Prema Powerteam’s Roberto Mehri powered to another British Formula 3 victory yesterday.
The Spaniard led all seventeen laps at Spa-Francorchamps in what mounted to a controlled demonstration run at the front of the field.
At times Mehri was lapping over one second quicker than the rest of the field, such was his dominance in greasy conditions.
Mehri was one of several F3 Euroseries drivers to join the British F3 field this weekend as part of the FIA F3 International Trophy.
One of those that also participated was with the Spaniard was Marcus Wittmann. The German took the runner up spot in the final F3 race of the weekend following a relatively quiet event.
Wittmann spent much of the race with a comfortable advantage over Marko Asmer and later Laurens Vanthoor; however a late race charge by Fortec’s Will Buller cam close to changing the face of the podium.
Come the flag, Wittmann had fallen 23.3 seconds behind Mehri, yet Buller – who had fought his way up from 6th on the first lap to 3rd on the tenth tour, clawed to within three seconds of his Euroseries rival.
Despite a rocky start, it had been quality drive by Buller. Moves passed Carlos Munoz (lap 2), Asmer (lap 6) and Vanthoor (lap 10) brought the Northern Ireland man up to final podium spot, but was out of reach of Wittmann by race finish.
Vanthoor may take a positive note from his eventual 4th place classification. The Belgian started 9th and was 5th by the end of the first tour. Passes on both Buller and Asmer took Vanthoor to as high as 3rd early on, before the resurgent Buller retook the position.
Despite starting 3rd, Asmer fell to 6th by the flag with even Raffaelle Marciello getting by the former British F3 Champion.
Felipe Nasr was the next British F3 runner to take the flag. After a blistering start from 20th, the Championship leader spent much of the race battling hard with and passing Carlin teammates Kevin Magnussen (lap 4), Carlos Huertas (lap 10) and Jack Harvey (lap 16).
Fortec’s Lucas Foresti also lost out in the melee as the group chasing 7th clung together for much of the running.
Magnussen eventually claimed 8th, with Huertas following in 9th position. Harvey rounded out the top ten – the rookie pilot headed the middle group for several laps, but lost a number of positions in the final pair of laps.
Foresti also dropped a number of places in the final laps, ending up 11th and pipping Jazeman Jaafar (Carlin) across the line by four-tenths.
A quite brilliant opening three laps helped Daniel Abt to 13th after starting 25th. The German led Rupert Svendsen-Cook (14th, Carlin), Scott Pye (15th, Double R) and Pietro Fantin (16th, Hitech) across the line.
Kotaro Sakurai finished the race to take another Rookie Class win. The Japanese driver fared far better than Daniel Juncadella (Prema Powerteam), Pipo Derani (Double R) and Hannes van Asseldonk (van Amersfoort) – all whom fell off the track and retired at various stages of the race.
Hitech’s Pietro Fantin was later thrown out of the race for hitting Carlos Munoz (Signature) , taking the Spaniard out of the race, while Hywel Lloyd (Sino Vision) slammed T-Sport’s Yann Cunha for spearing him through Fanges on the opening lap.
With only three race weekends remaining, it is now only a matter of time before Felipe Nasr secures the 2011 British F3 title; however focus now shifts to the runner-up spot – a prize that will hotly contested by six drivers.
It may only take a single weekend to change everything.
2011 British F3 Rnd of Spa-Francorchamps (Rd 7, Race 3) Pos Driver Team Car Time/Gap 1. Roberto Merhi Prema Dallara-Merc 38m06.645s 2. Marco Wittmann Signature Dallara-VW + 23.298s 3. Will Buller Fortec Dallara-Merc + 25.355s 4. Laurens Vanthoor Signature Dallara-VW + 27.203s 5. Raffaelle Marciello Prema Dallara-Merc + 28.451s 6. Marko Asmer Double R Dallara-Merc + 32.708s 7. Felipe Nasr Carlin Dallara-VW + 34.110s 8. Kevin Magnussen Carlin Dallara-VW + 35.399s 9. Carlos Huertas Carlin Dallara-VW + 36.663s 10. Jack Harvey Carlin Dallara-VW + 38.405s 11. Lucas Foresti Fortec Dallara-Merc + 38.881s 12. Jazeman Jaafar Carlin Dallara-VW + 39.279s 13. Daniel Abt Signature Dallara-VW + 47.520s 14. Rupert Svendsen-Cook Carlin Dallara-VW + 50.638s 15. Scott Pye Double R Dallara-Merc + 53.164s 16. Harry Tincknell Fortec Dallara-Merc + 1m02.012s 17. Bart Hylkema T-Sport Dallara-VW + 1m11.807s 17. Fahmi Ilyas Fortec Dallara-Merc + 1m12.811s 19. Menasheh Idafar T-Sport Dallara-VW + 1m23.129s 20. Yann Cunha T-Sport Dallara-VW + 1m26.350s 21. Kotaro Sakurai Hitech Dallara-Mugen + 1m42.373s 22. Adderly Fong Sino Vision Dallara-Merc + 1 lap Retirements: DQ. Pietro Fantin Hitech Dallara-VW + 57.237s Carlos Munoz Signature Dallara-VW 10 laps Daniel Juncadella Prema Dallara-Merc 6 laps Pipo Derani Double R Dallara-Merc 5 laps Hannes van Asseldonk Van Amersfoort Dallara-VW 1 lap Hywel Lloyd Sino Vision Dallara-Merc 0 laps 2011 British F3 Rnd of Spa-Francorchamps (Rd7, Race 3) Pos Driver Points Championship Class 1. Felipe Nasr 267 2. William Buller 153 3. Carlos Huertas 153 4. Kevin Magnussen 144 5. Lucas Foresti 140 6. Jazeman Jaafar 134 7. Rupert Svendsen-Cook 128 8. Jack Harvey 74 9. Harry Tincknell 66 10. Pietro Fantin 64 11. Riki Christodoulou 51 12. Antonio Felix da Costa 51 Rookie Class 1. Kotaro Sakurai 267 2. Bart Hylkema 214 FIA International Trophy 1. Roberto Mehri 118 2. Marco Wittmann 43 3. Daniel Juncadella 39