F3: Ricciardo extends his series lead at Silverstone

By LJ Hutchins

CalendarSunday, May 3rd, 2009

 
 

Australia’s Daniel Ricciardo has extended his lead at the top of the British F3 International drivers’ points table this weekend – but he has no less than three Brits hot on his tail.

Following rounds three and four of the competition, held at Silverstone, the Carlin Motorsport driver has taken a commanding 68 points from four races.

But JTK’s Nick Tandy is keeping him honest in second place with 40 points, while Fortec’s Riki Christodoulou is giving him no room to breathe on 39 and Carlin team-mate Max Chilton languishes on 37 after failing to really capitalise on the double pole he achieved on Saturday.

Here’s how the weekend played out:

Chilton and Christodoulou quick in qualifying

Carlin Motorsport started the weekend on an optimistic note after driver Max Chilton qualified on pole for both races.

For round three he saw off Hitech’s Dutch driver Renger van der Zande by a few hundredths of a second to secure his place in the first grid slot for round three.

For round four, his 1:39.781 lap was 0.15 secs better than Ricciardo’s, who bounced back from a first-session off to underline his pace and position as the early-season title favourite.

Riki Christodoulou emerged as second-quickest British driver and started round three from third place on the grid with van der Zande fourth and his team-mate Walter Grubmüller fifth.

Nick Tandy, who was way off the pace in his JTR Mygale in the first session, found some speed between sessions to secure 10th on the grid for round four.

Round three: stunning victory for Dutch debutant

Van der Zande enjoyed a dream debut to his British F3 International career, leading from lights to chequered flag to score a resounding victory for Hitech.

The 23-year-old, whose drive was confirmed hours before the meeting, displayed immense confidence on a circuit he had never before raced to claim the team’s first victory since its championship-winning season in 2007. It was also the first win of 2009 for engine supplier Mercedes.

He said: “I only did 29 laps of free practice, but I managed to set a good time in qualifying. The car was very good, the team did a great job, and that helped me a lot. It was decided at the start really; I made a good start and drove away.

“But the race wasn’t easy because of the wind, which blew me off the track one time. After that I took things a little easier. I think this is a good entry to the championship and I’m happy with it. I’m not sure about the rest of year yet, for sure I would like to come back and do more races.”

Pole-sitter Chilton pursued van der Zande all the way to the end, rarely more than half a second behind in his Carlin Dallara, and was left to rue the Dutchman’s better grid getaway.

He said: “I got a good start, as good as everyone around me, apart from Renger. He absolutely launched it and gave me no chance of blocking him from getting past.

“During the race I wasn’t taking any risks because of the wind out there. You didn’t know what it was going to do next.”

Brazilian Adriano Buzaid slotted into third in his T-Sport car and stayed well in touch with van der Zande and Chilton until a minor mistake mid-distance cost him time. He recovered to stay ahead of Christodoulou to take his maiden British F3 podium.

Ricciardo, having started a lowly 11th after his qualifying excursion, took fifth.

In the National Class, Fortec’s Daniel McKenzie outgunned T-Sport driver Gabriel Dias at the start to lead the division for a couple of laps until handling problems prevented him from resisting the Brazilian’s attentions.

For Dias, who broke his back in a crash last season, class victory was sweet: “Daniel got past me through the first corner but I managed to get him back. The race was difficult but races will always be so; it was a good result.”

Round 4: Carling’s hopes come to pass in Ricciardo

Ricciardo extended his series points lead with another victory for Carlin, his third from four starts.

The 19-year-old from Perth started the fourth round from second on the grid, shadowed his pole-sitting team-mate Chilton until three laps from the end, then swept past him when Chilton hit gear selection problems.

He said afterwards: “We stayed in formation for most of the race. Max’s first few laps were good and he pulled a gap.

“Then I started to feel a bit more comfortable with the car and I saw Max have a few problems, a bit of oversteer, and with a few laps to go I managed to get alongside him through the fast Maggotts/Becketts section and got the run on him down the straight.”

A disheartened Chilton added: “I led from the pole after a great start. I had a good lead and I knew that Dan wouldn’t have the pace to pass me.

“Then, three laps from the end, I tried going down through the gears and it just wouldn’t, so I lost at least a second trying to get it to go in gear. Dan got a tow off me and did a good move and that was the end of the race, to be honest.”

Chilton was voted Sunoco Driver of the Weekend for his efforts despite coming third overall after losing another place to Riki Christodoulou, who dived up Chilton’s inside at Abbey two laps from the flag to snatch second and a maiden podium finish that promotes him to championship third.

Daisuke Nakajima collected fourth place, five seconds adrift of the winner, while Tandy put in a gutsy effort to charge from 10th on the grid to fifth, smashing an hours-old circuit lap record as he went. He closed on to Nakajima’s tail before losing pace in the latter stages.

Buzaid’s countryman and T-Sport team-mate Gabriel Dias pinched the National Class win on the final lap from the clutches of Dan McKenzie.

For a full set of results and championship standings, visit the British F3 International website >>

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