Penultimate rounds of the 2012 European F3 Open series sees Raimondo battle hard to keep his championship hopes alive
St. Catharines, Ontario, Canada – Taking on his ‘home track’ for the penultimate round of the 2012 European F3 Open series, Canadian formula car racer Gianmarco Raimondo may not have had the weekend he had in mind, but managed to keep his championship hopes alive. The Autodromo Nazionale di Monza rounds saw Raimondo battle changing weather conditions and stiff competition, but an epic comeback on Sunday’s round saved his championship run, which will now come down to the final round in Barcelona in November.
Competitive right from the beginning of his Monza campaign, Raimondo posted P5, P3 and P6 in the three practice session. Lacking some top speed, Raimondo worked with his RP Motorsport crew to achieve a good balance but once everything was set up, the rain came. Basically having to start from zero, Raimondo went out on track for a wet qualifying session with a competitive car, just missing pole by 0.4 seconds but securing a front row starting position for what would be a very wet Race 1.
“Qualifying was difficult as it was wet and always improving a bit, so we needed to stay out as long as possible,” explained Raimondo. “In the end we were on the front row, so always a good position when it’s raining. Visibility is very important, especially at Monza for braking references.”
In one of the wettest races of his career, Raimondo’s new rain tires slowed his progress.
“We had new rain tires for the race, however when there is a vast amount of water like there was, the tires don’t really wear down so the initial coating that’s on them from the factory doesn’t wear off which results in them being slower,” continued Raimondo.
Off the pace for the first half of the race, other drivers began to pull away from Raimondo with his main championship rival and teammate Niccolò Schirò also getting past. Within 0.5 seconds of the leaders by the end of the race, and in respect to the initial laps where Raimondo was three seconds a lap off, the new rain tires seemed the likely culprit. As unfortunate as the situation was, as the new tires were the only tires they had, Raimondo was able to post P3 and salvage as many championship points as possible.
The second qualifying session was better for Raimondo and the RP Motorsport team, although the crew was put to work changing tires twice in the session. Starting out on rains, Raimondo put down a lap that was good until five minutes were left in the session. With a rapidly drying track, Raimondo then put on slicks as a distinct dry line was beginning to form. Long, wet straights and a lack of sun made it difficult for Raimondo to get his tires up to temperature, as he switched back to wet weather tires and set pole lap by 0.8 seconds.
“Quali 2 was very strange because the rains were faster even when it was more dry than wet!” Raimondo exclaimed. “The only reason being is that they were softer and kept the heat. There wasn’t enough time for the slicks to come in.”
Starting on pole with a completely dry track and lots of sun, Raimondo was in the best position he could ask for as the championship winds down. Needing valuable points, as did Schirò, the duo engaged in an all-out dogfight on the starting lap. Never before racing so hard for the lead, Raimondo and Schirò made contact at least once before Raimondo was pushed off by his teammate in the fastest chicane on the track. Hitting the wet grass and spinning on the exit, almost beaching it in the gravel, Raimondo was able to get back on track only to go off in the very next corner with his extremely dirty tires. After going through the entire gravel trap in the last corner (Parabolica), Raimondo almost hit the wall. Finally making his way back on track, Raimondo found himself P18, ten seconds back from 17th and 12 seconds back from the tenth place driver, and with a lot of ground to make up.
“I have never pushed a car so hard in my life,” Raimondo explained. “I really needed to gain points or else I was going to lose my championship lead.”
Setting fastest lap after fastest lap, 1.5 seconds per lap faster than his competition, Raimondo eventually caught the group in front of him. Seeing the pack go four or five wide multiple times per lap, Raimondo knew his task would be difficult. Picking off at least two cars a lap, Raimondo became the most concentrated and motivated ever in a race and finally came to a point where he could see second and third place after passing for fourth on lap 11 of 16. Narrowing the gap, the leaders were still incredibly far.
“I was praying for a safety car, but it never came and we finished P4, still gaining 14pts: one for pole, one for fastest lap, and 12 points for fourth place,” concluded Raimondo.
Saving his championship, Raimondo will now wait for the season finale in Barcelona where it will be an all-out war for the 2012 European F3 Open championship title.
Raimondo will take to the Circuit de Catalunya November 2-4 for the final round of the eight round series. With the 2012 season nearing its conclusion, you can keep up-to-date on the series by checking out www.f3open.net. The eight-weekend calendar will take drivers to eight different countries. Fans can catch up on all the latest news by checking out Gmo’s website at www.gianmarcoraimondo.com.