On the opening weekend of the 2009 F3 Euro Series in Hockenheim, Sam has established himself as the driver with the pace and, undoubtedly, one of the men to beat for the Championship Title.
As early as Friday morning, the Celebfilms.co.uk sponsored driver stated his intent by setting the third fastest lap of the pre-event test. He then went two better during the afternoon’s free practice session by clocking the fastest lap in a time of 1:36.328. However, there would be much more to come…
Saturday morning’s qualifying session was turning out to be a close affair with Sam and the other main contenders taking turns at the top of the table. With less than three minutes left and lying in third place, Sam set a personal best in sector 1 and an absolute best (purple) in sector 2 before seeing his efforts thwarted by a slower car in the final sector. With only seconds left on the clock, the young Brit would have one last chance at pole as he began his final lap. A personal best in sector 1, another purple in sector 2 and a yet another personal best in sector 3, gave Sam the first pole position of the 2009 season, with a time of 1:33.657, which would not be matched all weekend.
Sam’s opening race would play itself out in the first few metres as a below-par start enabled Colletti and Mehri to edge ahead. Visibly faster than the two men ahead of him, Sam would spend the remainder of the race attempting to regain his starting position but on a track with notoriously few overtaking opportunities, he had to settle for third.
Starting 6th on the grid for race 2, by virtue of the reverse grid format, he made an excellent start this time, but just as he pulled up alongside Frenchman Jules Bianchi to take over fourth place, the ART driver squeezed him perilously close to the inside wall, forcing him to lift on the approach to turn 1, losing him crucial momentum, and relegating him to 7th place. Once again, Sam then showed unrivalled pace throughout the remainder of the race as he harrowed the man in front of him but overtaking opportunities were few and far between.
In the penultimate lap, an impressive three-stage attack beginning at the Spitskehre hairpin saw Sam regain 6th place from Atte Mustonen by the exit of turn 5, for the crucial last point on offer.
“Overall that was a decent start to the season for me with pole, a podium and points in both races” said the CJ Motorsport managed driver at the end of the weekend. “I’m obviously disappointed that I didn’t win the race 1 because we really had the pace to do so, but that was down to my start which wasn’t the best.”
“I want to say a big thank you to my engineer Jörn Becker and the whole team at Mücke Motorsport for the awesome job they did all weekend. I come away from Hockenheim with the knowledge that I now have a car with which I can really compete so I can’t wait for the next round!”
Rounds 3 and 4 of the 2009 F3 Euro Series take place at the Euro Speedway, Laustitzring on 30th-31st May. Sam currently stands in 3rd place of the Championship with 8 points.