The first qualifying session of the 2013 FIA F3 European Championship got underway at the iconic Autodromo di Monza, as the 30-strong grid battled for position in all three weekend races during the two sessions. The 5.793km long circuit saw a straight fight between both soon-to-be DTM driver Pascal Wehrlein and Prema Powerteam’s Raffaele Marciello, as the runner-up and best rookie of 2012 claimed pole position from Marciello for races 1 and 2, whilst the Ferrari Driver Academy protégé secured the top spot for Race 3. Marciello’s teammate, Lucas Auer, managed to secure second place on the grid for Race 1, with the Italian doing the same for Race 2.
For race 1, Qualifying saw Auer snatch top spot from Red Bull junior driver, Britain’s Tom Blomqvist with just 5 minutes to go, before the young German was relegated by his countryman, Wehrlein, who went just a fraction quicker in the dying seconds. Marciello would be sharing the second row with the Brit, who was knocked back another place, with Carlin Racing’s Harry Tincknell and Eddie Cheever from Prema Powerteam rounding out the top six. The series was showing increased competitiveness as the action hotted up, as the top 18 drivers were split by just one second.
For race 2, Wehrlein showed his speed, by being nearly a clear three tenths ahead of his Italian rival, with Auer and Blomqvist setting exactly the same times, with a 1:45.626, completing the second row. Alex Lynn recorded his first top 5 qualifying spot, ahead of fellow Brit Tincknell. The second session, that determined race 3’s grid, would see times tumbling into the high 1:47s, as Marciello was quickest this time around on his home track, nearly two tenths ahead of Wehrlein, who though trying, could not beat the Italian for a possible hat-trick of pole positions, so had to settle for second best.
The German was suffering slightly from having the flu, but was pretty happy with his overall results. He said that the team had been suffering with some issues, but progress was clearly being made: “The races are likely to become exciting, because here, with the long straights, overtaking is easier than on some other tracks. And my personal goals are clear, too, starting from pole position twice and from second place on the grid once.”
Marciello realizes that in comparison with his antics last season, that consistent points scoring will be the key to his title chances this season, even if wins are not possible: “I don’t feel any particular pressure because of Monza being my home round. I like the track and I am happy that there are some friends out there to support me during the weekend. Surely, the races will not be easy, because all of us are good drivers and we are closely together here.”
So as the season kicks off in anger, as a German driver says his fond farewell, the other 29 drivers will have their strategies in place, visors down and feet to the floor, as the FIA F3 European Championship gets underway…..