FASTEST LAP FOR CHILTON AS F3 DEBUTANT MERHI IMPRESSES
Hitech Racing driver Max Chilton recovered from a poor start to the RTL GP Masters of F3 at Zolder yesterday to finish 21st. The decision to bring both Max and Roberto Merhi in on the first of 28 laps, when the track conditions looked set to dry, paid off for Chilton as he set the fastest lap of the race. Merhi’s impressive maiden F3 race was cut short two laps from home, but the rapid Spaniard had been amongst the quickest on track.
The race started on a wet circuit although the rain had stopped, forcing the majority of the 37 runners, including the Hitech duo to start on wet, treaded tyres. At the lights, both drivers were caught out, Max bogging down off the grid and Roberto stalling, leaving them both at the back of the field as the race got underway.
With the pair’s race effectively over the team took the decision to pit and switch to dry slick tyres in a bid to get the fastest lap, a gamble that paid off as the pair steadily improved over the remaining laps. The 17 years-olds, both having their first run on Kumho tyres, drove impeccably throughout the course of the race leaving Team Principal David Hayle delighted with their performance.
“I’m very happy with the outcome considering the starts they both had. We made the decision to call them both in to switch tyres and they did a superb job after that. Max was steadily improving and got quicker lap after lap. He’s certainly raised his game and that was reflected with a superb performance in qualifying and he didn’t falter in what were difficult, varying conditions throughout the event.
“Roberto was very impressive all weekend too. On his first ever F3 race in an International class car and with just three hours experience prior to the race, he drove very maturely and was easily one of the quickest drivers out there at the end.”
For Max the result was not what he’d hoped for after a promising qualifying session that had him line up sixth and in a good position for victory. “I didn’t get away well at all. The engine stalled but I managed to get it restarted but lost a lot of places. After that we could see that I had no chance to win so we pitted for slick tyres, along with several other drivers, but the track took a while to dry. My times were coming down every lap though and it’s good to have got the fastest lap but I think otherwise I could have easily had a top five finish.”
Despite not finishing his first Masters of F3, Eurocup Formula Renault racer Roberto was very happy with his performance and that of the Hitech Dallara F308 Mercedes HWA. “The race was really good. I made a mistake at the lights, I think because it was my first F3 start in the wet which is very different from in a Formula Renault. The Hitech team is very good; they worked hard all weekend to give me a great car, which was very competitive. With a little more practice I’m sure I would not have made that mistake and could have finished in the top ten.”