Antonio GiovinazziAntonio Giovinazzi secured his, and Double R Racing’s, first points in the FIA Formula 3 European Championship at Brands Hatch Indy Circuit in the UK over the weekend, 18th/19th May, ending the outing with a career-best ninth place finish in round 12 of the season.

Impressive in all three outings, the Italian started off by slicing his way through from 18th on the grid into 11th place in round 10, on a track notorious for its lack of overtaking opportunities in F3, and was credited with his first point of 2013 due to guest driver Daniil Kvyat being ineligible to score.

While round 11, wasn’t as fruitful, the final race of the weekend produced another star performance from the Double R driver and all after an unfortunate stall at the start. Recovering superbly from the back of the 28-car field, Giovinazzi raced through into the top 10 but post-race was elevated to ninth when winner and series leader Raffaele Marciello was excluded.

Team-mates Tatiana Calderón and Sean Gelael achieved best results of 20th position and 22nd place in rounds 12 and 11 respectively, finishes not necessarily indicative of the strong drives produced by both rookies at the tight and twisty 1.2-mile track.

While delighted for Double R Racing to have claimed the first championship points of its maiden season at European level with Giovinazzi, team principal Anthony ‘Boyo’ Hieatt believes the series organisers need to reconsider visiting Brands Hatch Indy Circuit in the future.

“It’s great to have scored our first points and just a shame Antonio stalled in the third race as we would definitely have had a few more”, said Hieatt, “The FIA and the other F3 people really need to look again at using this circuit [Indy Circuit], it’s unsuitable for our championship and I feel like the drivers and teams have been let down by coming here.”

Qualifying on Friday, 17th May, was split into two groups due to expected congestion during the all-important session and Giovinazzi emerged as the best of the Double R drivers starting 18th on the grid for round 10 with Gelael 25th and Calderon in 27th place.

Despite overtaking being at a premium, Giovinazzi managed to make outstanding progress to scythe his way through the order very impressively. Moving into 17th place on lap two, he remained there until just before mid-distance when taking 16th and latching onto a six car train ahead. From there he moved into 14th by lap 27, gained two more places on lap 35 and then took 11th to cap a great drive.

Calderón fought through from final row of the grid to finish in 22nd position, one place ahead of Gelael who had initially run ahead of his team-mate. Gaining two spots early on, the Indonesian slipped back to 25th after a slight moment out of Paddock Hill Bend on lap four before losing more ground at the same corner seven laps from the finish when running slightly wide through the gravel.

Round 11 proved to be more processional than the opening encounter and although starting in 14th place, Giovinazzi had to settle for 16th after being shuffled back on lap eight. Gelael made a terrific launch from 26th on the grid to surge through to the cusp of the top 20 on lap one alone but was then elbowed back to 24th on the second tour. The 16-year-old recovered to 22nd before the finish.

Colombian racer Calderón enjoyed a close battle with fellow lady racer Michela Cerruti and emerged on top on lap 22 with a good run out of Paddock Hill Bend up to Druids. Although served with a drive-through penalty, Calderón still managed to better Cerruti by finishing in 25th position.

Sunday morning’s 12th round began badly for Giovinazzi with his stall but his drive through the order was mightily impressive. Even though aided by a Safety Car period and drive through penalties for some of the front-runners, he was still in sparkling form and thoroughly deserved his ninth place.

Calderón started the final race of the weekend in 28th position but delivered a determined drive to end the encounter inside the top 20 – and all after making a mid-race pit-stop. At the finish she had battled back to within just 0.2 seconds of Cerutti.

Gelael raced well from 23rd on the grid into 12th place by lap 26 but was given a drive-through for not heeding yellow flags when Eddie Cheever went off at Druids avoiding Alex Lynn’s stricken car. Running in 20th place with six laps to go, Gelael then pitted to retire after suffering an arm spasm when hitting a kerb heavily.

“Sean and Tatiana both raced well this weekend”, commented Hieatt, “It’s so tough to try and make any progress at Brands Indy, they both did a good job and although the results weren’t what they would have wanted the experience they gained will be vital as the season moves on.

“I thought Sean was really unlucky to get a drive-through in the last race, he was behind [Eddie] Cheever when he went off so had cleared the area when the flags came out. After banging his arm, the safest and most sensible thing to do was pit as he lost all feeling in it.”

Red Bull Ring in Austria will host rounds 13, 14 and 15 of the FIA Formula 3 European Championship a fortnight from now on 1st/2nd June. Double R, though, will be back on track next weekend, 25th/26th May, at Silverstone Grand Prix Circuit for the opening three rounds of the revitalised Cooper Tires British Formula 3 International Series.

Photo by Jakob Ebrey Photography.