Asian F3: Jamie Chadwick wins second race, gets post-race penalty
The inaugural W-Series champion crossed the line in first to take her maiden Asian F3 victory in Abu Dhabi, but was later handed a penalty for a starting infringement.
The second round of the 2020 Asian F3 Championship started in the most promising way when SevenGP's Tatiana Calderon topped the timesheets in Thursday's practice, leading Jack Doohan by 0.041 seconds.
Coming from a mixed weekend in Dubai, Jamie Chadwick failed to qualify higher than 8th for the first race, while Calderon was right behind the British colleague. Reigning champion and guest starter Ukyo Sasahara claimed pole position, ahead of current series leader Joey Alders.
Sasahara, who experienced troubles at the race starts last round in Dubai, sprinted away cleanly as the lights went out and immediately checked out from the group. Behind him, Russian F2 racer Nikita Mazepin moved up from 6th to 4th at the expenses of Pietro Fittipaldi and Sebastian Fernandez, as the Spaniard was back to Asian F3 after a very positive debut weekend in Dubai.
In the midfield, action was intense: Calderon and Chadwick found themselves respectively in tenth and eleventh place in the hectic first laps, but gaps remained minimal and all drivers battled for positions. In these exciting stages, Mick Doohan dived on the inside of Alders but had to take to the run-off to gain the position. The Australian, aware of having to give the position back to his opponent, was forced to give up several more places in the process, as Mazepin and Fittipaldi were quick to take advantage from the situation.
With the Japanese leader never under real threat, the top five broke away from the rest of the field: Mazepin found a way past Alders for second on lap 9, as the Dutchman ran wide and ended up in P5. One lap later, it was Doohan that made a few positions back, finally overtaking Fittipaldi for third.
The positions settled towards the final stages of the race, with Mazepin steadily gaining on Sasahara but ultimately running out of time to really be a concern to the Hitech teammate.
At the chequered flag, it was a 1-2 for the British squad, led by 23-year old Ukyo Sasahara. But it was Mazepin to convert his second place finish into the full 25 points, given the guest starter status of his teammate.
Doohan was third, ahead of Fittipaldi and Alders, while birthday-boy Devlin DeFrancesco was a positive 6th. Tatiana Calderon and Jamie Chadwick were 8th and 9th on the line, in yet another top-10 for both of the ladies on the grid. But the best news for Chadwick was her 2:07.324 fastest lap, signed on the third lap of the race, which crucially earned her the pole position start for the second race of the weekend.
Masters category victory went to Khaled Al Qubaisi, the father of upcoming talents Amna and Hamda Al Qubaisi. 44-year old Khaled, an experienced GT racer and winner of the last edition of the Dubai 24H, made this weekend his formula debut, claiming class victory and 13th place overall.
Williams F1 development driver Jamie Chadwick had a good launch off the line, but front row fellow starter Jack Doohan managed to get alongside her and, using the run-off area on the outside of turn 1, he moved into the lead. Soon enough, the Pinnacle Motorsport driver was forced to give the position back to Chadwick, just as the Safety Car was deployed for a contact between Tommy Smith and Tatiana Calderon.
The 17-year old Australian crashed into the back of the Colombian's car and both retired. Incredibly, race stawards later handed a 5-places grid drop penalty to Calderon, questionably blamed for the incident.
After the switch for the lead had taken place under the Safety Car, Jamie Chadwick resumed the race with a clear view ahead, in front of Doohan, Sasahara and Alders. More battles erupted behind: DeFrancesco and Fernandez started their race-long fight, while Dubai race-winner Kanamaru got by Fittipaldi for seventh.
On lap 7, Alders overtook Sasahara for third, but a couple of laps later, it turned into a second place move as Jack Doohan slowed down and ultimately retired with a technical problem.
In the final stages of the race, Jamie Chadwick extended her gap by over four seconds and crossed the line to take her first Asian F3 victory. Alders was second, with Sasahara completing the podium. Another strong result from Chadwick's teammate DeFrancesco put the Canadian in fourth.
"Obviously it's great to be here at the top of the podium." - said Jamie after the race.
"I think starting on pole, with the tight strategy we had going into this weekend, we knew it was maximizing one race as opposed to trying to get things on point throughout the whole weekend. Fortunately, by starting on pole we did half the job; it wasn't all plain sailing, but after the Safety Car we just got our heads down and consolidated the lead."
There was heartbreak a couple hours after the race though, as the inaugural W-Series champion was hit by a 20 seconds penalty and demoted to 8th for a starting infringement. Onboard images from the #15 Absolute Racing car show a millimetrical movement by Chadwick just before the lights went out: a mistake that costed Chadwick a very high price.
"Ah gutted!! Won lights to flag today but sadly a post race penalty for moving slightly on the grid takes it away from us. Still an unreal job by the Absolute Racing guys! Time to make amends in Race 3 this afternoon." - Chadwick tweeted after losing the historic win.
The Brit once again posted the fastest lap of the race, with a 2:07.873 on lap 8, while Joey Alders inherited the win from the non-scoring Ukyo Sasahara and Devlin DeFrancesco.
Third race pole sitter Sebastian Fernandez had a good getaway, leading Jack Doohan and Nikita Mazepin into turn one. Jamie Chadwick lined up in 7th, one row ahead of Tatiana Calderon in ninth. Both the ladies endured a difficult start and dropped a couple of places, before the Safety Car was immediately called out for the BlackArts Racing car of Yu Kanamaru, who spun and crashed into the barriers.
The race resumed on lap 5, with Fernandez managing to stay ahead of the field. When the Spanish driver started to pull away, a second Safety Car was deployed, following a displaced bollard on the circuit.
Three laps later, Fernandez controlled again his competitors and resumed his pursuit to his maiden Asian F3 victory. The third race of the Abu Dhabi weekend went on relatively uneventful until lap 13, when Fernandez finally crossed the finish line in first, claiming victory ahead of Jack Doohan and Nikita Mazepin.
Sasahara led Fittipaldi and Alders, while Chadwick and Calderon were P9 and P10 at the chequered flag.
It was an impressive formula debut for Khaled Al Qubaisi, who clinched three class victories in the Masters category: the Emirati driver had a busier third race as, having to take evasive action following the spin of Alessio Deledda, he temporarily lost the class leadership over Paul Wong. But, as the driver from Hong Kong was struggling for grip, Al Qubaisi reclaimed his P13 and went on to win the gentlemen driver's trophy.
“It was a bit boring weekend." - said a disappointed Calderon. "We had a very good pace in practice, but there was a one second difference from one set of tyres and the other."
"Then, in the second race I was penalized when another driver hit me from behind, something a little inexplicable, which resulted in a 5 places penalty on the starting grid of race 3, where I was to start 4th. Overtaking was very difficult, so almost all the races were about following each other. The good thing is that we have speed. We just couldn't capitalize it in the races. Now the focus is on the 24 Hours of Daytona next weekend.”
Tatiana Calderon will in fact head to Florida, as she will make her GT endurance debut next weekend in the Rolex 24H of Daytona in the all-female GEAR Racing by Grasser team, alongside Katherine Legge, Christina Nielsen and Rahel Frey.
Asian F3 Championship will be back for its penultimate round in Sepang, Malaysia, on 14th-15th February. Chadwick currently sits 9th in the championship standings, while Calderon is eleventh.
In Jamies's words:
"Ah gutted!! Won lights to flag today but sadly a post race penalty for moving slightly on the grid takes it away from us. Still an unreal job by the Absolute Racing guys!"
Ph Credits: F3 Asian