DRIVER: Podium and fastest lap at Silverstone for Al Khalifa
Salman Al Khalifa in the post race press conference
DRIVER NEWS: Salman Al Khalifa claimed a National Class podium at Silverstone, but was denied the chance to become the first Bahraini racing driver to achieve a class win in the British F3 International Series by a late race incident.
The 2005 Formula BMW Asia champion was battling for the lead with British youngster Stefan Wilson when, as Salman made his bid for victory, the two collided with just two laps of the weekend’s second race remaining. That allowed Welsh racer Hywel Lloyd to take the victory, while Championship leader Jay Bridger also nipped through for second place. Salman recovered to finish third, holding off his T-Sport team-mate Steven Guerrero for the final podium spot, and took a bonus point for the race’s fastest lap.
Having started from third on the grid, Salman made a good start in a frantic opening lap and passed Bridger for second on the second tour. He then closed in on McLaren Autosport BRDC award winner Wilson, as the two pulled well clear of their class rivals, and made a move on the penultimate lap. Having closed right up through Priory, Salman dived down the inside at Brooklands and was almost alongside when Wilson shut the door. Both drivers spun, but although Wilson retired on the spot, Salman managed to control a 360° rotation and keep his Dallara F307 in the race. In the dying stages he closed up to the leaders, but ultimately had to settle for third. His quickest lap of 1:15.540s was good enough to secure his first fastest lap bonus-point of the season.
In the day’s earlier race, Salman took solid points for a fifth place finish, the same position in which he had qualified. Having bogged down a little on the line, the Bahraini dropped down the field by turn 1 at Copse Corner and had to fight back throughout the race. He battled past Craig Reiff and Kristjan Einar, as well as International Class runner Ricardo Teixeira, but lost too much ground on the leaders to finish any higher than fifth.
Al Khalifa admitted he was happy with his fourth podium in five races in what was one of his most encouraging outings to date. “I really enjoyed the race,” he said, “and although it’s a shame to have missed out on a win, I feel we’ve made some more progress. In race 2 I’d worked out where I was faster than Stefan and decided to make my move. What happened was a racing incident as we were both determined to win. He braked later than he had done previously which meant I couldn’t get my nose in front down the inside, so when he turned in we made contact.
“Race 1 was a little frustrating as normally I make good starts. The clutch felt a little strange and I didn’t get away well and dropped right to the back of the field. While I managed some good overtaking manoeuvres to climb the field, I lost too much time fighting the guys at the back to make any impact on the leaders. “I’d like to thank the team for another great job this weekend.”
Salman now heads to Romania next week for rounds 19 and 20 of the British F3 International Series around the streets of Bucharest.