Asian F3: more points for Chadwick and Calderon in Dubai
Under changing conditions, F3 Asian made its Middle-East debut in Dubai, where top racers Jamie Chadwick and Tatiana Calderon launched their 2020 racing schedules with points-scoring positions.
The 2020 racing season of two of the highest profiles female drivers kicked-off in Dubai this weekend, with Asian F3 making its Middle-East debut as a support event of the winter classic Dubai 24 Hours.
Jamie Chadwick and Tatiana Calderon both headed to the Emirates after announcing important details on their 2020 programs: Chadwick was confirmed as part of the ROKiT Williams F1 team junior team, while Calderon revealed a surprise switch to Japanese-based Super Formula with ThreeBond DragoCORSE.
Following a mixed weekend in the opening round at Sepang, Chadwick came into Dubai targeting more points in her second F3 Asian appearance. Calderon, who scored a very encouraging P4 in Malaysia, was on the hunt for more speed in Dubai.
Reigning Asian F3 champion Ukyo Sasahara qualified on pole for the opening race and shared the front row with Hitech teammate and F2 racer Nikita Mazepin. Sasahara, as per FIA Superlicence regulations, won't be allowed to score points after winning last year's title and will thus take part in the series as a guest driver.
Jamie Chadwick and Tatiana Calderon lined up in 10th and 15th place respectively.
As the lights went out, Sasahara had a good start, while it was a slow getaway from Mazepin.
Yu Kuai made slight contact and went into the run-off during the opening lap, with Chadwick making up some positions and completing the first lap in 8th. Fittipaldi, on the other hand, dropped from 5th to 7th, as Calderon advanced to P14.
Series newcomer Sebastian Fernandez closed in on Chadwick and forced the British girl to take defensive action throughout the opening laps. When the two went side-by-side on the main straight, Fernandez went deep into turn one and passed Chadwick by cutting the corner, but the Spanish returned the position one lap later, prior to launching another decisive move that did ultimately gain him 8th place.
The battles were fierce throughout the field, with Jack Doohan increasingly putting pressure on his rival for the lead, Ukyo Sasahara. The Japanese locked-up at turn 14, but Doohan could not immediately capitalize. Behind them, last round's dominator Joey Alders passed Mazepin for third and Fernandez found a way past Pietro Fittipaldi.
When race positions looked set, a few drops of rain were spotted on track and suddenly the race came alive: Jamie Chadwick quickly closed in on the group of cars ahead and dived on the inside of Fittipaldi, igniting a stunning battle that lasted for a few corners, as she ultimately advanced to P7. Fernandez continued an impressive recovery and went around the outside of Mazepin, stripping him of 4th place. With three and a half minutes to go, Devlin De Francesco battled hard with Jake Hughes for 6th, with Chadwick right on their tails ready to pick up the pieces. They both managed to find a way past Hughes with two laps remaining, as Masters class competitor Luedi spun.
Following a frantic last lap, Jack Doohan attempted one last move on Sasahara, as the two leaders went on a prolonged side-by-side battle that ultimately ended in tears for the reigning champion: Doohan hit the Hitech car in the lead in the final corners and went on to win, leaving Sasahara stranded with a broken rear suspension.
Joey Alders finished a distant second, ahead of Fernandez and Mazepin. Chadwick crossed the line in 6th, her best finish so far in the Asian-based series. Calderon also managed to gain one more place in the final lap and finished 11th.
When the sun had already dropped behind the horizon over Dubai, Jack Doohan received a penalty for the incident with Sasahara, but his gap to second-placed Alders allowed the Australian to keep his race victory. Sasahara also received a 3-place grid drop, for unclear reasons.
The Dubai Autodrome was affected by rain overnight, which forced the second F4 UAE race session to be postponed by several hours. Asian F3 second race went underway as regularly planned, but the drivers were allowed to complete two formation laps in order to further experience the damp track conditions. The race was also shortened from 30 to 27 minutes.
Experienced Brit Jake Hughes started from pole, with the team that dominated last year's championship once again locking-up the front row. Jamie Chadwick and Tatiana Calderon started from the sixth and seventh row (P12 and P14).
It was a good start from Hughes, but the biggest mover was Sebastian Fernandez, who advanced from 7th to 3rd among the cars struggling for grip. In these tricky conditions, Hughes went wide and opened the door to Alders, as the Dutchman was promptly ready to clinch the lead from third on the grid.
Doohan dropped to 11th after a difficult first lap, but more plot twists were around the corner: Fittipaldi dived on the inside of Sasahara and hit the Japanese, in similar fashion as the first race last lap incident. Both cars picked up damages and were forced to pit: Fittipaldi changed his front wing, while Sasahara once again had to retire his car.
