British F3: Serralles takes charge at Spa-Francorchamps
If, before the start of the season, someone had told me that Felix Serralles would be leading the Cooper Tyres British Formula 3 Series with three rounds remaining, I would have thought “unlikely”.
Maybe a polite smile would have breeched – aided no doubt by a gentle nod – after which, attention might have passed on.
Indeed, my pre-season pick centred upon the probability of a fight between Carlos Sainz Jr and Jack Harvey – both Carlin boys, y’see.
Yet after seven rounds of the prescribed ten, Felix Juan Serralles IV – at the wheel of a Mercedes-powered Fortec Dallara – heads the standings, four points clear of the polite (and determined) Harvey, with fellow Carlin man Jazeman Jaafar an additional four points adrift.
To date, this represents a minor achievement for both Serralles and Fortec. The former – maturing and happy; very “smiley, smiley” – has taken more race wins this year than he has in all his previous seasons put together.
The aggression necessary to compete at this level is clearly in check – indeed, the necessary adrenaline levels are harnessed, but are rarely breached. One could say Serralles mature for his age – he is 20-years-old and acts like it. Not only is the Puerto Rican achieving the success his performances deserve, he seems to possess the mental agility to process what’s going on around him.
Fortec, meanwhile, are still to win the British Formula 3 Series. Successes in Formula BMW and Formula Renault UK came frequently, but the Daventry squad have repeatedly lost out to Carlin in recent years.
Prior to that, they also played second fiddle to the likes of Hitech, Raikkonen-Robertson, Piquet Sports and most notably Manor Motorsport and Paul Stewart Racing. This is a team hungry for success and the move to the new car has helped greatly.
Oh – and at Spa, the weather can help. Or be hindrance. A dreadful, dreadful hindrance.
Serralles took his third F3 victory of the season at Spa-Francorchamps. Starting from pole position, the Puerto Rican fell behind the quick-starting Sainz Jr in the opening lap shuffle, but recovered to chase down the Spaniard on the following tour.
Seeing an opportunity, the Fortec racer drew to the rear of Sainz Jr, eventually taking the Carlin man at the entry to Les Combes on the third lap. Serralles drew up to 7 seconds ahead of the next man over the remaining laps, only to drop the gap to 5.657 seconds nearer the flag.
Sainz Jr would not be able to hold the chase to Serralles for long. On his tail lurked Formula 3 Euro Series challenger Daniel Juncadella. The Prema Powerteam racer had complained of a “difficult” car in the build-up to the race; however Juncadella held just enough of an advantage over Sainz Jr to scramble up to 2nd on lap five.
Once in clear air, Juncadella found himself in something of a limbo, unable to catch the leader, but also distancing himself from Sainz Jr. It proved to be an important move for Juncadella as he faces down Sainz in the FIA European F3 Championship – to which this round also counts.
Behind the podium trio, there was an ongoing battle for 4th spot eventually won by Harvey. A late move by the Englishman took him ahead of Carlin teammate Jaafar on the final tour, after the Malaysian had baulked him the circulation before. Meanwhile Harvey and Jaafar held Alex Lynn and Michael Lewis off to the flag, with Lynn nabbing 6th on the final tour.
Pipo Derani climbed up the order during the race to close out the top eight. From the sixth row, the Brazilian fought passed Sven Muller, Pascal Wehrlein and Tom Blomqvist, while an off-the-road Hannes van Asseldonk gave the Brazilian another spot. Felix Rosenqvist followed Derani home in 9th, while Blomqvist assumed 10th overall.
Duvashen Padayachee claimed the National Class victory, leading all the way from Adderly Fong, Spike Goddard and Pedro Pablo Calbimonte.
