Silverstone test for runaway Ricciardo
The young chargers of the Cooper Tires British Formula 3 International Series will be united in their efforts next weekend (2/3 May) to put the brakes on Daniel Ricciardo and stop him from running away with the championship title.
Nineteen-year-old Australian Ricciardo claimed twin wins at Oulton Park over Easter to establish a handy 12-point advantage over his nearest rivals, Britain's Nick Tandy and Austrian Walter Grubmüller, and last week Dan set the pace in testing at the wheel of his Volkswagen-powered Carlin Motorsport Dallara.
The Silverstone Grand Prix circuit is one of the few UK tracks of which Ricciardo has much experience - he won there last year in European Formula Renault - and that may be a bad omen for his F3 title rivals.
"We will have to go well at Silverstone to have any hope of beating Ricciardo," says top Brit Tandy, the Bedford-based driver for whom next weekend's races count as a home fixture. "Daniel was consistently fast in testing throughout, on a day when track conditions were changing every minute because of the weather. Other people, ourselves included, were up and down.
"But race days are very different to test days and we have a few ideas for the car which we will be working on. We need to work on our qualifying speed, then go out there and race him hard and bag a victory or two."
Tandy, 24, and his JTR Mygale-Mercedes took a second and a third in the Oulton Park races, as did Hitech Racing's Grubmüller - the 20-year-old's best-ever British F3 results.
Ricciardo will also be needing to watch out for his Carlin team-mates, all of whom have points to prove. Max Chilton bagged a pole position at Oulton in his AON-backed Dallara-Volkswagen but lags well behind in the points standings, as do the other Carlin runners, Oliver Oakes and Henry Arundel.
Riki Christodoulou ran Ricciardo closest in testing at Silverstone, and the Dallara-Mercedes driver, whose car is prepared by Daventry's Fortec Motorsport, was a top-six finisher in both Oulton races. He felt he could have made the podium: "I was both pleased and disappointed at Oulton," he said. "Claiming two top-sixes on my F3 debut is okay but they could have both been podiums had I not got stuck behind a slower car."
Another pacesetter in testing was Brazilian Adriano Buzaid; he and Wayne Boyd, his team-mate in the Brackley-based T-Sport team, will be keen to show that Carlin is not the only squad which can put the lusty new Volkswagen powerplant to good use. A good result for Boyd at Silverstone would go a long way towards erasing the Ulsterman's memories of his nasty Oulton shunt.
Championship fourth-place man Daisuke Nakajima - brother of Williams F1 star Kazuki - impressed many with his pace at Oulton on his debut with the Raikkonen Robertson team and is hoping for a Silverstone encore, as is Hywel Lloyd, whose family-run CF Racing Dallara-Mugen Honda showed strong pace first time out.
Reigning National Class Champion Jay Bridger hopes to be on the grid also, having taken the decision after Oulton Park to set up his own team, Bridger Motorsport, to prepare his new Mygale-Mugen Honda. Jay has engaged his engineer from his successful 2008 campaign, Teo Lopes, to oversee the fledgling squad. "We are flat out to be at Silverstone," said Jay. "It's going to be difficult but once we have successfully completed the weekend we have plans to make good progress."
The four-way battle for honors in the National Class will also prove tense. Fortec's Dan McKenzie enjoyed an easy ride to class honors in both Oulton races but Max Snegirev's Team West-Tec car, Gabriel Dias and the T-Sport machine, and Victor Correa's ever-improving Litespeed show signs of bridging the gap.
British F3 is sponsored by US tire manufacturer Cooper Tire and is further supported by motorsport insurance specialist AON, by Sunoco Racing Fuels and by Anglo American Oil Company.
Cooper Tires British F3 - provisional standings
1, Daniel Ricciardo, 40
2=, Walter Grubmüller & Nick Tandy, 28
4, Daisuke Nakajima, 18
5, Riki Christodoulou, 14
6=, Max Chilton & Adriano Buzaid, 10 etc
1, Daniel McKenzie, 42
2, Max Snegirev, 27
3, Gabriel Dias, 15
4, Victor Correa, 12
The Mirror.co.uk British F3 Challenge Cup
1, Nick Tandy, 21
2, Riki Christodoulou, 14
3, Oliver Oakes, 9 etc