Carlos Sainz Jr stormed to his third British F3 victory of the season at a damp and treacherous Spa-Francorchamps today.
The Spaniard surged ahead of poleman Felix Serralles on the third lap, after initially holding off Daniel Juncadella off the start.
With Juncadella safety in his – misted and rain soaked – mirrors, Sainz Jr hunted Serralles for the lead, eventually pulling passed his Puerto Rican rival on the Kemmel Straight on the third lap.
From there, Sainz Jr was untouchable and only came back into sight thanks to a brief mid-race safety car period, following a big off for Sven Muller at Radillon; however he was not best pleased when the race restarted:
“I was a bit angry – I thought the safety car would stay out because of the conditions, but I also knew in these conditions, with this amount of water… they were not the conditions to try and pass me.”
Following what has been at times a trying season for the Carlin racer, this win comes as a welcome to the 17-year-old.
“There were difficult conditions. Sector 1 and sector 3 were really wet, so we decided to go really low on tyre pressures – which helped a lot for sure. Then I managed to pass Serralles and he started following me and following some of my lines and he started getting closer, but if I didn’t make mistakes.”
On this occasion, Serralles could not hold onto 2nd spot. With conditions worsening as the race aged, the Fortec man dropped wheel on the slick kerbs bordering Pouhon, sensing the Puerto Rican clean off the circuit. Serralles quickly rejoined, albeit in 3rd behind the steady Tom Blomqvist.
“When the safety car came out, I wasn’t actually sure what position I was in – I thought I was further back, but found out only Tom passed me. At that point, there was too much water – it was raining harder, so it was really impossible to see.”
Serralles wasn’t the only driver to spin – Juncadella also dropped a wheel on the kerbs at Pouhon – his penalty proved more severe, as he spun down to 10th.
Blomqvist meanwhile started an encouraging 5th, sweeping by the sluggish Alex Lynn off the line. From there, the son of the proper Stig lurked behind the leading trio, allowing the advantage to fall his way when they left the track.
With both Juncadella and Serralles losing spots, Blomqvist rose to 2nd spot; however the ma-con Motorsport driver had nothing for the determined Sainz Jr.
“I got a very good start. There was a lot of understeer very early on; we were running quite low downforce. It was drying a bit, so I was able to work the tyres better and catch slowly, but then Daniel spun and Felix spun and the rain started again. I kind of maintained the gap a little bit, but Carlos was a little bit quicker.”
For Serralles, 3rd wasn’t the desired result, but it was enough to give him the lead of the British F3 Series.
“Well, it was wet! I was a little disappointed with the result, but I am leading the championship now, so it’s quite good. There was nothing that could have been done [about the spin], so it was just driving behind, protecting the points and being cautious. I thought, ‘I’m leading the British championship, so I’ll just maintain it and come home.’”
Jazeman Jaafar took 4th for Carlin, but he had to fight off an aggressive Michael Lewis to keep it. The Malaysian spent much of the event keeping his car in good, clean position, while Lewis was on a mission. Lining up on the sixth row, the American jumped to 7th by the second lap, becoming 6th when Juncadella spun on lap four.
“I started 11th – usually from that position in the dry, you could be happy with a top ten, but it was raining so I could take advantage. At the start, I didn’t get any wheel spin, so I made up about two or three places and then I was just passing cars.”
For much of the duration, Lewis ducked and dived in Jack Harvey’s mirrors, eventually nabbing 5th with a clever dummy-dive down the inside of La Source on the thirteenth lap.
“Then I spent half the race behind Harvey, but I could do too much on the straights, because the water was getting into my airbox, so if you took a slip stream or peeled off, you couldn’t do it, so I had to make a pass. I had to fake it, because he knew I was close. The move had to be last moment just to go inside and it worked out, I had really good traction.”
For his troubles, Harvey took 6th, with Fortec’s Pipo Derani four seconds adrift in 7th. Juncadella climbed back up to 8th, but the Spaniard could do nothing about the defensive Derani, who pipped the Euro Series star by one second at the line. The battle for 9th and 10th was even closer, Harry Tincknell beating Emil Bernstorff to the chequered flag by a mere 0.015 seconds.
It was another difficult day for FIA European F3 Championship challenger Raffaele Marciello, who was clattered by Felix Rosenqvist on lap eight, causing the latter to retire. Marciello fell to 14th for his troubles.
Hannes van Asseldonk had another difficult day at Spa, after starting 9th. The Dutch pilot endured an early spin dropping him to 28th; however he rose to 18th by the time the race ended.
Adderly Fong took the National Class once again, coming home ten seconds clear of Pedro Pablo Calbimonte, with class regulars Spike Goddard and Duvashen Padayachee taking 3rd and 4th respectively.
2012 British F3 Series points standings (Rd 7) International Class Pos Driver Points 1. Felix Serralles 212 2. Jack Harvey 208 3. Jazeman Jaafar 204 4. Carlos Sainz Jr 176 5. Alex Lynn 156 6. Harry Tincknell 143 7. Pietro Fantin 140 8. Pipo Derani 110 9. Hannes van Asseldonk 83 10. Nick McBride 61 National Class Pos Driver Points 1. Spike Goddard 294 2. Duvashen Padayachee 263 3. Adderly Fong 98 4. Pedro Pablo Calbimonte 25