Matheus Leist snatches British F3 title after Collard’s error costs him dear
Much like the GTS that headlined the weekend, the destination of this year’s BRDC British Formula Three title hinged on a single mistake. As Ricky Collard sat in the Redgate gravel trap on Saturday afternoon he knew he’d already made it.
Brazilian Matheus Leist pulled off a superb smash and grab job to steal the crown from long-term points leader Collard, who sadly endured more smash than grab.
It was ironic that it was two on-track collisions with Leist’s Double R teammate Enzo Bortoleto that ultimately cost Collard the title. But there was no controversy around either of them.
Through all of the chaos, Toby Sowery emerged as the star of the weekend to score two wins, but his title chances were only slim to start with, meaning the final round was very much about two men.
Collard’s weekend started badly when he struggled to get a time in the soaking wet qualifying session. He could only go fourth fastest, and Leist lined up second. Still, things looked rosy with Collard holding a 15-point lead before racing began. But by lap eight it had gone.
Collard out-braked himself into turn one and dropped back, then he was hit by a sliding Enaam Ahmed into the Esses. It left him 14th at the end of the first lap, just as Leist stole the lead from pole man Ben Hingeley.
Collard had work to do, and set about forging his way back up the order, until he got things wrong chasing fifth-placed Bortoleto into Redgate. “The conditions were improving and I was pushing like mad, and to get an overtake done you have to tuck in and stay nice and close,” said Collard. “I felt Enzo braked early and there was nothing I could do. I’m gutted.”
Collard ploughed into Bortoleto, sending both into the gravel and out of the race. “I braked in my normal place and Collard hit me,” said Bortoleto.
With Collard out, and Leist securing the win from Harrison Scott and Hingeley, it signalled a 35-point swing, putting Leist 20 ahead.
“I can’t believe it, we got so lucky,” said Leist. “The race was even red flagged just after I had a moment at the chicane and lost the lead to Harrison. Perhaps this is our weekend.”
He was right, as Collard was pinged with a five-place grid penalty for race two, meaning he started last. “I feel it’s pretty harsh, but I have to deal with it, said Collard. “There’s still a chance tomorrow so I’m not giving up.”
But more drama was to come in race two. Collard again came together with Bortoleto into the Melbourne hairpin. Collard ran up the inside of the Brazilian, who turned in. They clashed wheels and Bortoleto flipped.
No action was taken, but Collard was consigned to 10th place with bent suspension after the clash.
Sowery ran away to win ahead of Eugene Denyssen, Thomas Maxwell and Scott, as Leist took more points for fifth place.
It meant Collard trailed by 25 points with just the final race to go. He needed a miracle, but it never came.
As Sowery again dominated to win from pole ahead of Ahmed and Thomas Randle, Leist ran a solid fifth, a place ahead of Collard. All Collard could do was stare at the Brazilian’s gearbox for 13 laps as his title hopes faded.
“This is so special,” said Leist. “To win the British F3 title, and follow in the footsteps of great Brazilians like Ayrton Senna and Rubens Barrichello is amazing. Plus to win the title here, where Senna did that amazing lap. I watched that lap so many times before the weekend. I’m so proud to be champion here.”