On the podium, Serralles picked “position 10” out of a bag, ensuring a 10th place start and a pole position for Blomqvist; however this would not come to pass…
Pos Driver Team/Car Time/Gap
1. Felix Serralles Fortec Dallara-Merc 29m45.219s
2. Daniel Juncadella Prema Dallara-Merc + 5.657s
3. Carlos Sainz Jr Carlin Dallara-VW + 10.462s
4. Jack Harvey Carlin Dallara-VW + 12.678s
5. Jazeman Jaafar Carlin Dallara-VW + 14.364s
6. Alex Lynn Fortec Dallara-Merc + 14.515s
7. Michael Lewis Prema Dallara-Merc + 16.009s
8. Pipo Derani Fortec Dallara-Merc + 16.776s
9. Felix Rosenqvist Mucke Dallara-Merc + 18.081s
10. Tom Blomqvist Ma-Con Dallara-VW + 20.037s
25. Duvashen Padayachee Double R Dallara-Mugen + 54.785s
27. Adderly Fong CF Dallara-Mugen + 1m01.814s
28. Spike Goddard T-Sport Dallara-Mugen + 1m01.912s
29. Pedro Calbimonte T-Sport Dallara-Mugen + 1m03.490s
And then the clouds drew in. The 30° Celsius warmth and the bright sunshine that partnered it disappeared, as dark skies brewed while winds whipped a heavy storm, just as the clouds opened up.
Lightning flashed, leading to croaks of thunder. The paddock, the grid and parts of the circuit were all now one giant sinking ship.
Sometimes the weather at Spa can be rather like petulant child, throwing tantrums and sulking, all the while proclaiming life’s lack of fairness. This race wasn’t going anywhere. Sorry Tom…
There were no such issues come Saturday morning, although a fresh rain shower did make two brief appearances. Not that it presented a problem for Sainz Jr, who stormed to his third British F3 victory of the season amidst the damp and treacherous conditions.
The Spaniard surged ahead of poleman Serralles on the third lap, after initially holding Juncadella at bay 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, thinking the conditions were now too dangerous. Muller might agree – he broke his arm in the crash.
Following what has been at times a trying season for the Carlin racer, this win comes as a welcome to the 17-year-old.
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, sending the Puerto Rican clean off the circuit. Serralles quickly rejoined, albeit in 3rd behind the steady Blomqvist.
Serralles wasn’t the only driver to spin – Juncadella also dropped a wheel on the kerbs at Pouhon – and his penalty proved more severe as he spun down to 10th.
Blomqvist meanwhile started an encouraging 5th, sweeping by the sluggish Lynn off the line. From there, he 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. For Serralles, 3rd wasn’t the desired result, but it was enough to give him the lead of the British F3 Series.
Jaafar took 4th for Carlin, but he had to fight off an aggressive 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.
For much of the duration, Lewis ducked and dived in Harvey’s mirrors, eventually nabbing 5th with a clever dummy-dive down the inside of La Source on the thirteenth lap.
For his troubles Harvey took 6th, with 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.
Adderly Fong took the National Class, coming home ten seconds clear of Pedro Pablo Calbimonte, with class regulars Spike Goddard and Duvashen Padayachee taking 3rd and 4th respectively.
Pos Driver Car Time
1. Carlos Sainz Jr. Dallara/Volkswagen 41m42.632s
2. Tom Blomqvist Dallara/Volkswagen + 5.604
3. Félix Serrallés Dallara/Mercedes + 8.667
4. Jazeman Jaafar Dallara/Volkswagen + 14.203
5. Michael Lewis Dallara/Mercedes + 15.859
6. Jack Harvey Dallara/Volkswagen + 20.823
7. Luis Derani Dallara/Mercedes + 24.563
8. D.Juncadella Dallara/Mercedes + 25.524
9. Harry Tincknell Dallara/Volkswagen + 27.172
10. Emil Bernstorff Dallara/Volkswagen + 27.187
17. Adderly Fong Dallara/Mugen-Honda + 45.066
22. P.P.Calbimonte Dallara/Mugen-Honda + 55.591
23. Richard Goddard Dallara/Mugen-Honda + 56.929
24. D.Padayachee Dallara/Mugen-Honda + 1m04.247
2012 British F3 Series points standings (Rd 7)
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 b 110
9. Hannes van Asseldonk 83
10. Nick b 61
Pos Driver Points
1. Spike Goddard 294
2. Duvashen Padayachee 263
3. Adderly Fong 98
4. Pedro Pablo Calbimonte 25
Catch British F3 highlights on Motors TV throughout 2012
Leigh O'Gorman - The Motorsport Archive
Published 31/07/2012 15:27
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The concluding part of Leigh O'Gorman's British F3 Season Review looks at the National Class hopefuls.
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In part one of his 2012 British F3 Season Review, Leigh O'Gorman looks at the series' front-runners.
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.