The Cooper Tires British Formula 3 International Series is shaping up to be the most competitive seen in recent years with the championship lead now having changed hands at every race of the season. Spain’s Carlos Sainz is now on top of the points tables having this afternoon sailed to his second win of a wet weekend at Monza.
The Carlin man is hotly pursued by Puerto Rico’s Felix Serralles, the rapid rookie adding a Monza race win and a second-place finish to the victory he scored for Fortec Motorsport at Oulton Park last weekend.
In the National class, Australians Duvashen Padayachee and Spike Goddard shared the class honours in today’s races on the Italian Grand Prix circuit.
A week after scoring his maiden British Formula 3 race victory, Serralles racked up his second this morning at a streaming wet Monza, leading from pole to chequered flag. Birthday boy Jack Harvey finished second to briefly regain the lead of the championship.
The weather was so bad that the first two laps of the 20-minute ‘reverse grid’ sprint race were conducted behind the safety car. When the race splashed into life, more than a few runners found the conditions distinctly treacherous: Hannes van Asseldonk did not even make the start, having spun into the barriers on the out lap, while Spike Goddard left the track on the sixth lap.
There were no errors from Serralles, however: the Puerto Rican quickly established a useful lead over T-Sport’s Nick McBride, who had started third on the grid. Carlin man Harvey demoted McBride to third next time around with an impeccably handled manoeuvre at the Variante Ascari, but by this stage Serralles was 4.8s ahead. Harvey took chunks out of the leader’s advantage to close to 3.7s by the line.
“I was unlucky yesterday,” said Felix. “I had the pole but the pit stop put me pretty much last and I just couldn’t do anything much with it. But I was lucky I finished 10th and started today from the pole, which was good because of the conditions. It was a good race, I was just being very cautious and trying not to make any mistakes. Harvey was pushing to catch me but I was able to stay ahead.”
Added Harvey: “These were difficult conditions but we rose to them. The pace was good and everything went well. It’s a good birthday present as well. The expectation for the next race is to try to win.”
McBride’s hopes of a maiden podium finish were dashed by a determined Pietro Fantin, the Brazilian harrying the Australian for two laps before passing two laps from home, again at Ascari. Nick held on to fourth to score his best-yet finish, ahead of Jazeman Jaafar.
There was a fierce battle between Fortec team-mates Alex Lynn and Pipo Derani; they touched wheels into the first chicane on the final lap as Derani pulled ahead, and Lynn then missed part of the chicane. Alex finished ahead of Pipo on the road but was penalised a second by race stewards for gaining an unfair advantage.
Unfortunately the team-mates clashed again on the slowing-down lap, Derani having failed to see the chequered flag because of the rain. His car was badly damaged in the collision, and Lynn brought his home with a missing rear wing.
Derani was thus classified sixth, ahead of Lynn, Saturday race winner Carlos Sainz, Harry Tincknell and Fahmi Ilyas, who had started second but spun down the order on the first racing lap. Geoff Uhrhane completed the International class field for Double R, ahead of his team-mate Duvashen Padayachee, who collected the National class win following Goddard’s demise.
“I couldn’t see a thing, there was so much spray, said Padayachee. “I had no idea I was leading class until the last lap. It makes up a little for yesterday, when I crashed out of the race.”
Carlos Sainz repeated his Saturday rain dance at Monza this afternoon, leading the third and final race of the Cooper Tires British Formula 3 International Series’ Italian weekend from start to finish. The Carlin-run Red Bull Junior, 17, crossed the line nearly 17 seconds ahead of his closest rival to move back into the championship lead.
Felix Serralles was second for Fortec; the Puerto Rican’s points haul from this race and his round five victory promote him to championship second.
As with today’s earlier race, conditions were deemed bad enough to warrant starting the race behind the safety car. Pole position man Sainz led the field away as the safety car peeled into the pits at the end of lap one, and by the end of the first proper racing lap was 2.3s clear of Serralles. By mid-distance his advantage was 8.9s and he continued to increase the gap every lap thereafter.
“It may have looked straightforward,” said Carlos, “but as always it’s never easy, especially in these conditions. The team gave me a great car to be able to pull away, and I used it; no mistakes. It was the perfect race for me, the dream race. A top job from the team and a good race from me, so I am very happy.”
Serralles was suffering from a gearbox issue which hampered his pace, in the event second place was more than he expected and he was delighted: “It’s been a really good weekend – a win and a second place is a really good result. Fortec have done a fantastic job and I’m pretty impressed with myself as well, being a rookie. I had a gearshift problem so I had to lift every lap to be able to shift into the next gear, so I am more than happy with the way I drove.” For his efforts at Monza, Serralles was voted the Mobil Service Centre Master of the Weekend.
