Barnicoat impresses at sodden Spa

Ben Barnicoat will start the opening race of the FIA Formula 3 European Championship round at Spa-Francorchamps in Belgium from third place after impressing in the scheduled two qualifying sessions.

The Racing Steps Foundation-backed driver took to the track situated within the Ardennes forest with dark clouds threatening and rain beginning to fall in certain parts of the track, which continued to intensify.

Barnicoat and his Hitech GP team therefore wasted no time in setting a lap before conditions worsened, and with championship leader, Prema’s Lance Stroll setting the quickest lap, Barnicoat banked his best time on his second tour which placed him in second position.

That was before conditions worsened through part of the circuit, including a red flag period, and despite remaining in second place for a lengthy part of the session Stroll’s team-mate Maximilian Gunther grabbed the position in the final few laps, relegating Barnicoat to a third-placed start.

“I was very lucky that it wasn’t raining so badly when we went out at the start of the session,” Barnicoat said. “The plan was to get cracking to get some laps under my belt, and if the rain did happen, I had a good banker lap. And that is what happened. In sector two, the rain came which played really into my favour.”

Later in the afternoon, Barnicoat ventured back on to a much drier track for the second and third qualifying sessions which arrange the grids for the weekend’s second and third races.

It was Barnicoat’s first time around Spa-Francorchamps in a Formula 3 car in dry conditions, his best time good enough to place him fifth on the grid for race two. His second best time, which sets the position for race three, was also excellent and handed Barnicoat a further third place start.

“I went into second and third qualifying with my eyes open, with no expectations as it was my first time here in the dry in an F3 car,” Barnicoat said.

“I just wanted to do the best job that I could. I’m happy to have ended up fifth in Q2, despite a couple of small mistakes without which I think I could have got another third place, but I’m happy with how it’s gone and it’s nice to have the pace back after my recent struggles.

“We expect the opening race to be wet. In qualifying one today, visibility was extremely tough to manage with the spray from cars ahead. So if you do want to pass in the race, you’re best to do it at the start of the race or it’ll be hard to follow.

“Races two and three should be dry. A lot can happen if that does occur. Starting from sixth or seventh, you could still take the win with this track making it easier to make overtaking moves on compared to the circuit at the last round at Zandvoort.”