The notoriously changeable weather conditions at Spa-Francorchanps also played an important role in FIA Fórmula 3 European Championship qualifying: in the first qualifying session on a dry track, Esteban Ocon, (Prema Powerteam) was fastest from Max Verstappen, (Van Amersfoort Racing). Just before second qualifying, rain set in and the session at the 7.004 kilometres long track turned into a thrilling affair. Eventually, Gustavo Menezes, (Van Amersfoort Racing) put everything on one card and claimed his maiden FIA Fórmula 3 European Championship pole position. Max Verstappen joined him on the front row to complete the clean sweep for Van Amersfoort drivers. In the ranking of the second-fastest laps, Esteban Ocon came out on top again, followed by John Bryant-Meisner, (Fortec Motorsports), who scored his best FIA Fórmula 3 European Championship qualifying result to date.
Starting grid race 1:
In first qualifying, early on Friday afternoon, Max Verstappen, (2:10s110) initially was on top, but Esteban Ocon, (2:10s049) outpaced him with five minutes remaining. Ocon’s fastest time remained unbeaten until the end of the 20 minutes’ session, so that the 17-year-old Lotus F1 Junior driver scored his eighth pole position of the season. Max Verstappen, who had dominated free practice earlier on, had to make do with second place. Antonio Fuoco, (Prema Powerteam, 2:10s225) and Lucas Auer, (Mücke Motorsport, 2:10s340) qualified on the second grid row for the first race of the weekend, followed by Gustavo Menezes, (2:10s572) and Tom Blomqvist, (Jagonya Ayam with Carlin, 2:10s601), who is second in the drivers’ standings.
Starting grid race 2:
In second qualifying, delayed by a few minutes due to rain setting in, the drivers initially had to deal with a wet track. As the track dried out more and more, the battle for pole position remained thrilling until the final seconds. Eventually, Gustavo Menezes, (2:25s458) emerged as the fastest driver and claimed his first-ever FIA Fórmula 3 European Championship pole position. The American was 1s158 seconds faster than his team-mate Max Verstappen, (2:26s616). Thus, two drivers of Dutch team, Van Amersfoort Racing, are locking out the front row of the grid for the first time in FIA Fórmula 3 European Championship history. Esteban Ocon, (2:27s380) was classified third from John Bryant-Meisner, (2:27s647), Felix Serralles, (Team West-Tec F3, 2:27s767) and Alexander Toril, (ThreeBond with T Sport, 2:28s456). For Spanish driver Toril, sixth place was his best qualifying result of the season to date.
Starting grid race 3:
In the ranking of the second-fastest lap times, used to determine the starting grid positions for the third race, Esteban Ocon, (2:27s897) came out on top. John Bryant-Meisner, (2:28s320) ended up second, allowing him to start from the front row of an FIA Formula 3 European Championship race for the first time in his career. Felix Serralles, (2:28s404) claimed third place from Felipe Guimarães, (Double R Racing, 2:29s038), who never scored a better result in an FIA Fórmula 3 European Championship qualifying session. Max Verstappen (2:29s562) and Gustavo Menezes, (2:29s710) followed in fifth and sixth place, just ahead of seventh-placed Tatiana Calderón, (Jo Zeller Racing, 2:30s495). The only lady racer in the field scored her first-ever top ten qualifying result at the demanding track in the Ardennes.
Esteban Ocon, (Prema Powerteam): “First of all, I am happy with pole position in first qualifying. In the second session, I started with slicks, but I changed to rain tyres during the interruption and I used them until the end. In my final lap, I almost got pole position for the second race, but three cars got in my way. In the ranking of the second-fastest lap, I am on top again, which means I am on pole for the third race as well”.
Gustavo Menezes, (Van Amersfoort Racing): “This qualifying was very intense for me. Although it was raining and nearly everyone was driving with rain tyres, I initially wanted to stay out on slicks. I only changed to rain tyres towards the end, because it was too wet for slicks. Only then, I was able to move up to the front and on my final lap, I risked everything. I think we are in good shape and so far, we were consistently among the front-runners. Now, a podium finish is my goal, preferably in the middle”.
Photos: FIA 3 Euro Series