Lady Luck didn’t smile on Sacha Fenestraz in qualifying and he had to pull out all the stops in the fifth round of the FIA Formula 3 European Championship. On a circuit where it is difficult to recover, the Renault Sport driver put on an eye-catching performance marked by spectacular overtaking moves that helped him score points in the rookie classification in all three of the weekend’s races.
THE WEEK-END ROUND UP
Fenestraz got his weekend off to a perfect start in brilliant sunshine by setting the fastest time in the first free practice session. The Franco-Argentinean confirmed his encouraging debut by posting the fifth-quickest lap in the second one despite a spin in the closing minutes.
Sacha was feeling very confident before Q1 and he and his team-mates took to the track later than their rivals as their aim was to use only a single set of tyres in this session. But the other drivers shod two and rejoined the track just as the Carlin drivers were on their flying laps. The strategy didn’t pay off and Fenestraz had to make do with a place on the ninth row.
He then had to cope with stressful conditions in Q2 including two red flags, a driver who scattered gravel all over the track at the chicane, traffic and tyres that overheated very quickly. Sacha gave his all, but despite his best efforts he ended up in 18th place on the grid for race 2, and 22nd for race 3 on Sunday.
Sacha’s motivation was still intact when the lights went out and on a circuit where overtaking is always difficult, he gained a place with a daring move on the inside in the first corner, which helped him score a point in the rookie classification at the end of what turned into a processional race.
In the afternoon, the FFSA Equipe de France driver really went for it. He avoided an accident at the start and gave a scintillating display of his offensive skills by taking advantage of the slightest opportunity, including those on the outside of the famous Tarzan corner, to claw his way up to 12th place at the flag, just outside the top 10.
The final heat of the weekend set Sacha a big challenge. He was on the 11th row at the start and gained a place before the first deployment of the safety car. When the race restarted he continued his fightback and sliced past three more cars. The race was neutralised and then stopped for good to have a car removed from a gravel trap. Thus, the reigning Formula Renault champion had to make do with another point in the rookie category.
“I tackled this weekend with a different approach and free practice confirmed to me that it was the right one. Unfortunately, the strategy anticipated by our engineers in Q1 didn’t really pay off and our tyres overheated in both sessions. At Zandvoort, the final result mostly depends on qualifying. Overtaking is extremely problematic on this circuit on which quick curves follow one another and you lose a lot of downforce when following another car closely. The first corner really provides the only opportunity and I took as much advantage of it as I could in the three races, even if the final one was a bit of a farce due to the long neutralisation. Nonetheless, I’ve come away from the weekend with several positives. In particular, I managed to avoid getting bogged down in the midfield and the car was really perfect in the second race. I was able to push hard from start to finish without running into tyre problems. Now, we’ve got to buckle down to work and learn from our mistakes so that we’ll be back on top at Spa-Francorchamps.”
Free practice 1: 1st – 1m29.455sec
Free practice 2: 5th – 1m29.413sec
Qualifying 1: 18th – 1m29.948sec
Grid position race 1: 18th
Race 1: 17th
Qualifying 2: 18th – 1m29.997sec
Grid position race 2: 18th
Race 2: 12th
Qualifying 3: 22nd – 1m31.255sec
Grid position race 3: 22nd
Race 3: 18th
1. Armstrong – 131 points
2. Zhou – 130 points
3. Ahmed – 126.5 points
4. Ticktum – 118 points
11. Fenestraz – 55 points
1. Armstrong – 167 points
2. Vips – 154 points
3. Ahmed – 142.5 points
4. Shvartzman – 138.5 points
5. Fenestraz – 114 points