Returning Norris stars, but Collard steals momentum with maiden victory
It’s a shame that Lando Norris is essentially a part-timer in this year’s BRDC British Formula 3 Championship.
A win and two podium finishes at Rockingham proved his championship credentials, but Norris’s loss is Ricky Collard’s gain as he snatched the championship lead with a maiden victory and an impressive overall weekend.
Having skipped the second round of the season at Brands Hatch to focus on his European Formula Renault campaign, Norris didn’t take long to get back into the flow with his Carlinrun Tatuus-cosworth, slotting onto pole for race one ahead of Collard and Matheus Leist. Qualifying proved to be the start of a downward spiral for erstwhile points leader Toby Sowery. The Lanan racer struggled for set-up all weekend and complained of instability at the rear on downshifts. Sowery could only start 13th and had to watch his points lead go up in smoke from then on.
Norris didn’t get away well for the first race, and had to play second fiddle to Collard for much of the outing, until the fight came to a head in the closing laps. Collard ran wide at Chapman, opening the door for Norris, who slotted alongside. The pair ran together around Pif-paf before Norris snatched the lead with a daring move as he dipped two wheels onto the grass. Leist took third as Sowery slumped to 14th after stalling at the start.
Norris started the reversed-grid second outing back in eighth, but soon made his mark. The first attempt at the start had to be abandoned after Enzo Bortoleto was caught up in a violent accident at Chapman ( see Racing News). That was bad news for Enaam Ahmed, who had worked into the lead from third on the grid.
When the cars lined up on the reformed grid, Ahmed again got away well, but lost his front wing when poleman Tarun Reddy moved across to defend.
With Ahmed out of the way, Thomas Randle hit the front and defended throughout from Ameya Vaidyanathan to score his first win. But the most action was behind. Norris completed the first lap in sixth, but had fitted four new tyres and benefited from extra grip. He picked his passes perfectly to slide into third and set the fastest lap of the race to snatch pole for the final outing. Collard was seventh after being mired in traffic and Sowery eighth.
Norris and Leist shared the front row for the final outing, with Collard immediately behind. But when Norris bogged down at the start, both cars were past him before Turn 1, with Collard the quicker off the line.
Collard was dominant once out front, and controlled the race to claim his first win of the season ahead of Leist and Norris.
The results hand Collard a 22-point lead over Sowery, who capped his weekend with a fighting sixth.
“It feels great to be a British F3 race winner, I dreamt about that as a kid,” said Collard. “It’s still early doors in the championship so I’ve got to get my head down and focus.”
Norris added: “My starts haven’t been great this weekend and it was weird adapting back to this car after the Formula Renault. But I can leave happy enough.”
BRDC F3 Collard (l) and Norris Collard took a race three victory