Felix’s Fortec team-mate Alex Lynn (Essex) had a rather lonely run to third – it was the reigning Formula Renault UK Champion’s maiden British Formula 3 podium finish.
Malaysia’s Jaafar ran fourth from grid to chequered flag to collect a hat-trick of top-five finishes from the Monza weekend; he was a second ahead of Hannes van Asseldonk, who shadowed him throughout.
There was a superb four-way duel for sixth which was settled in favour of Devonian Harry Tincknell when he pulled off impudent passing manoeuvres at the second chicane on the penultimate and final laps, first demoting his Carlin team-mate Jack Harvey and then Pipo Derani, who had held sixth from the outset in a car which Fortec had toiled to get on to the grid after his morning crash.
Nick McBride was ninth, behind Harvey, with Fahmi Ilyas 10th after a drive-through penalty, imposed after he collided with his Double R team-mate Geoff Uhrhane on the seventh lap. The Australian’s race ended there, and he was joined in retirement by Pietro Fantin, who had been a key contender in the battle for sixth, the Brazilian sidelined by mechanical woes.
T-Sport’s Spike Goddard bounced back form his morning crash to head home his National class rival Duvashen Padayachee and collect his fifth class win of the season so far, extending his points lead.
Cooper Tires British Formula 3 International Series
Round 5, Monza (ITA) 15/4/2012
9 laps / 32.396 miles
Provisional results International class
1 Felix SERRALLES / PUR, Fortec Dallara-Mercedes 21m 09.965s / 91.84mph
2 Jack HARVEY / GBR, Carlin Dallara-Volkswagen +3.702s
3 Pietro FANTIN / BRA, Carlin Dallara-Volkswagen +10.915s
4 Nick McBRIDE / AUS, T-Sport Dallara-Nissan +15.235s
5 Jazeman JAAFAR / MAS, Carlin Dallara-Volkswagen +18.254s
6 Pipo DERANI / BRA, Fortec Dallara-Mercedes +19.823s
7 Alex LYNN / GBR, Fortec Dallara-Mercedes +19.959s (inc penalty)
8 Carlos SAINZ / ESP, Carlin Dallara-Volkswagen +21.313s
9 Harry TINCKNELL / GBR, Carlin Dallara-Volkswagen +22.692s
10 Fahmi ILYAS / MAS, Double R Dallara-Mercedes +26.107s
11 Geoff UHRHANE / AUS, Double R Dallara-Mercedes +47.433s
NS Hannes VAN ASSELDONK / NED, Fortec Dallara-Mercedes
Fastest lap Serralles 2m 08.651s / 100.72mph
1 Duvashen PADAYACHEE / AUS, Double R Dallara-Mugen Honda +56.468s
R Spike GODDARD / AUS, T-Sport Dallara-Mugen Honda 5 laps
Round 6, 19 laps / 68.392 miles
Provisional results International class
1 Carlos SAINZ / ESP, Carlin Dallara-Volkswagen 41m 22.078s / 99.17mph
2 Felix SERRALLES / PUR, Fortec Dallara-Mercedes +16.711s
3 Alex LYNN / GBR, Fortec Dallara-Mercedes +27.424s
4 Jazeman JAAFAR / MAS, Carlin Dallara-Volkswagen +32.083s
5 Hannes VAN ASSELDONK / NED, Fortec Dallara-Mercedes +33.891s
6 Harry TINCKNELL / GBR, Carlin Dallara-Volkswagen +38.530s
7 Pipo DERANI / BRA, Fortec Dallara-Mercedes +41.236s
8 Jack HARVEY / GBR, Carlin Dallara-Volkswagen +41.749s
9 Nick McBRIDE / AUS, T-Sport Dallara-Nissan +49.826s
10 Fahmi ILYAS / MAS, Double R Dallara-Mercedes +1m 30.064s
R Pietro FANTIN / BRA, Carlin Dallara-Volkswagen 7 laps
R Geoff UHRHANE / AUS, Double R Dallara-Mercedes 6 laps
Fastest lap Sainz 2m 06.638s / 102.34mph
1 Spike GODDARD / AUS, T-Sport Dallara-Mugen Honda +1m 44.938s
2 Duvashen PADAYACHEE / AUS, Double R Dallara-Mugen Honda +1m 52.702s
Full timesheets http://bit.ly/HPJKcd
Provisional championship standings
1 Sainz 74 points; 2 Serralles 66; 3 Jaafar 65; 4 Harvey 63; 5 Derani 48; =6 Fantin & Tincknell 40 etc. National class: 1 Goddard 104; 2 Padayachee 82.
TV schedule http://bit.ly/HJLwyF
Next rounds 11-13 May Pau (FRA)