TEAM NEWS: In a thrilling race at the historic Monza circuit in Italy today, Carlin Motorsport celebrated two podium finishes, as Brendon Hartley and Oliver Turvey finished round five of the British F3 season in second and third places respectively. Sam Abay, who led the race for the first five laps, finished seventh. Jaime Alguersuari was classified ninth, while National Class racer Andy Meyrick and Kristjan Einar failed to finish.
The third event on the 2008 British F3 calendar got off to a shaky start yesterday, as heavy rain forced the first qualifying session to be red flagged on grounds of safety. With only one qualifying session remaining, organisers decided a driver's fastest lap in the second qualifying session would set the grid position for race one, while the second quickest lap would set the grid position for race two.
In a chaotic and wet qualifying session which saw a number of drivers penalised for cutting the second chicane, the Carlin squad was led by Sam Abay who qualified third, ahead of Alguersuari sixth, Turvey ninth and Hartley 13th. Meyrick set the quickest National Class time and qualified 12th overall with team mate Kristjan Einar due to start from a career best third in the National Class.
Sam Abay made a lightening start from his third place grid slot, diving down the middle of front row men Matteo Chinosi and Max Chilton to take the lead at the first corner. Alguersuari was also on a charge, taking fourth place at the end of the straight and third place by the end of sector one. Behind them, Meyrick had moved up to sixth overall, Turvey seventh, with Brendon Hartley 12th. Kristjan Einar was sixth in the National Class as the cars crossed the line for the first time.
The thrilling opening lap was just a taster of what was to come, with Alguersuari racing hard with Chanosi and Esteban Guerrieri for third place. With Abay still leading, Alguersuari moved up to third, and National runner Kristjan Einar also made up a place to fifth in the National class. Both drivers continued their charge on lap four, as Alguersuari took second place from Chinosi into Lesmo one while further down the order Kristjan Einar also continued to climb the order in the National Class to fourth place.
By lap six Alguersuari had closed on team mate and race leader Sam Abay, and passed him down the start/finish line, only for Sergio Perez to pass both to take the lead. In the melee, Abay had regained a position from his team mate but Guerrieri also found a way past to relegate Abay and Alguersuari to third and fourth respectively. Meanwhile, Kristjan Einar’s strong run came to an end as the F3 rookie pulled off the track with a mechanical problem. By the end of lap six all the remaining Carlin cars were in the top ten, with Alguersuari third, Abay fourth, Oliver Turvey who had made his way up to fifth, with Meyrick leading the National Class in seventh place overall. The second Red Bull car of Brendon Hartley was ninth.
A rare mistake by Meyrick saw the National Class leader finish his race in the gravel on lap seven, elevating Hartley to sixth place on track. Lap nine saw more action, with Turvey passing team mate Abay for fourth place. Pushing hard to regain his position, Abay was on the attack trying to get past Turvey, but couldn’t make a move stick, allowing Hartley to go through into fifth place in the process.
The Carlin team mates continued to race hard – racing nose to tail from third to sixth place on lap 10. Determined to make up for a disappointing qualifying session, Hartley was on a charge and passed Turvey for fourth place. Behind him, Abay found himself under pressure from Marcus Ericsson who finally found a way through at the start of lap 12, as Abay missed the first chicane and was forced to take the escape road, rejoining the track in ninth place.
Following a mistake by Guerrieri, Alguersuari had second place in his sights, and made the move down the start/finish straight on lap 14, followed soon after by Hartley who moved up to third, only to lose the position half a lap later. In one of the greatest battles of the race, Alguersuari was under pressure from Guerrieri with just two laps to go, with Guerrieri getting past the Spaniard on lap 15. For the next lap the duo diced as Guerrieri tried to defend with Alguersuari chasing hard for second place. Contact between the two on the penultimate lap saw both in the gravel, although Alguersuari was able to rejoin the race. That incident elevated Hartley to second, Turvey to third and Abay to sixth, the position all three would maintain to the chequered flag.
Reflecting on a chaotic race, Team Principal Trevor Carlin said, “I’m pleased we were able to walk away with two podiums today, following a very confusing opening to the weekend. All the drivers drove a strong race at various points and two of them led the race. Sam stayed calm and made a great start to lead his first F3 race, but succumbed to drivers on the long straights, which is always a danger at Monza.
“Brendon made a great charge through the field and stayed calm to take advantage of the mistakes of others. Oliver drove another very intelligent race to take his third podium position of the season. Jaime was having a fantastic race, and was challenging for second place but unfortunately made contact with Esteban which put him out of contention. It’s a great shame for Andy and Kristjan that both failed to finish, Andy through a rare mistake in tricky conditions, and Kristjan through no fault of his own, who suffered a mechanical problem. I think tomorrow’s race could be equally eventful, but we’ll be aiming for the podium again.”