DRIVER NEWS: Puncture ends Salman podium hopes at Snetterton
DRIVER NEWS: Bahraini racing driver Salman Al Khalifa was denied the chance to fight for a National Class podium in the Lloyds TSB Insurance British F3 International Series at the weekend by a slow puncture in race two.
On Salman’s first ever visit to the Norfolk circuit, the 2005 Formula BMW Asia champion finished in a solid fifth position in race one and looked to have the pace to do even better in race two before his battle for third position with Sergio Perez and countrymen Hamad Al Fardan was ended when debris on the track cut a tyre on his Dallara-Mugen. The resulting slow puncture saw him drop off the pace, as his car’s handling deteriorated, and things got worse near the end of the race as Salman, who by this stage was fighting to hold off the chasing pack, succumbed to his handling problems with an off at Riches. Although he recovered to finish eighth the Promatecme F3 driver was left ruing the fact that his race had been compromised.
“Race two was frustrating because I thought we definitely had the pace to fight for fourth and possibly challenged for a podium,” Salman said after the race. “Unfortunately the puncture meant I just couldn’t keep with the guys in front and then at the end I was fighting the car, as the handling got worse, whilst also trying to keep the next group of cars behind me. I’d already gone wide on the kerbs at turn one a couple of laps earlier but then, near the end, all four wheels went on the grass and that was that.”
The outcome was even more trying for Salman as he’d staged a great recovery drive following a grassy moment off the grid. “I got forced wide into the first corner and ended up on the dirt,” Salman revealed. “It put me well down the field but I caught the back of the train and was up to fifth and fighting with Sergio Perez when the safety car came out. When it pulled in there was some confusion amongst the drivers at the restart, but I got through it ok and was enjoying the battle with the cars in front. Unfortunately I think it must have been around that time that I picked up the debris and got the puncture.
“In race one we started seventh and finished fifth and put a couple of nice moves in! However I have never been to Snetterton before and I now realise how crucial it is to have the right set-up. It’s such a high-speed circuit that any understeer or oversteer, which I was suffering from, means you have to lift off the throttle which is far from ideal. There’s also a really fine balance on the set-up. If you make a slight change and it’s the wrong one, then it has a disproportionate effect on the handling.”
Despite Salman’s frustrations the Formula 3 rookie scored championship points for the seventh consecutive race and holds on to his fifth place in the overall National Class rankings and Promatecme F3 boss Chris Weller believes he continues to improve. “Salman has had a really good weekend again scoring solid points. It was unfortunate that he picked up the puncture in the second race, but overall he is doing a good job and continues to improve.”
The next round of the British F3 International Series takes place on Sunday 24 June when the championship heads to Italy for rounds nine and ten at Monza.