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Sacha Fenestraz had a frustrating weekend at Misano, which hosted the seventh round of the FIA Formula 3 European Championship. Despite his speed the Renault Sport Academy driver came away with only four points to show for his efforts, but he remains a serious contender for the rookies’ title.

THE WEEK-END ROUND UP

Friday

Fenestraz took full advantage of free practice to find his marks on the Misano circuit, which he had discovered in pre-season testing. The Carlin driver gradually upped the pace in the two sessions and broke into the top 10 in the first one and improved his best time in number two.

The first qualifying session took place in the early evening. It was a very hotly-contested one in which every tenth-of-a-second gained could mean a place several rows further up the grid. The Franco-Argentinean kept a low profile on his first set of new tyres, but he went for broke on his final flying lap snatching 10th place only three-tenths-of-a-second slower than pole position.

Saturday

He was in 10th place at the start of race one and fought off the attacks of his pursuers in the first corner. Although Alex Palou got past him second time round he didn’t give up and put pressure on Jonathan Aberdein. Unfortunately, he was unable to find a way past and the reigning Formula Renault Eurocup champion finished just shy of the points, but in fifth place in the rookie classification.

The sweltering heat ended in a storm just before the second qualifying session. In very gloomy, tricky conditions Sacha found his marks on a track that improved lap after lap. The FFSA Equipe de France driver’s constant improvements didn’t translate into progress up the time sheets as 13 of his rivals exceeded the track limits in several corners. Although they were penalised he didn’t benefit – somewhat surprisingly – and he ended up on the seventh row for race 2 and on the sixth for the third heat.

Sunday

Despite a threatening sky and a track that was damp in places Sacha started on slick tyres like most of the field. The Renault Sport Academy driver managed to avoid the many traps and quickly fought his way up into the top 10 passing three drivers third time round! As he reeled off the laps he tried to progress up the time sheets, but his rivals suddenly found some extra pace as conditions got better. Although he came under attack from Fabio Scherer, he kept a cool head and pocketed the points that went with eighth place and came home with a rookie podium.

In the evening it started to rain again and the start was given behind the safety car. The race was interrupted then restarted behind the safety car and when the field was finally unleashed 10 minutes had already elapsed and with them many opportunities for Fenestraz to make the difference. While he quickly moved up a place he made a small mistake on lap nine that cost him a position. He looked well placed to gain a place after another neutralisation until he was disturbed by a collision that upset his rhythm. He saw the flag in 12th place while clinching eight points in the rookie classification.

SACHA’S SUMMARY

“Overall, it was a pretty tough weekend. After my podium finishes at Silverstone I was hoping to continue in the same vein and I had prepared really well for this event on a circuit that neither myself nor my team knew very well. I could have done better in practice and I made a big step forward in Q1. Unfortunately, our car had a problem on the entry to corners that led to the rear tyres overheating and a drop in speed halfway through the race. We’ll have to analyse the data to settle this issue, which has prevented us from making the most of our potential since the start of the season. Then I felt a bit miffed in Q2. I was one of the few drivers to respect the track limits while others gained six or seven tenths in certain corners. If the regulations had been applied to the letter I think I could have started in the top five. Despite that I made good starts until my tyres began to go off very badly as soon as conditions improved. When following Jehan in the last race I saw that he suffered the same problems as I did with his rear tyres. We now have to regroup and sort out this problem as quickly as possible.”

RESULTS

Free practice 1: 10th – 1m 29.871sec
Free practice 2: 17th – 1m 29.599sec
Qualifying 1: 10th – 1m 28.254sec
Grid position Race 1: 10th
Race 1: 11th
Qualifying 2: 14th – 1m 48.256sec
Grid position Race 2: 14th
Race 2: 8th
Qualifying 3: 12th – 1m 48.260sec
Grid position Race 3: 12th
Race 3: 12th

Drivers Championship

1. Ticktum – 222 points
2. Vips – 210 points
3. Armstrong – 190 points
4. Schumacher – 186 points
11. Fenestraz – 107 points

Rookies Championship

1. Vips – 317 points
2. Shvartzman – 280.5 points
3. Armstrong – 252 points
4. Ahmed – 244.5 points
5. Fenestraz – 224 points

Because of the DTM night races the whole FIA Formula 3 European Championship programme was re-arranged so it began in the afternoon and finished in the evening. This timetable obliged the drivers to adapt in certain domains like food and preparation. But radically different to what they’ll meet in the Macao Grand Prix as you’ll find out in Macao on sale on 2nd November!