From afar, the difference is quite telling.
Not startling by any stretch of the imagination, but definitely telling.
Held by a mass of downforce and pulled together by 210 horses, the twenty Formula 3 runners parading around the Hockenheimring pull toward the Sachskurve, hugging the index of the turn. It looks almost too easy at times.
They are still ragged on the approach – only to be expected of course. Exiting Mobil 1, the various Dallara’s slingshot across the bow of the track; riding the run-off area, before the aerodynamics kick in, pulling the cars toward the road.
The cogs of these machines are in full flow. They are graceful in their motion, yet the violence within is impressive.
As each car exits the Sachskurve, the power goes down quickly and easily and within the briefest of moments, they are already in the double-apex Südkurve and turning toward the start / finish straight.
It just seems so effortless, unless of course, you are struggling and this is where the difference lies. Those who run without confidence are exposed through the final turns.
Upon entry at Mobil 1, the machine rickets onto the rumble strip, instantly losing balance and pace, before ambling back toward the racing line. It really does not look like a pleasant experience. Through the Sachskurve, there is little in the way grip, as the drivers bleed toward the middle of the track. There is no saving the weekend from here.
Of the twenty, it is Mücke Motorsport’s Felix Rosenqvist who commands the time sheets at the end of practice, only 0.163 seconds ahead of Carlin Motorsport’s Carlos Sainz Jr, while Raffaele Marciello (Prema Powerteam) and Tom Blomqvist (ma-con) linger close in the sheets.
Realistically, it’s close through out much of the field. Only three-quarters of-a-second cover the top fifteen, with the final five falling foul of the one-second gap. This will be frantic.
2012 FIA European Formula 3 Championship (Rd 10, Free Practice) Pos Driver Team Time / Gap 1. Felix Rosenqvist Mücke Motorsport-Mercedes 1:34.735 2. Carlos Sainz Jr Carlin-Volkswagen +0.163 3. Raffaele Marciello Prema Powerteam-Mercedes +0.225 4. Tom Blomqvist ma-con-Volkswagen +0.277 5. Alex Lynn Fortec-Mercedes +0.313 6. Daniel Juncadella Prema Powerteam-Mercedes +0.382 7. William Buller Carlin-Volkswagen +0.500 8. Emil Bernstorff ma-con-Volkswagen +0.535 9. Lucas Auer van Amersfoort-Volkswagen +0.626 10. Sven Muller Prema Powerteam-Mercedes +0.634 11. Felix Serralles Fortec-Mercedes +0.659 12. Pipo Derani Fortec-Mercedes +0.680 13. Pascal Wehrlein Mücke Motorsport-Mercedes +0.684 14. Felipe Nasr Carlin-Volkswagen +0.743 15. Michael Lewis Prema Powerteam-Mercedes +0.762 16. Lucas Wolf URD Rennsport-Mercedes +1.083 17. Dennis van der Laar van Amersfoort-Volkswagen +1.086 18. Andrea Roda Jo Zeller-Mercedes +1.368 19. Sandro Zeller Jo Zeller-Mercedes +1.396 20. Luis Sá Silva Angola Racing-Mercedes +1.893