Championship Progress: 8th -> 7th
Another podium and solid haul of points, but still left wondering what might have been had fate been a little kinder.
We were in the top 3 throughout Friday testing, which we converted to the fastest time in qualifying by 3/10 second, before having the time disallowed as a red flag was thrown for an incident in sector 1; with us just yards from the finish line. If the red flag had been thrown just a few seconds later the time would have stood. Instead, we had to settle for 3rd in qualifying, which was still pretty good!
Pole at Spa is not as important as other tracks as rarely does the leader at La Source hairpin (turn 1) remain at the front after the 2km flat out run to Les Combes; a point I return to in just a moment.
Unfortunately, in race 1 I made a lap 1 mistake on entry to Les Combes, spun and flat-spotted my tyres quite badly, which dropped me back to 17th. However, the team had given me a great setup and I managed to battle back to finish 7th.
Race 2 was a bit more conventional. I got a great start and was leading by La Source. However, the slipstream effect was so powerful on the Kemmel straight that I arrived at Les Combes in 3rd. The pace in sector 2 had been phenomenal all weekend, but we were being hindered by a lack of straight-line speed in sectors 1 and 3, which is not uncommon at Spa, but was affecting my ability to race against the two in front. I came across the line a second back in 3rd, unable to capitalise on the pace we had in the middle sector.
It’s a great podium at Spa and real experience to stand up there where so many greats of the sport have stood before.
Starting 23rd for the reverse grid race 3, I was slightly more compromised than usual on tyres after my spin in race 1, but still managed to finish in 11th. The reverse grid is always a lot of fun, finding places to make moves and work your way forward.
Despite a bit of bad luck in qualifying and a mistake in race 1 I think we maximised the points haul and I got to stand on the podium at Spa which was fantastic!
Not the best qualifying, pace was OK, but I couldn't get track position for my flying laps. I managed to make up places in races 1 and 2. In the reverse grid the opening few laps were excellent, moving from 14th to 6th by lap 4. Then one of my competitors made an egregious move on me as I was about to pass him, which took us both out. He was subsequently heavily penalised, but it was very disappointing as a lot of good points went to waste.
FIA F3 Cameo
Then came the call all drivers at my level have been waiting for; would I like to race in FIA F3??
Within the space of a week, I went from never having been near this class of single seater to getting a seat fit in Prague, driving the simulator in Valencia then driving the car itself around the Red Bull Ring over the weekend of the Austrian Grand Prix. What an experience!
The car, driving style and tyres are very different at this level, but the team helped me enormously. I kept it on the track and managed to get within a second of the leaders, which was apparently quite an achievement.
I had a second bite at the FIA F3 cherry the following weekend alongside the British Grand Prix at Silverstone. That memory will stay with me forever. Although the racing outcome was mediocre, my single lap pace was quite good, and the atmosphere was incredible.
I also had my sisters with me for the experience; they may have enjoyed it more than I did!
Back at Silverstone in the GB3 car in a couple or weeks time. May take a bit of getting used to, but still all to play for in that Championship.