MAX CHILTON IMPRESSES AT THE MASTERS OF FORMULA 3
The youngest competitor in the field, the top British driver in qualifying and a place on the podium for setting the race’s fastest lap. It was certainly an impressive debut for Max in the 2008 Masters of F3 at Zolder in Belgium.
Still only 17 years old, Max was racing for the first time in the annual event which is fought out between the very best drivers competing across Europe; this year 37 drivers from 18 different countries were present.
Max showed his competitiveness right from the start of the event. In the practice sessions on Friday the conditions were extremely difficult, with heavy showers wetting the track. To make things even more of a challenge, Max had never been to Zolder before and had never driven on the Kumho tyres used exclusively for this event. This didn’t seem to bother him though as during the worst of the wet running he was consistently posting lap times in the top three.
For Saturday’s qualifying sessions the weather changed and dry, sunny conditions forced the teams to guess a little on the car set-up having had no experience of a dry track until now. The Hitech Racing team did a great job on Max’s Dallara Mercedes Benz and gave Max a set-up which allowed him to shine. He ended the session in 6th place, the highest placed British driver and the best of the regular British International Series’ competitors.
After the session a delighted Max talked about his hopes for the race. “It’s been a great weekend so far and I’m delighted to finish as quickest of the British guys. The car has been mega all weekend and it’s great to be so competitive against the very best in Europe. The British series is competitive enough but when you put all the Euroseries runners into the mix too that adds up to a lot of quick drivers. I’m confident of a podium finish tomorrow come rain or shine, but I love the wet so I’ll be doing a rain dance tonight!”
Sunday may have brought the wet weather that Max was hoping for, but unfortunately it didn’t bring the result. On the opening lap of the race his engine cover had worked loose, forcing him to make an unscheduled pit-stop for the team to repair and secure it. He lost a couple of laps in the pits and effectively his race was over, but Max didn’t throw in the towel. Instead, with the rain stopping and the track drying, the team changed him onto slick, dry weather tyres in the hope that he could regain some of the lost time as the circuit conditions improved. He eventually finished 21st out of the 37 starters, but deservedly came away with something for his weekend’s work.
It had been a brave move to go to slicks and a massive challenge when the circuit wasn’t quite dry. He was rewarded with the fastest lap of the race, a feat that got him onto the podium to receive a special trophy and a huge bottle of champagne.
Even if he is not old enough to drink the bubbly, he certainly came of age this weekend as a racing driver – proving that he can mix it with the very best drivers in Europe. Max will be back next year to compete again in the Masters, probably as one of the favourites.