Pole-sitter Roberto Merhi drove a peerless race to claim FIA Formula 3 International Trophy victory in the 1st race of the F3 weekend at Spa-Francorchamps. William Buller finished 2nd overall and was the 1st of the British F3 field to cross the line, giving him victory for Round 19 of the British F3 season.
Much like he did in qualifying, Merhi dominated the session from start to finish – getting away cleanly and increasing his lead with every single lap, eventually getting 12.8s clear of Buller by the chequered flag. Buller started in 3rd and overhauled team-mate Lucas Foresti off the line to take 2nd, where he would be forced to watch Merhi drive into the distance.
A delighted Merhi said afterwards, “Everything went right today,” said Merhi. “I started from pole because I set best time in qualifying by more than one second, and we made some changes to the car which made it even better for the race. I set fastest lap and after that I pushed to build the gap to my rivals. I always enjoy racing here, it's an incredible circuit, and to win a race at Spa is a great feeling.”
Buller maintained his consistent performances in the last few races, and was pleased with his result: “Paul Ricard was good for me, and now this is my third podium in a row, so I'm happy. We struggled quite a bit in free practice yesterday with the balance but we chipped away at itâ€¦ There is a still a bit of work to do there. To get my first main-race 'win' is nice and I hope things keep going like this.”
Jazeman Jaafar earned an impressive overall podium finish after starting from 9th on the grid. A superb start saw him leapfrog several rivals off the line before a collision at La Source between Marco Wittmann and Foresti allowed him to climb up to 3rd on the opening lap. The Malaysian Carlin driver hustled Buller all the way to the flag, but was unable to find a way past. Considering Jaafar suffered a sizeable shunt in practice less than 24 hours before the race, he was happy with his performance: “We worked hard to find the best set-up, and I made a good start to get to P3 by the first corner, so a good job from the team and I am quite pleased with myself. My knee hurt a lot yesterday but ice treatment has helped.”
Foresti and Wittmann were left struggling in the midfield after their contact, finishing 13th and 11th respectively.
The British F3 podium was rounded out by Jack Harvey, who came 5th overall ahead of Carlin team-mates Rupert Svendsen-Cook and Kevin Magnussen. In the FIA/F3 Euroseries class, Carlos Munoz and Daniel Juncadella made up the series’ podium – Juncadella doing well to finish after his on-board fire extinguisher started leaking into his cockpit half way through the race.
Kotaro Sakurai took the British F3 Rookie Class win, finally overhauling ex-class rival Bart Hylkema and putting him in the championship lead.
Cooper Tires British Formula 3 International Series
Round 19, Spa-Francorchamps BEL 29/7/2011
13 laps / 56.58 miles
Provisional results Championship & Invitation classes
1 INV Robert MERHI / ESP, Prema Dallara-Mercedes 29m 18.572s / 115.82mph
2 INT William BULLER /GBR, Fortec Dallara-Mercedes +12.846s
3 INT Jazeman JAAFAR / MAS, Carlin Dallara-VW +13.486s
4 INV Carlos MUNOZ / COL, Signature Dallara-VW +14.410s
5 INT Jack HARVEY / GBR, Carlin Dallara-VW +15.005s
6 INT Rupert SVENDSEN-COOK / GBR, Carlin Dallara-VW +16.378s
7 INT Kevin MAGNUSSEN / DEN, Carlin Dallara-VW +16.912s
8 INV Daniel JUNCADELLA / ESP, Prema Dallara-Mercedes +22.360s
9 INT Felipe NASR / BRA, Carlin Dallara-VW +25.511s
10 INT Carlos HUERTAS / COL, Carlin Dallara-VW +30.999s
11 INV Marco WITTMANN / GER, Signature Dallara-VW +32.627s
12 INV Hannes van ASSELDONK / NED, Van Amersfoort Dallara-VW +32.982s
13 INT Lucas FORESTI / BRA, Fortec Dallara-Mercedes +34.351s
14 INV Daniel ABT / GER, Signature Dallara-VW +35.452s
15 INT Hywel LLOYD / GBR, Sino Vision Dallara-Mercedes +36.017s
16 INT Scott PYE / AUS, Double R Dallara-Mercedes +37.502s etc
1 Kotaro SAKURAI / JPN, Hitech Dallara-Mugen Honda +1m 16.779s
Fastest laps Merhi 2m 14.403s / 116.57 mph & Magnussen 2m 14.732s / 116.26mph
Full timesheets http://bit.ly/oJQaiF
Provisional championship standings
1 Nasr 243 points; 2 Huertas 137; 3= Foresti & Jaafar 130; 5 Buller 126; 6 Magnussen 122 etc
1 Sakurai 234; 2 Bart Hylkema / NED 214.
FIA Formula 3 International Trophy
1 Merhi 93; 2 Juncadella 47; 3 Abt 38 etc.