The rookies lay down a marker at Silverstone!
Kicking off the season on a track as quick as Silverstone is, on paper anyway, a gift for experienced drivers. However, in free practice a trio of rookies put the cat among the pigeons in the opening round of the FIA Formula 3 European Championship. Antonio Fuoco (Prema Powerteam) was quickest in the first session from Esteban Ocon and Max Verstappen (Van Amersfoort Racing). In the second session the same trio topped the time sheets, but in a different order with Verstappen in front of Ocon and Fuoco.
However, the three debutants kept their feet firmly on the ground and said that there was still a lot of room for improvement and a lot of work to do. With 15 cars covered by the same second the gaps meant that there could be no letup in their efforts.
The first qualifying session for the grid positions for the first of the three races of the weekend confirmed the tip-top performance of the trio Verstappen, Ocon and Fuoco who went head to-head for the no. 1 spot on the grid. But halfway through the session Tom Blomqvist showed everybody who was boss with a lap in 1’51’’327 clinching the first pole of the season from Ocon, Fuoco, Verstappen and Felix Serralles (West-Tec F3 Team). “It’s great to start with a pole position especially for the new partner in our team who’s invested a lot this season,” explained Blomqvist. “I had a very good lap even if I reckon that the Prema Powerteam cars are quicker. We were on the pace in free practice, but it’s a whole other ball game to turn this into a concrete result in qualifying. Now we’ve got to see how the race will pan out.”
In the second qualifying session Frenchman Ocon came out on top. The Lotus F1 Junior Team driver finished in front of his team-mate Nicholas Latifi (Prema Powerteam) and Tom Blomqvist. As the fastest time in the second session gives pole in race three, the third no.1 position of the day also went to Ocon. “We did a good job this winter, but I really didn’t expect to be on pole so early,” smiled Esteban. “It’s the result of some great team work. I wasn’t too far off in the first session, but I made a small mistake; it was my fault. So I’ve made up for it with two pole positions, it’s almost perfect!”
The other big news of the day is Signature’s withdrawal from the first round of the season. Thus, Tatiana Calderon has moved over to Jo Zeller Racing.