Carlin test well ahead of Silverstone finale

British F3On the weekend of 7/8 October the newly crowned Cooper Tires British Formula 3 Champion, Felipe Nasr, and the Carlin team will take a lap of honour at the Silverstone Grand Prix circuit as they celebrate the end of a highly successful season. Yesterday the squad underlined their intention to end the year on a high with an impressive showing at the Northamptonshire track in testing.

Carlin men took overall positions one to five in the test, with Denmark’s Kevin Magnussen, Colombian Carlos Huertas and Brazilian Nasr heading the timesheets in the three separate sessions. Magnussen’s time from session one was the best of the day at 1m 54.433s, which is three-tenths inside the official lap record for the 3.66-mile track but just over a second adrift of last year’s pole time.

“It was a really good day,” said Magnussen. “We got some great results with everything we tried so I know we have good pace going into Silverstone. I like the circuit a lot and have been here a few times before so I’m feeling confident for the final rounds of the season.”

Nineteen-year-old Brazilian Nasr, who was third fastest overall, clinched the title earlier this month and has seven race wins to his credit; he’s the fourth consecutive Carlin driver to wear the British F3 crown, following in the tracks of Jaime Alguersuari and Daniel Ricciardo (both now in Formula 1) and 2010 champ Jean-Eric Vergne.

Nasr could be forgiven for resting on his laurels next weekend, but the chances of that are slim. He has nothing to prove but will certainly be wanting to add further wins to his tally and to avenge his miserable last weekend at Donington, where he failed to make the podium for the first weekend this year and also posted his only retirement.

Though the championship is won, there’s still a very healthy fight over second and third places. There are no fewer than five drivers with a realistic chance, all but one of them Carlin men, and the battle will be a captivating one.

Leading the charge for championship runner-up spot is Huertas, who finished P2 yesterday, just a hundredth off Magnussen’s pace. Magnussen, son of 1994 British F3 Champion Jan, is just a point behind Huertas in the standings. He has won six times this season but his hopes of the title were dealt blows by reliability issues and incidents with other drivers. The most recent of these involved his team-mate Nasr at Donington, with whom he clashed in two of the three races.

William Buller is the man planning to spoil the Carlin/Volkswagen party by inserting his Mercedes-powered Fortec car into the championship top three, and also to finish as top British driver. The Northamptonshire-based Ulsterman has won three times and visited the podium an additional six times; he should fly on what is home turf for both him and Daventry-based Fortec. Buller was sixth fastest overall in testing and the leading Mercedes runner.

The two remaining contenders for the championship top three are both Carlin men – Suffolk racer Rupert Svendsen-Cook, who won at Donington last time out, and who has his sights set on a graduation to GP2 after two years in British F3; and Malaysian driver Jazeman Jaafar, another second-termer.

If five drivers in the top six was not enough, Carlin’s remaining driver, Lincolnshire’s Jack Harvey, will be hoping to repeat the form he displayed at Donington, where he led Magnussen in the rain for many laps before technical issues intervened. Racing Steps Foundation driver Harvey is assured of a top-10 championship finish in his maiden British F3 season; he was fourth fastest overall today.

Another British driver looking to end his first year in the championship top 10 is Fortec’s Harry Tincknell. Like Harvey, Tincknell has claimed a sprint-race win this season and is deserving of further victory laurels. Harry’s Fortec team-mate Lucas Foresti shone in the early part of the year, most notably at Brands Hatch, where he scored his third win in tricky damp conditions, but hasn’t hit the podium for 15 races.

A resurgence of form for the Double R team was a highlight of the Donington weekend. Boosted by the arrival in the squad of GP3 Champion Valtteri Bottas, both Scott Pye and Pipo Derani showed strong pace. Bottas, who was re-learning the art of F3 in preparation for an assault on next month’s Macau Grand Prix, won the Donington sprint race while 2010 Formula Ford Champion Pye claimed a brace of top-five finishes. Brazilian Derani meanwhile put in his most convincing performance of the year to take second in the wet feature race.

Silverstone is home track for a number of the F3 teams, including Banbury’s Sino Vision Racing, whose Adderly Fong scored a season-best seventh in the wet last time out. His team-mate, genial Welshman Hywel Lloyd, will be hoping to improve on the fifth place he scored at Snetterton in May. Buckingham-based outfit Hitech Racing has already nailed the Rookie championship with Japanese driver Kotaro Sakurai and is now looking to help boost its rapid Brazilian driver, Pietro Fantin, towards the championship top six. Pietro scored his maiden win at Rockingham last month.

Brackley’s T-Sport is the other team local to Silverstone, and its trio of drivers – Menasheh Idafar, Bart Hylkema and Yann Cunha – will be hoping for strong finishes to their seasons. Idafar, who has collected a hat-trick of podiums, was mighty in the wet at Donington.

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