Season 2003 Results and News
Race No. 1, Report Qualifying Round 1
Pole Position Round 1 2003
Jamie Green/GBR
1:04,167 Min. 109,81 mph / 176,723 km/h
Date: 03. April 2004
Track: Donington (1,9573 miles / 3,149 km)
2004 Avon Tyres British Formula Three Championship - Round 1,
Donington Park, Leicestershire, April 3rd/4th
© Stella-Maria Thomas and Lynne Waite

For the first meeting of the new season, the British Formula Three paddock was not a happy place. The reasons were numerous, starting with the new organizers who had been late with the regulations (a draft copy was still being circulated on the Tuesday before), but who had also committed the cardinal sin of introducing new caterers to the mix, which had resulted in lunch metamorphosing from a plate of pasta, salads and cold meats and fish at a very reasonable £7.50 per person into what appeared to be the £33.00 sandwich. There were a lot of very unhappy people when this became apparent, and they were even less happy when they realized they couldn't even go and sit somewhere and have a cup of coffee anymore. There was swearing, a petition, and people queuing up to bend FOTA man Jeremy Lord's ear…
In addition, and perhaps ultimately more seriously, the field was looking decidedly reduced on last year. With many drivers decamping to the Euro F3 series instead, we were missing Manor Motorsport (they'd gone with Lewis Hamilton and his Mercedes money and will only be doing a handful of British rounds this season), and no one was missing Team SYR, but they certainly weren't around, having fallen victim to the financial situation in Malaysia. Additionally, Alan Docking Racing only had one Championship Class runner (Alex Lloyd was let down by his sponsors with less than a month to go), as did Promatecme (and that's the Lola-Dome), while Carlin only had 3 drivers, which meant there was a car standing alone and unwanted under a blue cover. If the championship winners for the last two years can't fill all their cars, then things have come to a sorry pass. However, even if the numbers were not high, the quality certainly was, with Nelson A Piquet (as he now seems to want to be called) returning for a second shot at the title, Adam Carroll slotting in at P1 alongside Ernesto Viso, and a brace of South Americans upping the numbers. Even with everyone except Piquet complaining of lack of budget, we still had 22 racing drivers and a Bollywood Superstar (Ajit Kumar) taking part in this race. It was somewhat colourful out there too; there were a lot of red cars though Piquet's car was not among them. It had been painted in a shade best described as lilac, and the young man wasn't too happy about it. "My girlfriend is going to drive it!" was his response when challenged about the less than macho colour scheme. Not only that but it clashed hideously with Kumar's Mango Racing entry, which was - you guessed it - orange.
Anyway, after much moaning and complaining, things finally got underway in freezing cold conditions, although it was at least dry and sunny.
Whether Piquet was embarrassed by the colour of his Dallara or not, he wasn't in any rush to get out there, and almost everyone else had taken to the track by the time he nosed his way out of the pit lane. An enthusiastic early starter was Danny Watts (Promatecme F3) in the carbon-coloured Lola-Dome. He'd been very much on the pace during testing, and was keen to put his experience to the test. An early pole sitter was Will Power (Alan Docking Racing) but he didn't look likely to hold it. For one thing Piquet wasn't going to let anyone take the place he believed was his without one hell of a fight. He might have reckoned without Alvaro Parente (Carlin Motorsport), however, the Portuguese showing pace early in the session too. He was certainly looking very quick for a man who hadn't seen Donington before. Of the other rookies, Danilo Dirani (Carlin Motorsport) looked alarmingly wild, at least in the early stages. And while Adam Langley-Khan (Alan Docking Racing) set the Scholarship Class pace to begin with, at the front Carroll showed exactly why he is so hotly tipped to take this series from Piquet, grabbing pole. While Carroll and Piquet slugged it out for the top slot but then failed to notice that Watts had snuck in there while they were otherwise occupied. Just to add insult to injury, Piquet was demoted further by Clivio Piccione in the final Carlin Motorsport car and Parente. And he had Viso snapping at his heels. This was not in the plan at all. Just behind the five of them, Karun Chandhok (T-Sport) was busy trying to get to grips with his and the team's transfer to the senior category. It was proving difficult.
