Jordan King fought his way to a consistent hat-trick of top six finishes as the fiercely-contested 2014 FIA Formula 3 European Championship stopped off at Germany’s Nürburgring last weekend.
King travelled to the undulating Eifel Mountains circuit off the back of a disappointing outing at the Red Bull Ring in Austria – hitherto a happy hunting-ground for him but one that this year yielded no better than seventh place.
The Nürburgring holds similarly fond memories for the gifted Warwickshire ace, as the scene of his British F3 title coronation in 2013. True to form, he was quick out-of-the-blocks once again, lapping fifth-fastest during practice amongst the 24 protagonists – the indisputable crème de la crème of young racing talent at F3 level.
On a rain-soaked track in qualifying for race one, King featured as high as third and looked set to improve even further on his final effort only for a late error to consign him to just 11th position. In the 20-minute session to determine the starting grid for races two and three, the highly-rated Stoneleigh-based hotshot grappled for balance and braking stability on the dry but slippery surface, ultimately lining up eighth and seventh respectively in his Carlin-prepared, Volkswagen-powered Dallara single-seater.
A heavy shower ahead of what would transpire to be a lively opening encounter left the circuit tremendously wet in patches but with a clear dry line emerging – just the kind of treacherous, tip-toe conditions in which King invariably excels.
Boldly plumping for slick tyres in the knowledge that the Nürburgring tends to rapidly dry out, the British Racing Drivers’ Club (BRDC) SuperStar, MSA Team UK protégé and former McLaren Autosport Award finalist produced a stunningly aggressive and incisive first lap to scythe his way fearlessly through from 11th up to fourth. Although two wet-shod rivals subsequently came past, as conditions improved, he was able to regain the ground and a spirited drive and awesome turn-of-speed saw him take the chequered flag less than three seconds shy of the rostrum.
The next day dawned dry, and a neat move into the final chicane early on in race two earned King seventh spot. Technical woes for the leader then promoted him to sixth, and by dint of impressively sustaining his pace over the duration, he had homed right in on the top five by the end, crossing the finish line a mere half-a-second adrift.
In the weekend’s final showdown, the 20-year-old F3 sophomore safely negotiated a drama-fuelled start before finding himself embroiled in a three-way tussle over the bottom step of the podium. Winding up fifth following an energetic scrap – and lapping second-quickest in the process – King’s trio of strong finishes lifted him from eighth to seventh in the championship standings, a single marker away from the top six.
“We had some big question marks after our lack of pace at the Red Bull Ring, so I spent a fair bit of time on the simulator in the Carlin factory to try to resolve the issues we had with the car,” the Hugo Boss brand ambassador explained. “We did a lot of work and made several changes, which left me feeling much more confident heading to the Nürburgring – especially as we’ve always gone well there.
“We were definitely on for a top four slot in the first qualifying session – if not indeed the front row – but a combination of unfortunate timing and my last lap mistake meant the outcome didn’t reflect our potential.
“It rained before the start of race one, and I made an early call to take slicks. The first lap was a lot of fun, although we did struggle slightly to begin with as we had a fully dry set-up on the car and it was quite a bit wetter than I had anticipated. The conditions were extremely tricky and I had more than a few sideways moments!
“I wasn’t too worried when the guys on wet-weather rubber passed me as I knew the track would come back to us, and our pace over the closing stages was really encouraging. Fourth place was a very satisfying finish from where we had started.
“We didn’t have the outright speed initially in race two, but we kept the leaders in sight throughout and towards the end we were reeling them in again. If it had gone on for another couple of laps, I’m fairly sure we could have finished fifth, but sixth was still a very solid result.
“It was a similar story in race three, and to have been competitive enough to fight for the podium was another positive to take away from the Nürburgring. We’re clearly not quite there yet in terms of out-and-out performance, but I was happy with my racecraft and the fact that we scored a top six hat-trick for the first time this season. We’ve got a long break now to iron out the last remaining creases separating us from the top of the timesheets – and that will hopefully enable us to come back fighting for the final two weekends.”