Playing with F3 boys

25.10.2013

Technical defect, drive-through penalty, two collisions with the same competitor, heavy rain, lots of near-misses – Kevin’s F3 weekend at Hockenheim was not short of events.

Kevin jumped into F3 car for the final event of European F3 Championship which was held at Hockenheim on October 11-13. His Nissan-powered car was the same Kevin used during tests on the same venue a couple of weeks ago. But this time it was not so much about results and speed rather than qualifying for Macau F3 Grand Prix. Kevin only needed to finish one of three races for this but events out of his control made the weekend extremely eventful. Kevin had to fight hard and put all his mental strength to a good use to achieve even this modest target.

This was perhaps your worst competitive weekend this year?

Basically yes, if you count results only. But fortunately it was a weekend where results were not the most important. My aim was to qualify for Macau which meant I had to finish a race. There was some disadvantage – I had had a long break since my last race while regular Euro F3 guys had three races a week earlier. But it was also a good preparation for GP3 final round. OK, cars are very different in F3 but at least I could drive something. Five weeks without any racing would have been much worse.

Pace was definitely there?

Yes, I was 9th, 10th and 21st in qualification but gaps were very narrow and this is a track where it is almost impossible to overtake. I made a good start in race 1 but then on the second lap when I started to think about overtaking for P6 the car simply broke down. Second race I kept tenth at the start but then several cars were dive-bombing into the hairpin and I let them by to avoid collision. I needed a finish and there was no point to push like a hell. But car was OK, my speed was good and Top 10 was definitely on the cards. But it is extremely hard to follow other cars with so aero-dependent car like F3. You are half a second back and you already lose front downforce and car starts to understeer. When I got one free lap, I instantly clocked the best time in sector 2 and fifth best lap-time.

Then I got penalized and eventually retired due to the collision.

You were penalized during Q2 as well?

Yes, two laps were deleted, otherwise I could have been in Top 10 once more. It was all about turn 1. They used to have gravel trap there but it was replaced with asphalted run-off area a few years ago. Everybody is on the limit in this turn and it is very easy to cross the white line with all four wheels. Almost everybody got warning during race two but unfortunately I was spotted crossing the line twice and had to drive through the pit-lane.

This penalty indirectly led to a collision with Félix Serrallés where he totally lost his temper and was excluded as a result. It was rather spectacular on TV but what we didn’t see was the beginning.

I got penalized as did Serrallés. He served his drive-through one lap later than me and exited the pits just in front of me. It was the same sequence we drove before our penalties. I got a good run on him into Turn 2 but he closed the door and I had to brake hard in order not to hit him. But then I got absolutely perfect slipstream exiting turn 3. It was so good I simply glided past him and started to veer to the right in order to retake the ideal racing line. It is a usual way racing driver behave when overtaking somebody, I have done it tens of times and always the other guy has given a way, nothing has happened. But Serrallés kept his line and collided with my right-rear wheel.

And your rear suspension was broken immediately?

Yes. But it was a fortunate clash because my car continued to move in straight line. It could have been much worse if the car had started rotating, speed is quite high in this place.

You retired at the next turn but Serrallés still hit you.

I went onto the outside run-off area in the hairpin and had no idea about where Serrallés was. I only noticed him when his car was next to my one. Next instant he simply drove into me.

You both had to visit stewards after the race but did you had a fear of punishment for the initial collision?

No, because I was so much in front of him already. He hit my rear wheel, it was not my fault but his.

In race three you finally reached the flag.

Yeah, we started behind the safety car because of the bad visibility. It was really bad. Once I drove one meter behind another car and still couldn’t see his rear light. On another occasion I missed a rear wing of other car by maybe five centimeters. We even couldn’t see our braking points. It was like I started braking and then when visibility improved for a moment, realized that I had done it 100 meters too early. So there was no point to drive like a crazy. Of course under those conditions you can climb a lot when taking risks but you can also have a crash. And I needed a finish.

 

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