Serralles emerges from the melee to challenge for British F3 crown
British Formula 3 surprise rookie Felix Serralles hit a pot of gold at the Norisring, just as title contenders Jack Harvey, Jazeman Jaafar and Carlos Sainz Jr slipped up.
The Puerto Rican has hit upon a patch of consistent upper table form, punctuated by three wins in his Mercedes-powered Fortec, while Harvey, Sainz Jr. and Jaafar fell foul of poor luck and incidents.
Indeed, a poor month for Sainz Jr has even seen the Spaniard drop to a disappointing 5th, with ex-Formula Renault UK champion Alex Lynn leaping the Carlin man in the points standings.
It all makes this month's visit to Spa-Francorchamps all the more appealing, as the fight for the British F3 crown begins to draw to a close.
Amongst Nuremberg's intimidating landmarks, the weekend began in searing conditions that led to postponement of qualifying due to track break-up and ended prematurely due to Sunday's astonishing monsoon conditions; all of this conspired to deliver the most dramatic F3 race weekend of the season so far.
Meanwhile, in the National Class, Spike Goddard extended his lead when he beat Duvashen Padayachee in all three races.
Combined with the Formula 3 Euro Series, the Norisring also played host to the fifth round of the FIA European F3 Championship.
Race One (June 30th)
No one won the opening F3 race at the weekend - at least on paper - following the disqualification of original victor Daniel Juncadella. In circumstances rarely witnessed in modern motorsport, Carlin’s Will Buller - who finished 2nd on the road - kept his 2nd position and the points it pays; however the record books may forever show a blank space next to the “winning driver” slot.
Juncadella led from the start, but began to suffer heavy tyre wear early on, allowing Mücke Motorsport's Pascal Wehrlein to remain on his tail, before eventually grabbing the lead on lap 34.
A desperate dive to retake the lead five tours later was miscalculated - and the resultant thud spun Wehrlein to 7th spot.
The Spaniard would suffer another collision later that lap, this time with teammate Raffaele Marciello while the Italian began to pull alongside on the approach to the final corner. Glancing wheels spun Marciello into the unforgiving wall, breaking his front wing.
Juncadella continued in the lead; however the wounded Marciello made it only as far as the turn 2/3 chicane before sliding into the wall at the exit. With the minutes ticking away, the red flag emerged to end the race.
Still leading, Juncadella temporarily inherited the win, but was excluded ninety minutes later. All the action ahead promoted the quiet Buller to 2nd – a position he maintained despite Juncadella’s exclusion, while Emil Bernstorff took a hard-earned first podium of the season in 3rd.
Pietro Fantin finished the first of the British F3 runners in 4th place. It proved to be a confidence boosting result for Fantin, despite being unable to crack Bernstorff for a podium. Fortec’s Felix Serralles took 5th overall ahead Felix Rosenqvist (6th) and the hobbling Wehrlein.
Harry Tincknell ended the day 8th ahead of Sven Muller, Tom Blomqvist and Sandro Zeller.
Harvey took a lucky 14th in a race that included a collision, a drive through penalty and a damaged front wing – all of which came from nerfing teammate Jazeman Jaafar in the process, forcing Alex Lynn (Fortec) and Lucas Wolf (URD) into a crash of their own.
The opening lap also saw Carlos Sainz Jr hit the wall at exit of turn three, ending his race there and then, bringing out a four-lap long safety car period.
Two laps after the restart, Michael Lewis (Prema) slid into the side of Pipo Derani in turn one, causing both to drop out with damage, while also damaging Hannes van Asseldonk (Fortec) and Muller.
Race Two (June 30th)
In the Sprint Race, Tincknell delivered a cool and collected drive to take victory, holding Serralles at bay for the duration. Tincknell drew cleanly away from the pack upon the start, with Serralles filtering through from 4th to slot in behind the leader.
From there, the gap ping-ponged from three-tenths to eight-tenths, yet Serralles was unable to close those vital last few car lengths.
Wehrlein came home 3rd, despite contact with the clash-prone Muller. Dropping to 5th after starting on the front row, Wehrlein slotted past Buller (lap 9) and Rosenqvist (lap 20) to draw a spot back on the podium.
