FANTASTIC FIRST PODIUM FOR BRDC F4 ROOKIE AL ZUBAIR AT SNETTERTON
Snetterton 300 Circuit provided a welcome podium return for Duo BRDC Formula 4 Championship squad Hillspeed on Sunday, 23rd August, with Omani racer Al Faisal Al Zubair producing a superb performance in race two of the weekend to seal the first rostrum of his maiden season in cars.
Added to sixth place in race one, and just missing out on the top 10 again in the televised final outing on Sunday afternoon, the teenage driver has climbed into equal 11th in the championship standings just 10 points shy of the coveted top 10.
With Hathersage squad Hillspeed again confirming its front-running pace and credentials, Al Zubair’s fellow rookie Ameya Vaidyanathan also secured a top 10 finish with ninth place in the third contest while the pairing’s new team-mate, Hernan Fallas, took a best of 10th position in race two.
“Faisal has worked unbelievably hard since finishing his schooling a few weeks ago, the last round at Brands Hatch was a marked improvement and this weekend has been fantastic”, said thrilled team principal Richard Ollerenshaw, “We’re delighted he’s taken his first trophy in BRDC F4 and it really is fantastic for Hillspeed as a whole to be back on the podium.”
In the all-important qualifying session on Saturday morning, Al Zubair and Vaidyanathan could hardly be separated – a mere 0.024 seconds splitting the Hillspeed team-mates – with the Omani securing an outstanding sixth on the grid for round 19 and Vaidyanathan taking an equally strong seventh.
Team newcomer Fallas, meanwhile, qualified 17th on the grid on his championship return and maiden weekend racing with Hillspeed, after having his best time of the session removed as a result of a track limits infringement.
Unfortunately for Vaidyanathan, any hopes of challenging among the lead contenders from the fourth row of the grid went awry at the start. Dropping back to 18th position after a slow getaway, a long way adrift of the pack, the Indian still proved his speed with pace a match for the top four and he did manage to pick up a couple of places before the chequered flag on lap 10, taking 16th place.
On the flipside, Al Faisal was able to make the most of his top six starting slot to secure a season best finish at that point with a terrific drive. Holding sixth from the start, he spent the entire race applying pressure to Omar Ismail and tried everything to get ahead of his rival. Making several attempts to pass at Riches, Al Faisal ultimately had to settle for sixth but just 0.090 seconds shy at the flag.
Argentinean driver Fallas produced a fantastic first lap to climb into 14th position and although edged back to 17th place on the third tour after a moment, he progressed back into 16th before team-mate Vaidyanathan moved ahead on the last lap.
For round 17, Al Faisal lined-up on the second row of the grid in third place and he produced an electric getaway from the line. Rocketing into contention for the lead, as he moved between the two front row cars of Akhil Rabindra and Rodrigo Fonseca the gap closed up and the resulting contact led to retirement for Fonseca.
Al Faisal managed to emerge unscathed, albeit down in fifth position, and after the Safety Car period to recover Fonseca’s car he set about challenging for more. Claiming fourth on lap six, as a result of Will Palmer going off the circuit at Agostini, Al Faisal remained there to the chequered flag but was elevated into third place post-race due to an exclusion for Chris Mealin.
Vaidyanathan and Fallas started the race from 16th and 17th respectively and both profited from the start-line tangle to surge through into 11th and 12th prior to the appearance of the Safety Car. On lap three, the Indian broke into the top 10 before a huge battle ensued over the position. Then, on lap nine at Montreal, Vaidyanathan got it wrong on the brakes and ended his race there on the spot.
Argentina’s Fallas, from his great start, slipped to 13th place at one stage but he fought back well to claim 11th at the chequered flag – which, of course, became a top 10 finish with Mealin’s removal from the results.
In round 18, Al Zubair started in seventh, Fallas in eighth and Vaidyanathan in 11th position. Fallas managed to move to the front of the inter-team battle by climbing into ninth early on but his race came unstuck late on following a spin.
From 10th on lap one, Al Faisal was shuffled back to 12th midway through the contest before moving back into 11th at the expense of Fallas. Vaidyanathan, meanwhile, worked his way into the top 10 ahead of team-mate Al Faisal by lap five and gained another place into ninth when Fallas had his rotation on the penultimate lap and dropped to 18th.
“Hernan has been going in the right direction, he’s had a long time out of a BRDC F4 car and he missed the tests at Snetterton too – so he’s really been on the back-foot compared to the majority of the grid who have all tested at the track”, added Ollerenshaw, “It was always going to be difficult but we were super impressed with the second race from him.
“Ameya wanted more from himself this weekend, he’s definitely got the pace to run in the top four or five and we’ve turned a corner with him. It’s a shame about his non-finish in the second race, he got it wrong, missed his braking point, and paid the price unfortunately. Other than that, though, he’s shown some good pace again.”
Donington Park Grand Prix Circuit, Hillspeed’s ‘home’ track, will host the penultimate event of the BRDC F4 season three weeks from now on 12th/13th September.
Provisional 2015 Duo BRDC Formula 4 Championship Standings (after Rd18):
=11th Al Faisal Al Zubair & Zubair Hoque, 160pts
17th Ameya Vaidyanathan, 128pts
19th Sebastian Lanzetti, 89pts
20th Hernan Fallas, 53pts