Chadwick had a cautious start but managed to make her way up to P9. In the hectic first half of the race, she battled with Smith and Doohan, before being hit and spun around by Smith at turn 10, away from the cameras' eyes. Jamie rejoined at the back of the field, almost 10 seconds off the pack. Meanwhile, Calderon moved ahead of Deledda with a nice pass and gained P11.
Ahead, it was a close fight between Alders and Fernandez, with both drivers topping each other's times lap after lap. Behind them, Russian Mazepin found some pace and closed in on Hughes, ultimately passing him. But they both had to watch their mirrors from the return of Jack Doohan, who stormed through the field and joined the battle for third on the last lap of the race.
Joey Alders took his third seasonal victory, ahead of a very solid Fernandez. Doohan stripped both Mazepin and Hughes of a podium spot on the line, as the two Hitech drivers struggled with tyre degradation.
In the latter stages, Tatiana Calderon successfully launched more attacks to progress to 9th, claiming her third top-10 of the season. Chadwick finished P11, as Smith was found guilty of the contact with his teammate and received a 20" penalty.
The teams lined up for the third race with slick tyres, but the eyes of everyone onto the starting grid were directed to the sky upwards, as light rain was once again an imminent threat.
Jake Hughes made the better start from the front row and went into the lead passing his teammate Sasahara, who dropped to third also behind Doohan. Chadwick and Calderon completed the first lap in 9th and 13th.
Behind the leading trio, Alders and Mazepin made contact at turn 1, with the Ducthman dropping down the order. Series newcomer Fernandez was again protagonist of a striking comeback, as the Spaniard started to make his way throught the field. Alders regrouped and recovered with some bold overtaking moves, among them a stunning pass around the outside of Fittipaldi for P5.
The top-3 resumed their battle as well, with Doohan sensibly faster than Hughes. But history was about to repeat itself: as the Australian attacked the leader, the pair made contact. It was Doohan to end up facing the wrong direction this time, but the British Hitech driver also suffered consequences with a damaged car.
Nikita Mazepin inherited the lead, followed by a frustrated Hughes, Sasahara and the recovering Joey Alders. A close and tight fight for each position continued throughout the race, with also exciting position swaps in the midfield with Fernandez, Fittipaldi, Chadwick and Cordeel. Fernandez cleared Fittipaldi and closed in on Alders, as they initiated a lap-long side-by-side battle for fourth. But the real star of the race was Yu Kanamaru: the Japanese emerged from the midfield with extraordinary pace and went on to climb the standings up until the podium positions.
Hughes pitted to finally retire his damaged car, leaving Kanamaru in free air: the Japanese lapped constantly over three seconds faster than race leader Mazepin, whose tyres had gone off the cliff again. It wasn't long until the Japanese stormed past the Russian, disappearing into distance. Behind them, both Chadwick and Calderon emerged as tyre degradation became an imminent issue: both the ladies passed Cordeel and moved up to P8 and P9.
After 10 laps, Yu Kanamaru claimed his first win and first championship podium after a stunning performance for the BlackArts Racing team. Mazepin was second at the chequered flag, but later received a penalty for the incident with Alders. Guest driver Sasahara then advanced to second, but it was the Dutchman to take home the points, beating Fernandez on the line. Chadwick and Calderon were 8th and 9th.
“Dubai threw a lot at us with mixed conditions and unexpected tyre degradation." - said Chadwick after the weekend. "All races were pretty chaotic so I was happy to get some points on the board. We made some good steps as a team and I’m excited to push for more in Abu Dhabi.”
“We leave Dubai with a sense of unrealised potential" - commented Ingo Matter, team director of Chadwick's team, Absolute Racing. "Overall the results were not what we expected. Ultimately, our race results were determined by the qualifying sessions result, which put us on the back foot in terms of track position. Nevertheless, Devlin [DeFrancesco] and Jamie managed to score points in every race".
"This 2020 will be a year of learning" - stated Calderon regarding her switch to Super Formula. "There will be a lot of new things, the Country, the language, the racetracks, but all this really motivates me". "I'm really happy to be able to keep racing at the highest level".
Both Chadwick and Calderon will be back on track next weekend as F3 Asian Championship faces a back-to-back round at Yas Marina Circuit, Abu Dhabi. The Colombian will then fly to Daytona, where she'll compete in the Rolex 24 Hours as part of the all-female team GEAR Racing, alongside Katherine Legge, Christina Nielsen and Rahel Frey.
In Jamie's words:
"One point at a time. Tricky day but points in the bag."
Ph credits: F3 Asian