DRIVER NEWS: Maro Engel moved back into second place in the British F3 drivers’ championship today, after rounds 11 and 12 at the Brands Hatch circuit in Kent. Engel set the fastest time in Friday’s practice session as well as a new unofficial track record but suffered with handling problems in Saturday’s qualifying session. Qualifying eighth for both races, Engel went on to finish fifth and seventh in today’s races.
Engel made a good start as the lights went out for race one, moving into sixth on the first lap. The 21 year-old German moved up another place when team mate Sam Bird retired with clutch problems and into fourth as Sebastian Hohenthal was handed a drive-through penalty. Struggling with oversteer, the Mercedes backed driver came under attack from Rodolfo Gonzalez in the second half of the race, Engel defended his position, but dropped to fifth on lap 18, the position he would take across the line.
Engel and his engineer made a number of set up changes ahead of race two, which he started again from eighth. Dropping to tenth on lap one, Engel climbed his way through the field to seventh by lap six. Still pushing for position, Engel went on to set his personal best lap on lap 13, but was unable to make up any further positions and finished seventh.
Reflecting on the weekend, Engel commented, “On Friday we were instantly quick, even on old tyres. We waited a while before we put the new tyres on and went second, and then we made some adjustments and set the fastest time an F3 car has ever done around here. So with the car running well, we decided to not to do anything before qualifying on Saturday. If you’re in a car that has just broken the track record for that category, there’s not really much reason to change it.
“I went out on Saturday - I don’t believe the track changed much over night - and suddenly I had incredible amounts of oversteer, which caused me to drop off about nine tenths from my best time the previous day. I really don’t understand how that could have happened. Then in the second qualifying session, we lost just over a second on my best time.
“I’m very disappointed obviously, something has happened to the car which we don’t really understand. It may even be something to do with the tyres. As a driver, the car felt as though I was running on a set of last years tyres on the rear; they went off so quickly and provided no grip, no stability.
“It’s good to get back into second in the championship, but obviously it would have been better to do that with a couple of podium positions and maybe a race win, which under normal circumstances we’ve shown we’re capable of. It’s frustrating, but that’s just the way it is sometimes. I started eighth in both races and managed to makes up places in both to finish fifth and seventh, which is an achievement. We’re looking forwards now and I’m more determined than ever to get back on the podium in Spa where I had my first British F3 win last year.”