was last here at Brands Hatch, the short Indy circuit was used – the thought being that the fans would see the cars loop more often and therefore provide more action; however the actual racing on the Indy circuit was dreadful.
Approximately ninety laps of follow the leader on a circuit where overtaking was impossible due to cars that had huge amounts of downforce and no straights long enough to build momentum to pass.

The Grand Prix loop of Brands Hatch may not necessarily provide more overtaking, but it will be more of a challenge for drivers pushing their machines to the edge.
It is in this and through the simplest of errors that Brands Hatch will bite.

“A short story about a most ridiculous young man”

Silverstone brought back some memories of a driver self-destructive wrapped up in paranoia and conspiracy. It served as a reminder that careers can be set on fire with the fiery thoughts and the turn of a tongue.

It would be very easy to bite one’s lip hard when the lights went out, signing the start of another Formula 3 and later GP3 race. In recent years, one could probably look to the middle of the pack and find a young chap who had, again, qualified lower than his talent or car warranted.

This chap – an American lad, followed and propelled by his parental entourage – had entered Formula 3 the previous year and was largely overshadowed by the now celebrated competitors by those at the front, but come the following year had moved teams and was pushing to establish himself.
This is something that should be encouraged of course, but in this instance, the results were slow to come. So slow that they never really actually came at all.

Qualifying pace was always an issue and one that never quite the issue of the car and often left the young man lingering around the 15th-20th mark on the grid. As a racer, the young man was very aggressive and uncompromising, which in some situations worked and in others really didn’t. While he had little issue pulling off overtaking manoeuvres on some of the lesser talented drivers in the field, there lacked a real finesse as to how he did his business.

For example, when one looks at Daniel Ricciardo’s overtaking methodology, the Red Bull man pulls off some extraordinary moves that seem to come from nowhere while carrying far too much speed.
Yet Ricciardo rarely extends his machine beyond the physics of a track’s conditions at any given time and often manages to still unload the energy from the inside front tyre without significant locking or fuss. The same can also be said of the likes of Max Verstappen or Lewis Hamilton and Sebastian Vettel when push comes to shove and want becomes need.

Yet this is where the young chap falters for the first time. His overtakes in the past have often amounted to little more than dive-bombs down the inside line into a corner, that force the issue in a “let me through or be crashed” kind of way – and it works when those lower placed drivers either jump out of the way or carry so little pace into or out of corners that they become easy meat on the following straight. These were also the occasions when shoving competitors almost off the track became a norm if required; the forcefulness became expected.

However the young man often began to struggle when approaching drivers more in sync with his natural pace. In these situations, he would occasionally get stuck – no great shakes there – but in these situations, he had also been known to attempt outlandish moves on his newer/quicker opposition, only to discover that they do not fall out of the way and / or are less inclined to on-track intimidation.
Ayrton Senna may have been able to pull that off, but he had the skill and nuance to do so. And a bright yellow helmet. The young man had none of this in his favour.

Thus the damage mounted up and the excuses began – and this was where the young man’s second, and more significant, issue lay. Every week, it would be something different. Following difficult weekends, the range of excuses would become long and tiresome and the burning of bridges would begin in earnest, but the novelty would never really get old.
Anything and everything, such as;

  • “The team are favouring all of my teammates over me”;
  • “My engineer deliberately sabotaged my session, by giving me the wrong wing/damper/etc. settings”;
  • “The team gave me the wrong tyre pressures to ensure everyone else in the team was ahead”;
  • So on, so forth…

    The pinnacle came when the young man felt he was blocked in a qualifying session by a teammate, so he decided to bypass the team completely and personally report the issues to the stewards in an effort to get a penalty for his teammate. Those bridges that were lightly burning earlier were now fully ablaze.
    There were other complaints and accusations too – almost too many to mention – that revolved around people who disliked him because of his nationality and his nature, but as a colleague once said, “isn’t amazing how all of these incidents seem to revolve around a single person…”
    To this day I have no idea how much was paranoia, spite or even a mixture of both.

    Amidst all this, the young man and his single entourage lamented the fact that they had passed on a seat at Van Amersfoort, as they felt they were quicker and more talented than a young Monegasque driver who is currently doing very well in Formula One. Alas, the young man is not as talented as the Monegasque star – not even close.

    To be fair, his lack of results in the years up to now meant he was always going to fall a long way short in terms of super licence points, but circumstances means he may never have the opportunity to compare himself to Leclerc on the world stage.

    Oh well.
    His loss, not ours.

    “FIA F3: Ticktum scores super-close win in Norisring finale”

    Motopark’s Dan Ticktum scored his second FIA European Formula 3 win of the season at the Norisring this afternoon, beating teammate Jüri Vips by just 0.057s across the line.

