DRIVER NEWS: Leicester's leading Formula 3 driver, Stephen Jelley, returned to front-row form when he qualified second for today's two British Formula 3 races at Monza in Italy. But the races themselves were a huge disappointment, and the Raikkonen Robertson Racing star was only able to score two points.
In qualifying on Saturday, Stephen showed his true speed. His two quick laps around the historic Formula 1 circuit near Milan made him the fastest of the three Raikkonen Robertson drivers. Team patron Kimi Raikkonen would no doubt have been proud of his effort on the high-speed home circuit of Ferrari, Raikkonen's Formula 1 team.
Sunday's racing was an unfortunate let-down, although the speed was still there: Stephen picked up the fastest lap of the first race. Sadly this came after his early battle for second place with championship leader Marko Asmer fell apart when he made a serious mistake under braking. He dropped well down the field and, although he immediately began to charge up the order, he was only 11 th by the time the chequered flag came out. But this gave him one point, and the fastest lap gave him another, so some good came from the race.
While race one might have been down to an error, race two's troubles did not start through any fault of Stephen's.
"I made a decent enough start and I was holding my position," he said. "But then I just felt a whack from behind as we were going down to the first corner. It sent me spinning. It turns out that it was my team-mate Atte Mustonen. He came to say sorry afterwards, but unfortunately it was too late to do anything about it by then."
Jelley wasn't out of the race, but it was as good as over. He made another impressive recovery from the lower order, but inevitably there was some contact along the way. He came together with Venezuelan Rodolfo Gonzalez shortly before half-distance, and the race officials didn't like what they saw. Stephen was given a drive-through penalty, which completely ruined his recovery drive. He finished down in 18 th.
"I'm not sure how I can keep qualifying on the front row and only score a couple of points, but things have got to come right soon. There's no doubt my team-mates and I are quick – we proved that in qualifying again. But we're not having much luck at the moment and we're not getting the finishes we should be getting."
The unusually low points haul is a setback for Stephen's championship challenge, as he has now dropped to fifth place in the points standings. His first chance to turn that around will be back on English soil, at Brands Hatch. The Kent venue hosts the next rounds of the British Formula 3 Championship on July 15.