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F3 drivers say safety car influenced victory fight in Melbourne sprint race

by Alejandro Alonso Lopez

Photo: Formula Motorsport Ltd

The late safety car interruption in Formula 3’s Melbourne sprint race was key to Martinius Stenshorne’s victory aspirations as he edged Arvid Lindblad to claim his first championship win.

The Hitech GP driver started second on the reversed grid and claimed the lead for the first time at turn nine on lap three of 20. After that, he exchanged first place several times with ART Grand Prix’s Laurens van Hoepen before getting past at turn one on lap five and opening a gap that was enough to counterbalance the DRS effect, which “was making a lot of difference”.

That early battle stressed his tyres, which suffered from overheating. As a result, Prema’s Lindblad quickly reduced the almost three-second gap the Norwegian had built after he moved up to second place behind him on lap nine.

“I was a bit worried when Arvid was coming. He was really fast, and with DRS it would be difficult to keep him behind,” said Stenshorne.

“He was going really fast, and I was really struggling with my tyres. So the safety car [deployed on lap 14] helped me a lot to bring my tyres back in. And I think after the safety car, again the pace was quite strong.”

Racing resumed two laps later and Stenshorne returned to racing speed early at turn 11, giving Lindblad no chance to make a move.

“To be honest, I had no plan [for that restart]. I just went at that point. I decided to just go, and I got a bit of wheelspin after the start when I pulled up, so I was a bit sideways. But I think I managed to have a good gap. And the safety car restart was not bad.

“It was really nice after Bahrain, having such a difficult round. And I was really expecting Arvid to come and at least try to overtake me. I was really happy to cross the line P1.”

Lindblad did not go into the race expecting to contend for victory, and felt the safety car period actually reduced his chance of winning.

“We had a really strong pace. Once I passed Laurens, I was coming at Martinius quite fast. I felt good with the car. It was a bit disappointing, because I’d just got into the DRS range. I was really on the attack. I could see he was struggling a lot with the tyres, so I knew it was the time to go. And that kind of reset everything with a lot of thermal degradation with these tyres. So the safety car helped cool them all down a lot. And kind of helped us all, so it made it a lot more level at the end and I wasn’t able to have an opportunity after the restart.”

Lindblad is “optimistic” going into the feature race, although “I think to achieve a result like today, we’ll have to have a lot of things go our way”. Meanwhile, Stenshorne feels tyre management will be the key to succeed.