    Marcus Armstrong came home 3rd to score another podium in his Prema Powerteam entry and take the points lead.

    In yet another chaotic race interrupted by the safety car three times and red flagged once, Ticktum moved to 2nd place at the start, having passed Vips on the opening tour.

    As the field exited the Schöller chicane, Alex Palou (Hitech) was clipped from behind and spun, collecting the unsuspecting Jonathan Aberdein and Nikita Troitskiy. The three cars locked together and the marshals were unable to clear the track, forcing race officials to eventually call a red flag.

    Following a lengthy delay, the race restarted on lap 13, but was almost immediately halted when Keyvan Andres found the barrier on the entry of the Dutzendteich hairpin.

    This safety car period proved less tricky to clear and a clean circuit was ready for a lap 18 restart, only for Mick Schumacher and Artem Petrov to clash as the green came out, with the pair clattering into the unfortunate Sacha Fenestraz, bringing out safety car number three.

    As it got going for a final time on lap 24, Vips sneaked up the inside of Armstrong through Dutzendteich to secure 2nd place, allowing Ticktum to build a small gap. Through the final five tours, Vips closed back in on Ticktum, with the Estonian setting his fastest lap of the race with four to go.
    The pair was especially close as Ticktum lost 0.1s on the penultimate lap and then another 0.3s on the final tour, but it was not quite enough. Emerging out of the final corner under greater acceleration, Vips drew alongside Ticktum approaching the finish line, but Englishman held his nerve and took the win by 0.057s.

    Having led early (mostly behind the safety car), Armstrong was passed first by Ticktum at the (very brief) restart following the 2nd safety car, before dropping behind Vips. The Kiwi held the final podium spot thereafter, keeping a volley of rivals at bay after the final restart.

    Behind Armstrong, Guanyu Zhou took Jehan Daruvala for 5th at the lap 24 restart, with Ralf Aron doing the same to Enaam Ahmed for 6th and 7th at the same point. Robert Schwartzman and Schumacher also did the same to Ahmed on laps 25 and 26 respectively, only for Ahmed to retake 8th from Schumacher on lap 27.
    Schumacher finally sealed 8th place and four points on the penultimate lap when he took the reigning British F3 champion. Ferdinand Habsburg took the final point for Carlin in the late laps following a brief battle with Petrov and Sebastián Fernández.

    It was, at best, a haphazard race weekend that showed some of the best (and worst) of Formula 3. While there plenty of moments where drivers shined and allowed their skill to come to the fore, there were far too many occasions where on track moves appeared ill-considered or just stupid.
    We should talk more of the great racing. Let’s see what Zandvoort delivers in three weeks.

    “Vips takes first FIA F3 win at chaotic Norisring”

    Jüri Vips secured his first European Formula 3 victory in a chaotic race at the Norisring this morning.

    In his Motopark machine, Vips headed championship leader Enaam Ahmed (Hitech Bullfrog GP) and Marcus Armstrong (Prema Powerteam) to complete an all-rookie podium.

    Starting 4th, the Estonian enjoyed a reasonable start, only for the race to be red flagged immediately, when Motopark’s Dan Ticktum stalled and was rammed in the back by Ameya Vaidyanathan (Carlin).

    It was a bizarre incident, with Ticktum having stalled from 5th on the right-hand side of the grid, while Vaidyanathan smashed into the rear of the Englishman, as he appeared to be looking at traffic to his left. The crash destroyed the rear of Ticktum’s car, while Vaidyanathan’s Cralin also took severe damage on the front.
    In the meantime, poleman Shwartzman had contact with Ahmed, damaging the Prema’s right-front against the wall and taking him out of the race. After a fifteen-minute stoppage, the race restarted under safety car with twenty minutes remaining.

    Ahmed led from the restart, but was pushed hard by Vips for several laps, with the pair going side-by-side on several occasions, before Vips finally edged ahead into turn one at the start of the seventh tour.
    From there, the Motopark man pulled a small gap from Ahmed, but it was enough to neutralise the threat from behind, ensuring his first victory of the season.

    Armstrong followed home in 3rd place, after a less eventful race that saw him complete 2.2s ahead of Kayvan Andres (van Amersfoort). Alex Palou (Hitech) ended the day just behind Andres, with Ferdinand Habsburg taking the flag 6th in his Carlin entry.
    Jehan Daruvala (Carlin) took points for 7th, only 0.8s ahead of Marino Sato (Motopark), while Sacha Fenestraz (Carlin) and Mick Schumacher (Prema) completed the top ten. Schumacher battled ahead of teammate Guanyu Zhou, Motopark’s Fabio Scherer and Nikita Troitskiy (Carlin) to secure a point from 20th on the grid.

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