Carlin’s Carlos Sainz Jr stormed to his first victory in the Cooper Tires British F3 International Series today, in an eventful opening race at the Monza circuit in Italy. The Red Bull Junior emerged from the pits first after the entire field pitted for wet weather tyres after the green flag lap and was unchallenged to the chequered flag. Jazeman Jaafar claimed another podium in third place, while Jack Harvey was fifth and Pietro Fantin was seventh. Harry Tincknell was unable to finish after running wide over the kerbs.

With the grid for today’s race set by the second fastest laps in qualifying yesterday, Sainz Jr lined up second, with Tincknell sixth, Jaafar seventh, Harvey eighth and Fantin ninth. All the drivers were on slick tyres, despite very light rain over the circuit..

Grid positions soon became irrelevant however, when heavy rain on the green flag lap prompted the entire field to dive into the pits for wet tyres. Following some great work by the Carlin crew, Sainz emerged from the pits first and took the early lead, with team mate Fantin moving all the way up to third.

Sainz wasted no time in building up a gap from second placed man and Double R driver Fahmi Ilyas. Fortec’s pole sitter Pipo Derani found some pace on lap three as he passed Fantin for third, and then Ilyas for second in an attempt to catch Sainz. The F3 rookie was setting the pace however, and had built up a gap of 4.3 seconds by lap four.

Behind the leaders the action continued in an eventful race which saw plenty of overtaking. PETRONAS backed man Jaafar was up to fourth place on lap six having been six on lap one, while Oulton Park race winner Harvey had climbed to eighth. Jaafar continued to push hard and passed team mate Fantin for third a lap later, while Harvey had passed Ilyas for sixth.

Harvey soon found himself defending from Hannes van Asseldonk who found a way past on lap eight to relegate the Racing Steps man to seventh. Carlin man Tincknell was also enjoying a busy race and was involved in a close battle with team mate Fantin for fourth. The British racer moved up to fourth on lap 10, but Fantin claimed the place back a lap later. With both drivers fighting hard for position, Tincknell made a rare mistake and ran wide over the kerbs and sustained a bent pushrod, sending him into the gravel and out of the race.

At the front, Sainz had increased his lead to 6.6 seconds from Derani while Jaafar was still third and Harvey was fifth having passed Fantin, who was fighting hard to maintain position.

At the chequered flag, Sainz took his first Formula 3 victory by nearly 10 seconds, while Jaafar made it a double podium for Carlin in third. Harvey took solid points for fifth, while Fantin crossed the line in seventh.

Reflecting on his race, Sainz said, “It’s always special to take your first win in a series, especially as I said before at a historic circuit like Monza. There was very light rain at the start and we thought we might have to stop for wet tyres but then it started to rain more on the green flag lap which made conditions really tricky. The team did a great job on the pit stop; it was perfect and got me out of the pit lane first.

“From the start I was focusing on looking after the tyres and being patient with them and building out a gap little by little. I had one scary moment on lap 4, but with so many breaking points it is easy to make a mistake here. To score my first F3 win in these conditions feels really great.”