We opened our account on this years new iteration of the Formula One game, F1 2019 at the Circuit de Catalunya in Barcelona, Spain. The circuit hosted an official calendar race last season where we saw some close on-track action, and equally some varying strategies that if put into action correctly can make the races a real mouth-watering climax as drivers fought back on faster tyres.
The No-Assist league was first up on Monday night, and with the prospect of not only a full grid, but possibly the biggest group of competitive drivers yet, the league looks in good shape to be its most exciting yet.
It was a turbulent start as many drivers found themselves in first lap incidents with the likes of team-mates white-fountain and LR_Archy colliding at turn five, whilst the opening lap also saw issues for the likes of SJD1988, mj_coop and his Red Bull team-mate Megglugpy who all made early stops for new front wings.
The early stages of the race were controlled by reigning champion, but rookie driver to the league FPL_Charlie had started magnificently, and by lap six was able to sweep past Scott for the lead, and with the soft tyres starting to fall-away for the drivers who qualified on the softest rubber, the likes of Charlie and Scopefielder on the medium compound started to find the race suiting them.
A puncture for Samuthepito on lap seven dropped the Spaniard out of contention, and as BoyBetterKnow committed to the two-stop strategy, the Williams of Charlie and Haas of Scopefielder looked to run longer and go for the one-stop. However, with Scott flying through the field and clawing back time, by lap 14 had re-built a six second gap at the head of the pack, but with Charlie and Scope now on-track until the end it seemed that the race would come back towards the Williams and Haas.
However, a spin for Charlie at turn 12 on lap 20 dropped him into third behind Scope, and back to within striking distance of Scott after the Englishman made his second and final stop, with the Mercedes making his move on Charlie on lap 26 of 33 to re-take second position.
It left Scott six laps to catch the Swedish driver, but with the laps diminishing it eventually ran out as Scope took a deserved and well earned pre-season win ahead of Scott, whilst it was mixed emotions for Charlie, who albeit the spin could have possibly pushed for a debut win.
The Performance League looks at its strongest ever this season, with a league full of former race-winners and ex-champions. The race in Spain on Tuesday night saw a wash of strategies, pace and daring as the grid took to the track.
The two leagues have now been amalgamated into one, and the competitiveness subsequently sky-rocketed, but with no clear leader amongst the pack, this will be a mega season.
Scopefielder had lined up on pole looking to continue his form from Monday night, but it was the third placed man who got the best launch off the line as the two-time Performance League champion SkyZii blew by the pole-sitter and elevated the Frenchman into the lead.
The top three of SkyZii, Scope and LR_Archy made a slight break-away in the early stages as the three fought hard to gain the early momentum, whilst last seasons runner-up AaronjSpence maintained good pace in fourth.
SkyZii was the first to pit on lap eleven, but on a clear track and able to make the over-cut work to their advantage, Scope and Archy both jumped the Frenchman after the round of stops, and by the time the pack had all shuffled back into place, SkyZii had gone from the lead to four seconds off of the lead, and with ten laps left to run Scopefielder looked well placed to make it successive wins to start the week.
It turned out to be a dominant win for Scope as the Swede held his nerve, and equally looked after his tyres better than anyone to come across the line over ten seconds ahead of Archy in second, who was able to fend off SkyZii late in the race.
Scope controlled the race as soon as he hit the front, and where we saw retirements down the order for the likes of Jos, Sab and SirSpud. The top three on Tuesday look to already have thrown their name in the hat to be talked about as potential champions come the end of the season.
Wednesday night in F1 was the VSR_Marqueses show, as the Williams driver proceeded to blow away the competition. He took pole ahead of reigning champion Scopefielder, whilst CPI_Alex and Ben Muskett would line-up on the second row in a good showing for the pair.
The race however was totally dominated by Marqueses, not only winning by a comfortable margin, he did it on a three-stop strategy, and utilising a huge gap in the early stages, plus the unfortunate retirement from Scope which caused a virtual safety car, he was able to pit for a new set of the mediums and immediately go after the then race leaders of Alex and a charging Samuthepito.
Marqueses second stint was something to be applauded, as he drew out a 36 second lead which gave him the opportunity to make a second, and even then third stop for soft tyres as the Williams cruised to the chequered flag ahead of Sam and a happy FoxyRed2000.
Sheer dominance from Marqueses, and an ominous benchmark set for the field in F1.
A strong lap from Partridge99 on the medium compound put him on the front row alongside pole-sitter Warislander, but with the pole-sitter and third placed man Craig on the softest tyre compound, they would be fast in the early stages.
Although the pair were able to keep the pace in the early stages, once the soft tyre started to lose grip, the duo would fall into the hands of the chasing drivers, and with Partridge making the move for the lead on lap five, both Warislander and Craig dived into the pit-lane.
This promoted AaronJSpence and Captain_Stiff up into a podium place, but as the stint wore on, Stiff was caught and passed by ColinJ. The current F3 champion Stiff pitted first, but after being caught in traffic on the exit fell further behind in his attempt at the under-cut and ultimately out of contention for a podium.
It was a perfect race for Partridge, and after being held up by Warislander briefly Aaron was unable to catch up to the Renault as he took the flag and first pre-season race victory. AaronJSpence and ColinJ would make up the podium, whilst it was a much more positive race for mj_coop in the Red Bull after his first race on Monday, as he ended up in seventh, but a big confidence boost for the new no-assist driver.
For the second season in a row, F3 will start its calendar without a reigning champion, and with plenty of drivers on the grid well placed to step up, a victory in pre-season is the perfect way to gain a psychological advantage over your rivals.
After a dramatic end to qualifying, Sab7786 took pole-position with the last lap on track as the Alfa Romeo driver returned to the series with a bang.
However, an error strewn race from a number of drivers including the pole-sitter Sab effectively gifted the race victory to FerociousDan, and with Syncronously and Bren_Ons picking up podiums behind, the field will now look to stop Dan’s momentum next week in Mexico, with the McLaren driver already an established multi-time F3 race winner, he looks to be a threat for the championship.
F3 is always unpredictable, so we cannot wait for the season to begin in two weeks.
We head to the Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez in Mexico City next week for the second and final pre-season race, join us for another three nights of fantastic racing!