Rosenqvist stayed 4th, while Buller maintained 5th to the flag ahead of Tom Blomqvist in 6th.
Harvey crossed the line in 7th following a stellar start from 14th. The Carlin man pipped Fantin to the line – helped by the Brazilian's poor start. A move on the sluggish Sandro Zeller gave the Brazilian the final points spot, although Fantin was clearly looking for much more.
Alex Lynn took 9th after a sterling race long battle with Jaafar, van Asseldonk and later Daniel Juncadella. The quartet became grouped together as they fought to pass the sinking Zeller; however it was Lynn who made the most of the challenge, taking Jaafar on lap twelve when the Malaysian clipped the turn three wall. Van Asseldonk followed through, although Jaafar’s attempts to repass were tersely brushed away.
As per usual, the opening corner saw action as Harvey clipped the rear of Jaafar and Sainz Jr touched Andrea Roda. However, it was Emil Bernstorff slamming the turn three wall that neutralised events, with the first lap shenanigans bringing the safety car briefly on track.
Race Three (July 1st)
Marciello won the final race of the weekend in torrential rain ahead of Juncadella and Serralles. The Italian bravely tiptoed his way around the streets, in an event that could realistically have been called off such was the laden precipitation.
After 21 laps (two-thirds of which were run behind the safety car) the red flag was finally shown as conditions passed beyond the point of sensibility.
The race had started under neutralised conditions due to numerous rivers on track and did not receive a green flag until the seventh tour.
Sensing an early opportunity, Marciello slipped down the inside of poleman Wehrlein at turn one, only for the German to then be taken out by the unsighted Buller – an action that garnered the Carlin driver a drive through penalty (a harsh decision)
In a hazy field of vision, Jaafar clattered Buller’s strewn front wing, damaging his suspension in the process, while Harvey clipped the rear of an overly cautious Muller - both Harvey and Jaafar were now out.
The line-up would be locked come the start of lap 15, when the safety car emerged for the second time, ensuring Marciello of the win.
Philip Ellis’ stranded GU Racing machine stopped play – the Englishman had a near miss with Sainz Jr through the first hairpin, only to slide straight into the wall at turn three.
Despite finishing 2nd, Juncadella appeared pleased with the result, the Spaniard feeling the torrid weather impeded racing far too much.
Serralles brought his Fortec racing machine home a safe 3rd, after skipping through the restart carnage. A safe start took the Puerto Rican ahead of Fantin and Bernstorff as the pack filtered amongst the hanging rain.
Meanwhile, Bernstorff eased himself into solid 4th, while Fantin’s fortunes took a slight knock when a clash with Derani opening the door for van Asseldonk to grab 5th. Fortec proved their worth for van Asseldonk after his engine failed when fired-up in the morning. The team mechanics worked frantically to change the unit in 37 minutes, ensuring the Dutchman made the start.
Fantin settled into 6th place as the race drew to a close. Tom Blomqvist pipped Michael Lewis to 7th before the final safety car emerged, while both Alex Lynn and Harry Tincknell climbed up the order with little fuss to take 9th and 10th respectively.
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Leigh O'Gorman - The Motorsport Archive
2012 FIA European F3 Championship (Rd 5, Race 1)
Pos Driver Points
1. Raffaele Marciello 149.5
2. Daniel Juncadella 124
3. Carlos Sainz Jr 96
4. Will Buller 78
5. Felix Rosenqvist 66
2012 British F3 Series (Rd 6, Race 1)
Pos Driver Points
1. Jack Harvey 182
2. Jazeman Jaafar 186
3. Felix Serralles 176
5. Alex Lynn 144
4. Carlos Sainz Jr 140
6. Pietro Fantin 137
7. Harry Tincknell 133
8. Pipo Derani 96
9. Hannes van Asseldonk 81
10. Nick McBride 57
Pos Driver Points
1. Spike Goddard 270
2. Duvashen Padayachee 232
3. Adderly Fong 62
Published 03/07/2012 14:52
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As the noise settled down, colleagues, well-wishers and friends moved from the podium, while Leicestershire skies began to rain down.
It’s a rather unusual sound to bear in the immediate aftermath of a race and not the most welcome. Not welcome at all in fact.