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 FIA International F3000 Round 1: Interlagos (BR), 31st March 2001

REPORT:

Qualifying:

The International F3000 season kicked off with Jaime Melo Jr (Durango Benetton Junior) taking pole on his final lap of the second 45-minute qualifying session, where he would start ahead of three other Brazilians. The former two-time SudAm F3 runner-up took his first pole position and the first for Durango since Soheil Ayari at the A1-Ring in 1998, the Italian team having been forced to take a year out of the International series in 2000. In second place was Ricardo Sperafico (Petrobras Junior Team), the F3000 Italia champion, with his twin brother Rodrigo (Coloni F3000) a remarkable third having only joined the team at the start of the week. Antonio Pizzonia (Petrobras Junior Team) was fourth, having been consistently quick along with his teammate, ensuring an all-Brazilian occupation of the first two rows. Tomas Enge (Coca-Cola Nordic Racing) was fifth, with Giorgio Pantano (Team Astromega) sixth, ahead of Justin Wilson (Nordic) and David Saelens (European Minardi).

Two of the pre-season favourites, Mark Webber (Super Nova) and Darren Manning (Arden Team Russia) struggled in both sessions and would start 10th and 14th respectively. Pizzonia emerged quickest in the first session on 1:27.197 from teammate Ricardo Sperafico and Saelens, the times having improved lap-by-lap. Gabriele Varano (Prost Junior Team) spun across the gravel at high speed on his first lap, Mario Haberfeld (Super Nova) suffered two spins, Derek Hill (DAMS) beached his car on the kerbing, Webber, Bas Leinders (KTR) and Piccini (European Minardi) suffered offs, and last-minute newcomer Yann Goudy (KJR Monaco) lost the shock cover from his nose. Patrick Friesacher (Red Bull Junior) failed to set a time in the session.

Times dropped further in the second session, as the sun shone on the track unlike in the overcast first 45 minutes. Friesacher went off, teammate Antonio Garcia spun, Hill went off again before beaching his car on the kerbs as before, Haberfeld beached his car after spinning, Webber spun again, as did Gabriele Lancieri (Durango Benetton Junior), while Viktor Maslov (Arden Team Russia) spun out into the gravel. Amongst the action it looked as though Ricardo Sperafico would head teammate Pizzonia on the front row, but Melo set a series of increasingly fast laps and took the pole spot in the dying seconds.

Race:

Justin Wilson won a dramatic round 1 at Interlagos, having taken the lead after three drivers were handed pitlane stop/go penalties for overtaking under the safety car. Wilson's first win in his third season, his second with Nordic Racing, was the first for a Brit since Jamie Davies won a race in 1997. The action continued as the former Formula Palmer Audi champion took the chequered flag, as he spectacularly lost control on the finish straight as his wheels locked up, almost hitting the pit wall before his car straightened out. Mark Webber (Super Nova) was second on the road after his difficulties in qualifying, while polesitter Jaime Melo Jr (Durango Benetton Junior) took the final step on the podium. After the race, however, Webber was handed a 25-second penalty for passing David Saelens (European Minardi) before the start-finish line at a race restart following a safety-car period. As a result, Melo was promoted to second, with Sebastien Bourdais (DAMS) third, David Saelens fourth the highly impressive rookie Joel Camathias (KTR) fifth and Fabrizio Gollin (Coloni F3000) sixth. Webber was finally classified seventh in a messy opening round decided off the track. The other losers were Antonio Pizzonia (Petrobras Junior), Rodrigo Sperafico (Coloni F3000) and Tomas Enge (Coca-Cola Nordic Racing). They occupied the first three positions for more than half of the race, Pizzonia edging away from the other two and looking to be heading for a controlled win. But then the trio were each called in to serve a time penalty in the pits, all of them having passed Melo Jr as the Brazilian slowed dramatically when the safety car was deployed on lap 1.

