F3 pole-sitter Ushijima: Extra formation lap ‘the most stressful thing I could have done’

Having finished 12th in FIA Formula 3 qualifying at Silverstone, Reece Ushijima lined up on pole for the first time in the Sprint Race. But he had to wait a few extra minutes for the lights to go out after Carlin driver Brad Benavides encountered an issue on the formation lap. Because Benavides was still rounding Turn 8 by the time the rest of the field reached the grid, the original start had to be aborted, necessitating a second formation lap.

By Michael McClure

Ushijima is no stranger to starting from the front at Silverstone. Last year, he took his first two pole positions in first Silverstone round of the GB3 Championship, then called the British Formula 3 Championship. And though it wasn’t an outright pole for Ushijima in FIA F3, the reverse-grid format of the Sprint Race meant he was the one to lead the field away on both formation laps.

Speaking to F1 Feeder Series in the post-session press conference, Ushijima felt that he didn’t take full advantage of the additional lap to warm his tyres, which cost him when Victor Martins got past him into Turn 1 on the first racing lap.

“To be honest, for my first time on pole, it was probably the most stressful thing I could have done! But I think I didn’t learn quick enough from it. I think I didn’t anticipate the effect it would have on the tyres, and hence my start wasn’t the best.

“But it’s all learning, and I’m glad to have gone through it now.”

Martins: “You just see if it goes well”

Martins was able to get around Ushijima at the start, giving him a narrow advantage that lasted for most of the race. Much of that good start, Martins told F1 Feeder Series, came from his initial security in the car’s set-up, which he didn’t have to change on the extra formation lap.

“You have one more lap to get the tyres in the window to make them ready for the first few corners, but after the start itself, you get a first feeling.

“You have the start of the formation lap, [during] which you see if you have good grip, what you are doing with your clutch. But then when you have one more formation lap and an extra start, you just see if it goes well or if you need to change something on what you are doing with the throttle and everything.

“I was pretty happy from the first one, so I kept [everything] the same for the second one and it went well. it was just a matter of an extra one and waiting for the start.”

When you have one more formation lap and an extra start, you just see if it goes well or if you need to change something

Victor Martins (ART Grand Prix)

Hadjar rues shortened race

The driver who eventually took the win from Martins was Hitech Grand Prix’s Isack Hadjar. Starting fourth, Hadjar held station behind third-placed Kush Maini at the start, but he got past the MP Motorsport driver around the outside at Stowe on Lap 4 before replicating the move to overtake Ushijima on Lap 8. On the penultimate lap, Hadjar used that move to great advantage to pass Martins, who was struggling with tyre degradation.

Though he had just enough time to take the victory, Hadjar expressed disappointment that the race was shortened from 18 laps to 17 as a result of the additional formation lap.

“I got an extra start procedure, so it was okay for me. [There was] one more lap to get the tyres in the right window, so I don’t mind it. It’s a shame the race was a bit shorter, but this is how it is. I stayed focused.”

With the win and the extra point for fastest lap, Hadjar jumps up to third in the standings with 58 points, just three points behind Trident’s Roman Staněk. Heading into the Feature Race tomorrow at 08:35 local time, Martins remains the championship leader with 71 points.

Header photo credit: Van Amersfoort Racing

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