with pole and best finish to date
Oliver Oakes stunned the British Formula 3 International paddock when he took pole position in the second qualifying session at the season finale at Donington Park last weekend (11/12 October).
Demonstrating superb car-control on a damp track, Oakes was 7 tenths faster than the second-fastest driver - Championship favourite Jaime Alguersari.
However, his first race of the day proved to be less of a fairytale.
Having qualified 11th in only his 6th F3 meeting, 20-year old Oakes found himself hampered by starting on the damp side of the track.“It was always going to be tough” he said afterwards. “I dropped to 15th on the run in to Redgate (Corner). I was quite quickly up to 13th but nearly every corner is taken in 4th or 5th gear, and with the lap times being so close, you can’t really get a run on someone and then do them under braking.”
Oakes spent a large proportion of the race battling to get past John Martin and found the Australian in a resolute mood. “He defended quite hard,” he observed. Looking forward to the last race of the domestic season, Oliver said “My main aim is to do well really. It’ll be tough to keep the Carlin boys at bay, but I’d like to get a podium. We’ll just have to see what we can do.”
His words were prophetic, when fellow front-row man Alguersari got the jump on him at the start and began to open an unassailable lead.
Meanwhile, Oliver was fighting to maintain 2nd position as the pack steamed into Redgate for the first time. With his car under-steering on the exit of the Old Hairpin, Oakes lost ground and had dropped to 5th just two corners later. Ahead of him, Sergio Perez, Brendan Hartley and Nick Tandy’s scrap allowed Oakes to close the gap - and his chances brightened when Hartley was forced to pit with a loose wheel.
He launched a move on Perez at the Old Hairpin but, like Martin in the first race, found the door firmly shut. Forced to move off line, this allowed Carlin’s Sam Abay to power his way past at Schwantz Curve.
With 13 laps remaining, Oliver began again to look for a way past the squabbling Perez and Abay – pushing his car’s nose down the inside of Abay, through the Craner Curves and then the Old Hairpin. Again, understeer saw his car push on and he narrowly avoided collecting Abay.
Despite Perez’s engine repeatedly giving out puffs of smoke at the chicane and on the exit of Redgate, he was able to hold his rivals at bay. Behind him, Oliver also now had to contend with the fast-charging Dean Smith and Marcus Ericsson, who promptly out-dragged him down the back straight. Closing fast was championship-contender Oliver Turvey - who quickly cleared Oakes but in his pursuit of Alguersari tangled with Ericsson and was left stranded in the Macleans gravel.
Oliver was left to complete the race in a comfortable 6th place – his best finish since his 7th at Bucharest.
With his hair wet from the effort, Oliver said, “I did well. I was 2nd off the line but Perez tapped me and then pushed me wide into Redgate. Into the Craners, everyone had the momentum on me and several cars got past. It was a shame because I got back up to 4th and was on the tail of Hartley and Perez. Going into the Esses, Sergio and I touched wheels and this allowed Abay past. I caught Abay and Perez again, but Ericsson and Smith then went past. I got Marcus back and that was pretty much it. It was a tough race and hard to hang onto the top boys. It was good though, it shows that I can mix it with them. For a privateer team with very little experience, to get 6th at the last of the race of the year is brilliant.”
Oliver’s qualifying and race performance also earned him a two-day test with Carlin Motorsport. He added, “I’ve had one test with the team which went well. In an ideal world, I’d like to race with them next season but I’ve got to find the budget first, so we’ll see.”