Before the start of the race, Mario Haberfeld (Super Nova) was in trouble after stalling at the start of the formation lap. He was forced to start from the back of the field. At the start proper, Ricardo Sperafico (Petrobras Junior) made a bad start from second, baulking teammate Pizzonia who then took to the right of the track and found his way past Rodrigo Sperafico. Ricardo clipped the front wing of Giorgio Pantano (Team Astromega) into the first corner, the Senna "S". Pantano later pitted for repairs. As Melo led from Pizzonia, behind them Ricardo Sperafico lost control exiting the esses, damaging the left side of his car against the barriers. He later broke down in tears in the pits. With Sperafico's car abandoned on the track, the safety car was deployed before the first lap ended, Melo slowed at Juncao and was passed by Pizzonia, Sperafico and Enge, with Wilson remaining behind the Benetton-liveried Lola as they accelerated up the hill through Arquibancadas.

On lap 5 the race restarted, Enge taking second on the road from Rodrigo Sperafico into the first corner, Pizzonia simultaneously surviving an attack on both sides from both of them, and Bas Leinders (KTR) spinning exiting the Senna "S". Back in the midfield Gabriele Lancieri (Durango Benetton Junior) made an inauspicious debut by spinning out into the gravel later in the lap. The race then looked set to be a procession, Pizzonia edging away from his pursuers, Enge, Sperafico, Wilson, Melo and Webber. Out of the points, the two Red Bull Junior drivers provided some action. Patrick Friesacher passed teammate Antonio Garcia out of the Senna "S", but later in the lap Garcia fought back into a left-hander. Friesacher closed the door, the two cars banged wheels and flew off into the gravel with deranged wings and suspension, coming to rest side-by-side off the track, with Friesacher seen to exchange words with Garcia as the Spaniard sat in his cockpit. Nicolas Filiberti (F3000 Prost Junior Team) spun exiting Juncao, and then Viktor Maslov (Arden Team Russia) ran wide into the gravel, got beached and was forced to retire. Haberfeld later retired with what appeared to be a mechanical problem, having fought his way up through the tail enders after starting from the back. Then after 30 minutes of racing, Enge, Pizzonia and Sperafico all came into the pits, Enge one lap earlier, all three dropping out of the points.

Wilson took the lead, with Melo, Webber, Bourdais, Darren Manning (Arden Team Russia) and Saelens in the other points positions. At the end of lap 23, Webber made a move for second into the first corner, attempting to go around the outside of Melo. He failed, but later in the lap Melo ran wide, letting the other car dive through. Webber could not do anything about Wilson, however, the Brit controlling the race for the remaining laps and opening up a relatively static three second gap. Outside of the points, Fabrizio Gollin (Coloni F3000) passed Andrea Piccini (European Minardi F3000) for 8th, but KTR's Joel Camathias was a man on the move, later moving past both Italians into 7th. Then Manning mysteriously dropped out of the points into 7th place, promoting Saelens and Camathias into 5th and 6th. The positions remained the same for the rest of the race, Camathias taking the best rookie honours, a real surprise considering the Formula Nissan graduate was not a fancied contender and that he only qualified in 20th. Fighting for ninth place, Pantano then tried to pass Piccini into the Senna "S", left his braking too late and hit his countryman from behind. Both spun, but Pantano was forced to abandon his car as Piccini continued. Justin Wilson crossed the line to take his first victory, and the first for Nordic Racing since 1995. Webber seemingly took a somewhat lucky second to start his championship campaign, but then his championship score was reset to zero with the post-race 25-second penalty. As a result the final top 6 was Wilson, Melo, Bourdais, Saelens, Camathias and Gollin.

RESULTS:

Qualifying

Qualifying result

Pos.

Driver

Team

Time

1

Jaime Melo Jr (BR)

Durango Formula

1:26.732

2

Ricardo Sperafico (BR)

Petrobras Junior Team

+0.072s

3

Rodrigo Sperafico (BR)

Coloni F3000

+0.198

4

Antonio Pizzonia (BR)

Petrobras Junior Team

+0.266

5

Tomas Enge (CZ)

Coca-Cola Nordic Racing

+0.386

6

Giorgio Pantano (I)

Team Astromega

+0.395

7

Justin Wilson (GB)

Coca-Cola Nordic Racing

+0.505

8

David Saelens (B)

European Minardi F3000

+0.583

9

Mario Haberfeld (BR)

Super Nova Racing

+0.593

10

Mark Webber (AUS)

Super Nova Racing

+0.606

11

Antonio Garcia (E)