The dream of a Lola pole was illusory though; it couldn't last. And it didn't. Carroll was increasing the pace, and soon got the better of Watts, and Viso followed almost immediately in the Irishman's wheel tracks. Power, meanwhile, slid further down the order with each lap, and was now in a distant and somewhat dispirited looking 16th. The current Scholarship Class front-runner, Ryan Lewis (T-Sport), had a very grassy moment, but it didn't spoil his pole winning time, and he would stay at the top for the rest of the session. The Championship Class, on the other hand, was nowhere near decided. Piquet promptly grabbed pole back from Carroll and Viso, only to have Carroll take it back again. If Piquet wanted this, he was going to have to work it. Every time he edged ahead, Carroll took the fight straight back to him. It shouldn't have been a surprise to anyone. James Rossiter (Fortec Motorsport), on the other hand, was something of a shock, with an attacking effort that shot him up the order to 8th. It was far better than Watts could now manage, as he was fighting Will Davison (Menu Motorsport) for 13th, neither of them too happy with matters. As it turned out, the Lola was damaged, but the Menu car should really have been far quicker. And it's not as if either driver could afford to be slow, Davison literally selling the shirt off his back (and anyone else's he can lay his hands on for that matter) in an effort to raise the money needed to keep racing this year.
Things were going so smoothly, you just knew it couldn't last. And with a little over half of the session left, the red flags were wheeled out when an unknown culprit had a spin. He got going again but the marshals were a trifle trigger-happy and they flagged it. The order when everyone came to a halt in the pits was Carroll, Piquet, Piccione, Viso, Parente, Dirani, Stephen Thompson (Hitech Racing), Chandhok, Marko Asmer (Hitech) and Rossiter. Davison was 11th, just ahead of teammate Fairuz Fauzy, with Watts in 13th. In 14th was Lucas di Grassi (Hitech), just ahead of Lewis, Stephen Jelley (Performance Racing), Power, Langley-Khan, Barton Mawer (Performance), Ronayne O'Mahony (Fortec), Vasilije Calasan (Promatecme) and bringing up the rear, Kumar.
There was a general move for new tyres, unless you were in a Carlin car. It didn't seem to make a huge amount of difference to begin with, though Watts was able to haul the reluctant Lola up to 8th once he'd got his Avons warmed up properly. Thompson was giving it his all, but was not getting anywhere, while Power was improving but not by much. There was a feeling that improvements were going to be hard to come by. It didn't stop Piquet from pressing on, but Carroll was also going for it, as was Viso. Finally, Carroll cracked the 1 minute 2 second bracket, only to come up against a rash of yellows, which meant he had to ease off. Just before that, Watts clawed his way up to 7th, as Piquet rattled around with the engine sounding utterly dreadful - but it often did last year and it didn't seem to slow him down any. Parente was also looking pretty impressive too, if nervous and cold! While Carroll continued to lap in the 1 minute 2 second range, Davison hit the top 6. The only question was could he hang on to it. The answer was no. With Carroll, Viso, Piquet and Rossiter occupying the front two rows, Parente slotted in to 5th from Piccione, Watts, Davison and Thompson. Changes were finally coming… they'd just taken a long time to get here.
Viso's challenge had now evaporated, and he lost out to Piquet, but that seemed to be the end of it. Carroll had pole, to the tearful delight of his mother Lynda, while Piquet would settle for second on the grid. They both pulled in to the pits before the flag, their tyres shot. And that should have been that, except nobody told Parente this isn't his fight. In the closing seconds, as Carroll was being congratulated and interviewed by the commentary team, Parente pulled a blinder of a lap from the bag, squeezing Piquet out at the very last minute. Sunday's race looked like being very interesting indeed.



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