Rain in Spa, Jan Haladej keeps his advancing position
The penultimate round of the F1 Esports Challengers series was hosted by the 7 km long circuit in Spa-Francorchamps and as expected the weather played a significant role. Tomáš Enge SIM Racing team member Jan Haladej kept the car on the wet track to finish seventh.
Our driver again advanced to the final part of qualifying, but despite his best efforts he failed to set a time better than 10th. Alfie Butcher didn’t shine for the first time in a long time, 4th on the grid was a slight disappointment for him after some dominant performances. His closest pursuer Ulas Ozyildirim took advantage of this to secure pole position ahead of Ismael Fahssi. Qualifying was run in the dry, but a high probability of rain was predicted for the race.
Jan Haladej did not feel completely comfortable on the legendary Belgian track in the Ardennes, in this context 7th place can be considered a success.
Everyone lined up on the grid with hard tyres. After the start there was no big wildness, with Ozyildirim taking the lead ahead of Fahssi. Butcher moved up to 3rd, but only shadowed the leading duo. Fahssi took the lead on lap 9, but Ozyildirim soon returned the overtaking manoeuvre. By then, the first drivers had started to pit for tyre changes, including Butcher. A quartet of drivers settled at the front, who kept postponing the pit stop in view of the threatening rain. With four laps to go, the Spa circuit was battered by a shower. Not only those who had not yet set up, but also some others changed to intermediate tyres. Incomprehensibly, only Valentin Thivard stayed on the track and was not to be pitted, even though the rules do not allow the entire race to be completed on one set. Unsurprisingly, one of the troubled tyres exploded, ending the Frenchman’s illogical action. Ozyildirim held on to the lead ahead of Fahssi, with István Puki on the podium for the first time this season.
Jan Haladej was unobtrusively hovering between the top and second ten. He coped very well with the dramatic finish, when many drivers failed to clear their cars in the wet, and thanks to a good team strategy he moved up to 7th place. “I made a few mistakes in qualifying, but was lucky to make it to the final Q3. However, I didn’t have the speed to conjure up anything better than 10th place. The race was affected by the weather forecast promising rain, so communication with the engineers played a key role. We chose the right strategy and I was able to gain a few positions. It’s not my strong track, so I’m very happy with the result,” summed up the race at the iconic Belgian circuit, the only Czech driver in the starting field. He is fifth in the provisional classification and the final round at the Interlagos circuit in Brazil next week will decide whether he will stay among the top six.
Race result: 1. Ulas Ozylidirim (TR/AlphaTauri), 2. Ismael Fahssi (E/Mercedes), 3. István Puki (H/Aston Martin), 4. Xander van Dijken (NL/Red Bull), 5. Dylan Warren (GB/Ferrari), 6. Can Akinci (TR/Haas), 7. Jan Haladej (CZ/Ferrari)
Standings after 5 races: 1. Alfie Butcher (GB/Alfa Romeo) 90, 2. Ulas Ozyildirim (TR/AlphaTauri) 82, 3. Ismael Fahssi (E/Mercedes) 48, 4. István Puki (H/Aston Martin) 40, 5. Jan Haladej (CZ/Ferrari) 36, 6. Ruben Pedreňo (E/Red Bull) a Dylan Warren (GB/Ferrari) oba 35.