Red Bull Junior Team

+0.711

12

Sebastien Bourdais (F)

DAMS

+0.737

13

Bas Leinders (B)

KTR

+0.788

14

Darren Manning (GB)

Arden Team Russia

+0.962

15

Fabrizio Gollin (I)

Coloni F3000

+0.979

16

Nicolas Filiberti (RA)

F3000 Prost Junior Team

+1.241

17

Derek Hill (USA)

DAMS

+1.318

18

Andrea Piccini (I)

European Minardi F3000

+1.374

19

Gabriele Lancieri (I)

Durango Formula

+1.470

20

Joel Camathias (CH)

KTR

+1.499

21

Viktor Maslov (RUS)

Arden Team Russia

+1.693

22

Gabriele Varano (I)

F3000 Prost Junior Team

+1.895

23

Justin Keen (GB)

KJR Monaco Motorsport

+1.924

24

Patrick Friesacher (A)

Red Bull Junior Team

+1.941

25

Ananda Mikola (RI)

Team Astromega

+2.133

26

Yann Goudy (F)

KJR Monaco Motorsport

+2.597

All cars Lola B99/50-Zytek

 

Race

Race result - 35 laps, 150.845km

Pos.

Driver

Team

Time/laps/reason

1

Justin Wilson (GB)

Coca-Cola Nordic Racing

53m48.503s

2

Jaime Melo Jr (BR)

Durango Formula

+7.649

3

Sebastien Bourdais (F)

DAMS

+17.459

4

David Saelens (B)

European Minardi F3000

+21.915

5

Joel Camathias (CH)

KTR

+27.098

6

Fabrizio Gollin (I)

Coloni F3000

+28.567

7*

Mark Webber (AUS)*

Super Nova Racing

+28.611*

8

Darren Manning (GB)

Arden Team Russia

+30.208

9

Antonio Pizzonia (BR)

Petrobras Junior Team

+39.989

10

Bas Leinders (B)

KTR

+43.372

11

Andrea Piccini (I)

European Minardi F3000

+45.113

12

Tomas Enge (CZ)

Coca-Cola Nordic Racing

+46.405

13

Rodrigo Sperafico (BR)

Coloni F3000

+46.723

14

Derek Hill (USA)

DAMS

+50.798

15

Gabriele Varano (I)

F3000 Prost Junior Team

+1:02.927

16

Justin Keen (GB)

KJR Monaco Motorsport

+1:03.658

17

Ananda Mikola (RI)

Team Astromega

+1:10.726

18

Yann Goudy (F)

KJR Monaco Motorsport

+1:22.498

19

Giorgio Pantano (I)

Team Astromega

+ 1 lap; collision

20

Nicolas Filiberti (RA)

F3000 Prost Junior Team

+ 1 lap

R

Mario Haberfeld (BR)

Super Nova Racing

mechanical (?)

R

Viktor Maslov (RUS)

Arden Team Russia

spin

R

Patrick Friesacher (A)

Red Bull Junior Team

collision

R

Antonio Garcia (E)

Red Bull Junior Team

collision

R

Gabriele Lancieri (I)

Durango Formula

spin

R

Ricardo Sperafico (BR)

Petrobras Junior Team

0 laps; accident

*Webber given 25-second penalty after the race for overtaking before a restart.

All cars Lola B99/50-Zytek

 

STANDINGS:

Drivers Championship

Drivers' Standings (after round 1)

Pos.

Driver

Team

Pts

1

Justin Wilson (GB)

Coca-Cola Nordic Racing

10

2

Jaime Melo Jr (BR)

Durango Formula

6

3

Sebastien Bourdais (F)

DAMS

4

4

David Saelens (B)

European Minardi F3000

3

5

Joel Camathias (CH)

KTR

2

6

Fabrizio Gollin (I)

Coloni F3000

1

Scoring: 10-6-4-3-2-1.

 

Teams Championship

Teams' Standings (after round 1)

Pos.

Team

Pts

1

Coca-Cola Nordic Racing

10

2

Durango Formula

6

3

DAMS

4

4

European Minardi F3000

3

5

KTR

2

6

Coloni F3000

1

Scoring: 10-6-4-3-2-1.

 

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