This weekend was the halfway mark in the FIA Formula 3 European Championship at the Spa-Francorchamps circuit. Despite showing real pace the Renault Sport Academy driver had to work hard again and multiply overtaking manoeuvres to get back in the points.
THE WEEK-END ROUND UP
For once the weekend kicked off on Thursday morning. In blazing sunlight Fenestraz quickly found his marks and set the second-quickest time in the first free practice session. In the second one he went even quicker consolidating his place in the leading trio.
At midday, the temperature was 36°C for the first qualifying session. On a track that was very hot and causing tyre problems, the Equipe de France FFSA driver tried to find some slipstreaming to help him gain precious tenths-of-a-second, unfortunately without success, and he ended the session in 12th place.
Later on in the day conditions had undergone a radical change as a storm had lowered the temperature before Q2. With the agreement of his engineer Fenestraz decided to go it alone. While he was able to match the pace of his team-mate, Daruvala, in the twisty sections, his lack of top speed condemned him to a place on the eighth row on the grid for races 2 and 3.
Sacha was twelfth on the grid for the start of the first race. He knew that points were within his grasp and opted for four new tyres to maximise his chances. Despite a good start he was the victim of a puncture after contact at La Source and had to pit to have all four tyres changed. He then went pedal to the metal to catch the field before the safety car pulled off. When the latter went in he gained two places, but made a mistake that dropped him back to last again. But he didn’t give up and ended up 11th.
In the afternoon, the Renault Sport Academy driver put in a blindingly quick first lap slicing his way up through the pack from 16th to eighth place. He then kept a cool head in what was a pretty hectic midfield battle while avoiding all the traps of the Spa-Francorchamps circuit. He was in the running for sixth place in the closing stages of the race and took the chequered flag in seventh place, less than a tenth-of-a-second behind the driver in front of him.
The third and last race took place on a track that was still damp in places although the line was dry and all the drivers started on slicks. Visibility was poor due to the spray and he could only pull back one place at the start. He then had to fight his corner in the pack in which every driver took advantage of his rivals to gain places each time round. On his 19th birthday Fenestraz came home 15th, good enough to give him his third finish in the points in the Rookie classification this weekend.
“I’d have preferred to celebrate my birthday in better style, but we learned a lot this weekend. We have to redouble our efforts to find out why I’m unable to reproduce my practice performances in qualifying. Although the track was very hot in Q1 I should have adapted to the conditions better. In Q2 I decided to go out alone without any slipstreaming. We lost a lot on the straight and I accept responsibility for this decision taken in agreement with my engineer. Our choice to shod new tyres for the first race was compromised when my team-mate was tagged by Ticktum. We couldn’t avoid making contact and the result was a puncture on my right-hand rear tyre. After that I think the fact that I pushed as soon as I left the pits overheated the rubber; and I made a mistake and locked up the rear wheels when I tried to pass another car. On Saturday, we didn’t have much grip and the rear of the car was very twitchy. I wasn’t the only driver in the team to suffer this problem and we all lost points. On the other hand, the car felt really great in the second race. I had a few opportunities to finish even higher up the time sheets, but I preferred to score some points rather than leave empty-handed.”
Free practice 1: 2nd – 2m11.236sec
Free practice 2: 3rd – 2m11.957sec
Qualifying 1: 12th – 2m13.842sec
Grid position Race 1: 12th
Race 1: 11th
Qualifying 2: 16th – 2m12.514sec
Grid position Race 2: 16th
Race 2: 7th
Qualifying 3: 15th – 2.12.557sec
Grid position Race 3: 15th
Race 3: 15th
1. Armstrong – 154 points
2. Ticktum – 153 points
3. Aron – 141.5 points
4. Zhou – 130 points
11. Fenestraz – 61 points
1. Shvartzman – 206.5 points
2. Armstrong – 197 points
3. Vips – 187 points
4. Ahmed – 169.5 points
5. Fenestraz – 138 points