BRITISH F3 PREVIEW
Snetterton 3rd June
Thirty one drivers from 19 different nations around the world are taking part in British F3 this year, reinforcing the position of the series as the world’s leading Formula 3 championship and underlining the word ‘international’ in the series title.
In Bucharest Sam Bird became the third different winner in the six races so far this season, joining Marko Asmer and Mario Engel in ‘Victory Lane’, and this, combined with a third place in race 1, has propelled the 20-year-old from Claygate to third in the championship table in his debut F3 season.
Stephen Jelley looked set to break his British F3 duck in Romania, claiming pole position for Round 6. However a clash with Alberto Valerio dropped the Englishman down the order, but a fight back by Jelley netted him a podium position. Jelley will be fired up to take a win on the long straights at Snetterton.
Maro Engel had a frustrating weekend in Romania, with a 5th in race 1, followed by a DNF when he was squeezed between Atte Mustonen and the concrete wall in race 2, his first non finish of the season so far. The German is a double race winner in British F3 and, like Jelley, will be looking to step on the top step of the podium this weekend to get his championship bid back on track.
Jonathan Kennard hasn’t had the best of starts to the season and the race from Tunbridge Wells has only managed one visit to the podium. However with a pole position and a fastest lap, Kennard has shown he has the pace to turn things around in Norfolk.
Romania wasn’t kind to Fortec’s Sebastian Hohenthal, which was his first ever race on a street circuit. Before the weekend he was the top rookie in the championship but a crash with Greg Mansell in race 1 and 7th in race 2 dropped the Swede to 7th overall. However the 2006 UK Formula Renault Champion has already broken the Oulton Park F3 lap record, set the fastest lap in round 4 at Donington Park, has visited the British F3 podium and has been a consistent front runner so far this year.
A podium finish in Round 3 at Donington Park for Greg Mansell put the family name back on the British F3 podium for the first time since 1979. Greg scored points in the first four races and it was clear to see that the inexperienced 19-year-old was adapting to Formula 3 very quickly. However a badly damaged car was the result of a clash with his spinning Fortec teammate Seb Hohenthal and ended Mansell’s race weekend before it had begun. Romania certainly wasn’t the best of events for the Mansell family after brother Leo was speared off the track by a spinning ‘Frankie’ Cheng and then collected by the unfortunate Francesco Castellacci. Leo was briefly knocked unconscious and was advised not to race due to him suffering from concussion. Both brothers will be hoping for better luck at Snetterton.
Australian Formula Ford Champion John Martin has had a slow start to his British F3 season but the ADR driver adapted well to the tricky Bucharest track. A 4th place in race 2 was the result with an excellent opportunistic move on Marko Asmer and Rodolfo Gonzalez making the Australian the highest placed Mugen Honda powered driver this year so far.
Marko Asmer’s Hitech teammate Walter Grubmuller also suffered a huge accident in Romania, which put the young Austrian out of action for both races due to concussion. Grubmuller is due to race at Snetterton and is keen to get back behind the wheel.
Viktor Jensen netted his third class podium from six races with an excellent drive from the back of the grid in race 2 and the 2006 Formula Palmer Audi runner up is certainly adapting well to the more powerful F3 chassis.
Bahrain’s Hamad Al Fardan stepped up a gear in Romania with a well judged podium finish in race 1. He qualified 2nd for race 2 but a brush with the wall ended a good weekend. Al Fardan’s Bahraini compatriot Salman Al Khalifa has also a podium finish to his name and a friendly rivalry has built up between Bahrain’s first representatives in British F3.
Despite claiming a class pole position in Bucharest, two non finishes put a dent in Alistair Jackson’s push for the title. However the Raikkonen Robertson Racing driver has already tasted the champagne with a 3rd place at Donington and expect him to be a contender at Snetterton.
With a full grid of young F1 hopefuls expect Rounds 7 and 8 of the 2007 Lloyds TSB Insurance British F3 International Series to be an action packed affair in Norfolk.