F3 Euro Series, Rd.2, Mugello: Flying Bird pays heavy price for qualifying
Another new track, another good practice session, but another qualifying setback beset Sam in his second round of F3 Euro Series at Mugello.
On arrival at the picturesque Tuscan circuit, the rain was falling heavily. In the first day's practice the BP Ultimate Driver was quickest in the rain and 7th overall, and feeling positive that he could improve from there. However, Friday dawned bright and sunny and by the time the cars went out to qualify the track was extremely hot, and the changes made to the car affected the handling adversely.
On track, and with fresh tyres, Sam was ready for “the one” – the lap that would determine his whole weekend. Flying past the pit exit, another car swerved onto the track, spoiling the lap, and, as it proved, the weekend! Sam was 17th on the grid for race one. "it was good of Stefano to come over to say sorry although the incident has given me a mountain to climb yet again this weekend".
A grid-staller just in front of Sam saw him lose a couple of places when the lights turned green, and from there it was an uphill battle all the way to the flag. Sam fought bravely, and treated the Mugello crowd to some great overtaking manoeuvres to finish a creditable (in the circumstances) 14th. “I’m very disappointed” the MSA Race Elite Driver commented “we didn't really get the car right for this race so I had to fight it all the way to make some progress up the field. I'm very disappointed. From 14th it will be a huge challenge to get into the points, but my main aim is to make a good start and move upwards throughout the race – we’ll have to wait and see how it pans out tomorrow”
Sunday’s race was again in good weather conditions and as the red lights went out, Sam made one of his trademark starts, catapulting him into 11th place immediately. From there, he gained on the leading pack and progressed to 8th courtesy of some great moves on Franck Mailleux and Dani Clos successively. A good battle with team mate Tsukakoshi ensued, with Sam attempting several overtaking monoeuvres, but eventually having to settle for 8th. Sam was the third fastest man of the race despite rarely having any clear air ahead of him. One can only reflect on what the CJ Motorsport managed driver might have achieved had he started further forward on the grid.
"This time the car was spot on and I would like to thank my engineer Adrian and the whole team for all the hard work this weekend" said Sam. “It was a challenging and disappointing weekend. The positive I can take away from this is that I have proven that my pace is amongst the very best and is good enough for podiums and wins. Having said that, I am paying a heavy price for very bad qualifying results, and although there are good reasons for that, it's the same for everyone. We must and we will get that right!"