Buller scores home F3 podium

Northern Irish racer William Buller maintained his recent strong run of form in the Cooper Tires British F3 International Series with another podium finish in his ‘home’ round of the season at Rockingham.The MSA Team UK backed driver, who originally hails from Scarva but is now based in Northamptonshire, was the form man in the series heading to the Corby circuit having taken victory in three of the previous six races at the wheel of his Fortec Motorsport-run Dallara-Mercedes.A difficult qualifying session saw Will post the ninth quickest time for both the first and third races of the weekend, leaving him with work to do when the opening race kicked off.Battling hard for position, Will climbed up to seventh place but was then handed a drive-through penalty in the closing laps for exceeding the track limits. Electing not to take the drive-through in order to question the decision with officials when the race drew to a close, Will then saw 60 seconds added to his race time, which dropped him down to 15th place.That decision - which couldn’t be appealed as champion elect Felipe Nasr had served a drive-through for a similar infraction – meant Will then started the second race of the weekend well down the order in 15th, whereas his initial finishing position would have put him on the front row thanks to the reverse grid draw.The arrival of rain at the circuit played into Will’s hands when the second race got underway and having stormed up to seventh on the opening lap alone, he then continued to make further progress to sit fifth going into the final lap. Having closed onto the rear of the fight for third place, a clash ahead between Kevin Magnussen and Jazeman Jaafar at the chicane allowed Will to get ahead of Jaafar into fourth place and a post-race penalty for Magnussen for cutting the corner then saw the Northern Irishman promoted onto the podium.Another strong start from ninth in race three saw Will into fifth on the opening lap before he got ahead of Jaafar into fourth following the first of two safety car periods. Holding his position through to the flag, Will secured more vital championship points and will now head into the penultimate weekend of the season at Donington Park later this month sitting third in the standings – just two points behind Magnussen. “We had a few problems in qualifying which meant we were on the back-foot a bit, but in the first race I was able to make up places to sit seventh before being given the drive-through penalty,” he said. “We didn’t know what the penalty for was so I stayed out to the finish and then we found out that I’d been penalised for running wide out of the hairpin. It was the same line I’ve always taken and it caught both me and [Felipe] Nasr out. After the penalty, they put a new line in overnight, which showed it was unclear and showed to me that they’d got the call wrong but it was too late by then. The fact I got a 60 second penalty that dropped me back to 15th was harsh as a drive-through doesn’t take anywhere near that long, but we were told we couldn’t appeal because Nasr had taken his penalty in the race.“I should have started race two from the front row but instead was down in 15th which was disappointing but I had a great race to finish on the podium. It would have been a lot more difficult if the race had been dry, but I love the wet conditions and made the most of them to come through the field. I got another good start in race three and to come from ninth on the grid to fourth was pleasing, even though we lost a bit of pace towards the end of the race. Rockingham is a circuit I enjoy racing on and it provides plenty of opportunities to overtake – and I made sure I took them.“Overall, it’s frustrating that the penalty in race one has cost me some points and I’ve dropped to third in the standings, but I’m only two points behind Magnussen and I’m confident I can get back ahead of him in the final two rounds (six races) of the season.“I have to say congratulations to Nasr on winning the title this season; he’s been able to consistently pick up the points whereas I’ve had a number of DNFs that have hurt my chances. However, even though the title has now gone, I’ll keep pushing hard to secure second place and the honour of being top British driver in the standings.”