British F3: Oli Webb conquers on French expedition
By Andy Darley
Monday, May 24th, 2010
Oli Webb dominated British F3’s visit to Magny-Cours in France, setting two fastest laps on his way to a pair of wins, a second place, and the lead of the championship.
Frenchman Jean-Eric Vergne set the early pace, running fastest in testing and claiming a pair of pole positions, but when the races came he found Webb ahead of him in all but the middle one – and even there his victory was subject to a stewards’ investigation that could have handed the win to the Englishman.
As a result Fortec’s Webb now heads the championship by two points from Carlin driver Vergne, 115-113. Fellow Carlin driver James Calado is a long way back in third place on 67 points following a weekend that saw him flipped upside-down in the second race when he fell victim to a dangerous block by Jazeman Jaafar.
Webb said: “To get a win in my first season in F3 was always the aim, but to get two at a circuit I have never seen is absolutely brilliant. It could hardly have gone any better – I am now leading the championship, I got two fastest laps, a second place and all at my closest rival’s home circuit.
“It is great to be going straight to Hockenheim off the back of this double victory, exactly what I need. Fortec have done a great job this weekend, I travelled down with them in the van because I wanted to avoid any ash cloud issues and to travel with the guys. I can’t thank my mechanics enough for the great job they have done in preparing the car and help me in getting the championship lead.”
In the weekend’s first race Vergne was stranded at the start and slipped from pole to 15th place as Webb set off into the distance, Hitech pair Gabriel Dias and William Buller a long way back in the other podium places.
Vergne recovered fast, taking advantage of a first-lap incident to reclaim seventh place by the end of the first lap, and was challenging Buller for the podium by the end of the race but the Northern Irishman held on.
Calado finished sixth after qualifying 11th, while Jay Bridger was 10th, Daniel McKenzie 13th, Hywel Lloyd 14th, and Rupert Svendsen-Cook two laps down as the final runner in 18th. Alex Brundle did not survive the first lap.
Race two was held on a partially-reversed grid, with Webb drawing seventh place as his starting position, but it was not just the field that was turned upside-down as Jaafar’s error while protecting his lead sent Calado’s car rearing up and over the back of the Malaysian’s. The Englishman’s car was fired broadside into the gravel trap, where it tipped over and trapped the driver – who was recovered unharmed.
The race was restarted from scratch and Dias jumped the lights, passing Jafaar for the lead. Vergne was soon past too and the Frenchman rapidly caught his rival – but when he overtook it was by cutting a chicane. Knowing Dias was due a penalty, he gave the place back and crossed the line second behind him.
Jafaar finished third on the road, Webb fourth and Buller fifth after a last-lap pass on Daisuke Nakajima, but everyone knew the result would be decided by the stewards as they investigated the actions of Jafaar, Dias and Vergne.
In the end Jafaar was excluded, Dias given a one-minute time penalty, and Vergne left unpunished to inherit the win ahead of Webb and Buller. Lloyd was classified fifth, McKenzie eighth, Bridger ninth, Svendsen-Cook 10th, and Brundle 12th.
The third race lacked the drama of its predecessor, Webb out-starting poleman Vergne and the pair leaving the rest of the field in their wake. Dias finished more than 21 seconds back in third place. Calado was fourth, McKenzie fifth, Svendsen-Cook sixth, Lloyd eighth and Buller 13th while Bridger and Brundle failed to finish.