William Buller’s season finally came alive in Rounds 16-18 of the 2011 Cooper Tyres British Formula 3 International Series, as the Irish Fortec driver claimed his maiden F3 victory, followed by a 2nd place finish after a dramatic Round 18.
Buller was considered to be one to watch after strong runs in pre-season testing, but until France the 18-year old’s season had been stifled by bad luck and racing incidents. The weekend at Paul Ricard appeared to be a turning point however, though an uneventful Round 16 gave no hints about his later success – Buller claiming 7th after starting 8th on the grid.
Buller made his lights-to-flag victory in Round 17 look much simpler than it truly was. A restart after chaos on the starting grid put him to the test. Under pressure to make another good start ahead of man typically quick out of the blocks, Rupert Svendsen-Cook. Buller kept calm and made it to the 1st corner unchallenged. From there a mature run to the flag ahead of Svendsen-Cook scored him his maiden victory.
An even better start in Round 18 saw Buller bolt from 8th to 4th on the opening lap, a position he maintained as the front-runners of Kevin Magnussen, Felipe Nasr and the feisty Felix Da Costa battled a few seconds up the road. Their scrap finally boiled over as a lunge from Da Costa at the final corner ended in contact, eliminating Magnussen on the spot and allowing Nasr to slip past to victory. Da Costa crawled over the line 2nd, meaning Buller inherited 3rd place, but a 30-second penalty for the offending Da Costa promoted Buller yet another spot, rewarding his consistent running with 2nd.
The high scoring finishes were a real shot in the arm for Buller’s championship, as he climbs to 6th place in the standings thanks to the 31-point injection. He happily summarised his weekend: “After the disappointment of the Nurburgring, it was a really good weekend and I'm delighted to have got my first victory,” he said. “In practice, I was quick in the first two sectors but just couldn't get the final sector hooked up and it was the same in qualifying, so I was a bit disappointed with eighth on the grid.
“I knew the Paul Ricard was a circuit where overtaking would be possible and in the first race, I was able to get the final sector of the lap sorted and finished seventh with the bonus of getting pole for race two. There was a mix-up when the lights went out so I had to do the work twice, but I was able to pull away from the chasing pack and bring the car home. Getting the victory is great as it's been overdue; I've had the speed but haven't always had the luck on my side.
“In race three I got a great start to climb to fourth and then profited from the accident ahead on the final lap to finish second. In Germany, da Costa caused problems for me in two of the races and there was no penalty, but at least I was able to benefit this time.
“Being on the top step of the podium is a fantastic reward for all the boys at Fortec who have worked so hard this season to give me a good car, and it is also great for the people behind the MSA Team UK initiative and all my sponsors who have made my F3 programme possible.
“First and second are good results for me this weekend and strong points towards the championship. I'm only 27 points away from second in the standings, so things are really hotting up.”