Recently crowned 2011 GP3 champion Vallteri Bottas enjoyed success in race 2 of the British Formula 3 Donington Park weekend in only his 2nd race in an F3 machine since 2010. The Finn mastered slippery conditions on the retired Formula 1 circuit to claim round 26 victory by over 14 seconds.
After making only a small impression during Thursday’s test session, Bottas immediately grabbed the attentions of William Buller and Harry Tincknell off the start-line when the Finn blasted past the pair from 3rd on the grid. Taking advantage of the clear track in front, Bottas settled into a rhythm in his Double R Racing machine and quickly began gapping his pursuers.
With the double F3 Masters winner scampering off into the distance, the battle for 2nd place between Buller, Scott Pye and Tincknell soon became the focal point of the 20-minute sprint race. The fight initially involved only Buller and Pye, but a lunge from Pye into the Melbourne hairpin baulked the pair of them, allowing the stalking Tincknell past both and into second place after the three had run towards Goddards three abreast. The Fortec driver wasn’t ahead for long though, as the chasing pair swept back underneath him at the next hairpin at Goddards.
Tincknell tenaciously reasserted himself in 2nd place by passing both once more on the exit, but again was pushed aside by Buller before eventual contact with Pye through McLeans dropped Tincknell to 5th while the latter limped back to the pits with a puncture and into retirement.
In the background meanwhile, T-Sport’s Menasheh Idafar had made impressive progress from 11th on the grid, making up five place in the first lap alone – the British-based Bahraini revelling in the wet conditions. The scuffle between Pye and Tincknell allowed Idafar through to quickly mount a challenge on Buller for 2nd place, but despite piling on the pressure, he ran out of laps and harried Buller home to take an International Class career best of 3rd.
Idafar gave his view of the battle ahead; “I just thought 'I'll let them not hit each other but hold each other up' and actually when they [Pye and Tincknell] spun each other round I was already thinking about going inside, they nearly took me out as well.”
“I'm slightly disappointed I didn't get past him [Will Buller] obviously but after yesterday when I got a penalty I was cautious but anyway third is good.”
Jazeman Jaafar also benefited from Tincknell’s drama, pipping him for 4th place by 3 tenths of a second. Carlos Huertas finished 6th ahead of Lucas Foresti – a man who thrived at a wet Brands Hatch to take his maiden British F3 win earlier this year – and who did so again by charging up from 17th on the grid to cross the line in 7th. Round 25 winner Rupert Svendsen-Cook finished 8th ahead of Jack Harvey and 2011 British F3 champion Felipe Nasr – who started in 21st and last after retiring in race 1 – the Brazilian completed a Carlin trio and rounded out the top 10.
Usual front-runner Kevin Magnussen opted for an alternate strategy by starting on slick tyres in the hope of a quick-drying track, but the Dane’s gamble failed to pay off as he unsurprisingly struggled with a lack of grip, before finally slithering off the track at Goddard’s on the final lap and retiring.
Bottas however, was peerless throughout, taking a comfortable victory and showcasing an all-round open wheel talent , as well as handing Double R their second consecutive win at a British F3 weekend.
Bottas has returned to Formula 3 in preparation for the Macau Grand Prix in November, and while he celebrated the win his focus clearly remains of the F3 showpeice; “I don't think it’s really the main point or really crucial to be successful but obviously it helps and for sure the team always want to have a good result and for sure we are doing our best and today we won the race, it's nice but still everything is just progression for Macau.”
“Not too hard,” added the Finn when The Checkered Flag asked about how he found adapting back to F3 machinery. “I got most things quite quickly with the driving style. Now it's just really fine tuning, it takes a bit of time but since yesterday it's started to feel OK. Still in the practice and then maybe even in the qualifying I was still searching a little bit for the driving style.”
Provisional championship standings
1 Nasr 300 points; 2 Huertas 186; 3 Buller 183; 4 Kevin Magnussen 175; 5 Jaafar 174; 6 Svendsen-Cook 167 etc
1 Kotaro Sakurai 323 etc