Ben Barnicoat scored his second FIA Formula 3 European Championship race win at a rain-soaked street circuit in Pau, France.
In the foothills of the Pyrénées, at the start of race 1, when the pole-sitter made a tardy getaway, the Chesterfield super-rookie pounced on the wet track and darted into the lead. “To be fair I had a really good start”, Barnicoat announced, “I could have beaten (poleman) Lance Stroll away even if he had not stalled”.
Clearly the fastest driver in the wet conditions, at the head of the field Barnicoat built an initial advantage of almost three seconds by the end of the opening lap.
In the early laps, he steadily extended out a healthy margin lap after lap; Barnicoat was over five seconds ahead by lap 8.
Following a safety car intervention, New Zealander Nick Cassidy in 2nd place mounted a challenge closing to just 1.1 seconds behind, but even that failed to dent Barnicoat’s advantage too much as he managed the gap without pressure.
The conditions played to Barnicoat’s advantage, “It was a very wet but I didn’t mind as it gave me a bigger advantage being out in front on a street track as the spray can’t go anywhere being trapped in by the buildings. It really helps, although negotiating a few back markers made it rather challenging”.
After 24 undisputed laps, the Racing Steps Foundation-supported 19 year-old celebrated victory with a lead margin of almost 2.5 seconds at the flag.
“I am really happy with my first place. Rain had been forecast for a long time, the track was very wet which suits me very well. At the start, I got a great launch off the grid and was able to move up into the lead and I managed to pull clear from the rest of the field during the first few laps”. Barnicoat revealed, “Unfortunately, then the safety car came out - after the restart, things got a little more difficult, because Nick Cassidy was definitely putting pressure on me. I concentrated to avoid any mistakes, I managed to control the gap from there, and kept it on black and I succeeded”.
Starting 9th in race 2, Barnicoat made an excellent start to leapfrog those ahead into 6th place on a drying track.
Soon elevated into 5th place, Barnicoat closed up on the pack ahead, but two Safety Car periods, on a circuit which is tough to overtake, with two minutes remaining, meant there were no other position changes.
Barnicoat’s finish promotes him to 3rd in the overall drivers’ standings, and into a clear lead in the Rookies’ points.
For race 3 starting from 7th place, Barnicoat in 6th did well to avoid a two-car collision ahead through the opening bends, and a further car’s brought on a safety car period.
Having to pit for a new front wing relegated Barnicoat to 15th and to the back of the pack, “It was plain unlucky,” Barnicoat said.
The race restarted with 22 minutes remaining, and Barnicoat started a charge up the grid, working eventually to 11th position, and then closed up on the rear of Harrison Newey.
But fellow Brit Newey delayed Barnicoat causing him lose a place, and settle for 11th by the flag.
“A good weekend. At this stage of the season I’m doing a good job and I’m happy with my progress. My pace was very strong in the wet, and I showed that in the dry too at the end of race three considering I still had damage”.
With two wins from as many races on wet tracks, Barnicoat moves up to 4th place in the drivers’ championship, and into the lead of the rookie standings.