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Felix: qualifying to be essential at Brands Hatch

By Mattias Persson

Felix believes that qualifying will be even more crucial than normal during next weekend’s FIA Formula 3 European Championship round at Brands Hatch, and that the short nature of the English circuit could throw up some highly unexpected results.

With a full 30 cars lining up in the ultra-competitive European Championship this year, several drivers have already voiced their concern about the potential hazard of traffic at the 1.9 km venue – the shortest track on the calendar.

Taking little more than 40 seconds to complete, the Brands Hatch Indy layout looks likely to be flooded with cars in free practice and the races, although organisers have confirmed a solution to split qualifying into two groups in an attempt to level out the playing field as drivers seek a clear lap.

“It will be a very interesting weekend, and it will be extremely difficult to find some clean air – even if the field is split in half for qualifying,” Felix says about the situation. “It is part of the game, of course, and it’s something we will just have to deal with, but Brands Hatch might well sport some real surprises.”

Featuring just two short straights and predominantly fast and medium-speed corners, the Brands Hatch Indy circuit provides very limited opportunities for overtaking – as demonstrated during last year’s Formula 3 Euro Series round at the site. In a field which has been expanded by more than 100 per cent since then, there is also growing unease among the championship frontrunners that the lapping of backmarkers may well play a central role in the outcome of the races.

“Whoever gets a clear lap in qualifying is likely to be in the mix for pole, and that is a massive advantage around the Indy layout where overtaking is close to impossible,” Felix continues. “Then, if you do end up near the front, it won’t be more than a handful of laps before you come across the guys at the back – and they will have to be very aware of that. The lap takes 40 seconds to complete, and with so many cars on the grid, I think it will be very, very interesting to see what happens after, say, ten laps.”

Felix, who is second in the championship standings after winning for the second time this year at Hockenheim last weekend, also believes strategy will become more integral than ever in the pursuit of success at Brands Hatch.

“At the end of the day, it’s the same for everyone, and whoever does the best job dodging the traffic and managing the races will come out on top,” he concludes. “Strategy will be vital, particularly in qualifying, and it is going to be a massive challenge. I already have a plan in mind about how to approach the weekend, and we will also have to sit down within the team to discuss how we go about things. The track itself is great fun, though, but no one will be able to make much progress if they slip up one that one important qualifying lap.”

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