Home Featured How Jenzer Motorsport executed a dream F3 Sunday at Spa

How Jenzer Motorsport executed a dream F3 Sunday at Spa

by Alejandro Alonso Lopez

Photo: Formula Motorsport Limited

Jenzer Motorsport enjoyed a dream Sunday at Spa-Francorchamps as its three cars made the top four in the Formula 3 feature race

On Friday, Taylor Barnard qualified in 10th place, whereas Nikita Bedrin and Alex Garcia could only be 18th and 22nd respectively. However, Sunday’s mixed conditions gave drivers and teams room to play with the strategy, something unusual in FIA F3.

Early morning showers wetted the track and even though the rain had stopped prior to the race, there was still water on the tarmac. The situation had been similar ahead of the sprint race on Saturday, but higher temperatures made then the medium slick rubber an obvious choice. On Sunday, a colder atmosphere and a cloudy sky allowed several drivers to bet on the grooved tyres.

Nine cars started the race on the wet compound, only six finished on it, and among them were all three Jenzer entries. Such a decision definitely paid off for the Swiss team, which sealed its best ever result in the series as Barnard claimed the victory while Bedrin and Garcia took the chequered flag in third and fourth place. It was also the best result for all three rookies, which made the achievement even more special.

Formula Scout spoke to team principal Andreas Jenzer and its three drivers in the paddock after the race as they celebrated a perfectly executed race.

“We always work hard to try to do our best and now, this weekend, all the strategies came along to win this feature race, even to do a double podium and have our third car just P4. [It is] fantastic for the team,” Jenzer affirmed.

“We are very happy for our team, for Jenzer Motorsport with our group of people, what we have since a long, long time together,” he followed. “I am proud of all my guys, mechanics, engineers and obviously still the drivers need to bring it home.”

Photo: Dutch Photo Agency

On the grid, Barnard was the highest-placed driver to fit wet tyres. The strategy proved key to the final result and Jenzer credited the experience of the team at Spa for it.

“The engineers just didn’t panic. We looked at the temperature situation and it was the big difference to yesterday. It stayed very cold and when it stays very cold, we know from all the racing that we are doing here with other categories or when we do testing at the start or at the end of the year, when Spa is cold, it dries out much, much slower. It is basically a question of temperature today.”

The safety car came out on lap four of 15, but the team never considered to enter the pit-lane to fit slicks like others did. According to Jenzer, that was a strategy that only made sense for Prema’s Paul Aron, who had an over eight-second lead at that moment. Aron pitted handing first place to Barnard, who went on to reach the chequered flag first as the track never really dried out. Only Van Amersfoort Racing’s Caio Collet was able to finish higher than some of the drivers on the wet compound, in fifth.

“It’s surreal,” a delighted Barnard said about the result. “I have no voice. I think the team is over the moon, myself as well. You know, a crazy result. I didn’t quite expect it.

“I didn’t quite expect it,” he repeated. “A crazy race and it’s going to take a few weeks to settle in for sure.”

The Briton has excelled in qualifying throughout the season with second place at Barcelona as his best effort, but he had never before made the podium in the races. At Spa, he achieved it twice.

“Honestly, we’ve been working hard this year. It slowly started to come together, but I think this weekend with a bit of luck everything came together perfectly and I ended up finishing the sprint race P2 and I won the feature race.

“It’s a crazy emotion right now, [I am] very, very happy.”

Photo: Formula Motorsport Limited

Before the race, he says “it was never clear” what the right tyre was: “It was always 50-50, the grid was split, but I knew we would be faster at the start and then it was a case of just trying to hang on at the end.

“In the end, we didn’t drop as much as we expected and the slicks didn’t come on as fast as we expected. So we got a bit lucky with that.

“For sure, I was the first one [on wets on the grid] and I had all these experienced guys in front of me still staying on the slick tyres and it made me second-guess. But in the end, we chose the right tyre and managed to come away with the win.”

It was the PHM Racing-supported driver who made the call for rain tyres on the grid.

“I said on the radio at the start ‘I think I want to go to wets’ and then he gave me an update on the condition. I said ‘ok, for sure, we send it for wets’ and since then, we just committed fully. From there, there’s no pit-stops. We just had to fully commit and in the end it worked.”

At the start, Barnard was overtaken by Aron, who lined-up just one position behind him. The Mercedes junior soon opened a gap at the lead and opted to box when the safety car was deployed. Committing to the original strategy was what decided the victory. However, it didn’t come easy as he had to resist the attacks of Campos Racing’s Christian Mansell in the coming stages of the race.

“The first lap I really got stuck, especially in turn one. I got completely boxed in, but as soon as I was into P2, I straight away started managing the tyres because you never know how much is going to evolve the track.

“I think [Aron] started to drop honestly towards the safety car period and then I guess he opted to go for slicks. But in the end, the wets was the right choice.”

Photo: Formula Motorsport Limited

Bedrin’s third place also meant his second podium following the third position achieved in the sprint race at the Hungaroring.

“I’m really happy, especially for the team because it was a great result for everybody,” a ecstatic Bedrin declared. “I’m really happy, especially considering that I started P18. To finish on the podium, I was not expecting that. But we’ve done the correct choice with the team, so especially happy with that.

“I’m quite happy in general for the weekend because I think from my side, I’ve done everything I could and I think I’ve got the result the maximum results that I could this week even though I got a bit unlucky on the first lap in race one. But I’m still happy with how the week went and especially with the results, considering that this is the most points I’ve scored this season so far. And the past two weeks I’ve got a podium, so I hope I can keep this up for the future as well.”

Bedrin described the race and especially the opening lap, where he moved up 14 places, as “really crazy and fun”.

“It was a lot of fun because everybody felt like they were on the cool down. But I knew that they were on slicks and they were like a lot struggling for a grip. So it was really scary to overtake them.

“I had much more grip than them, but knowing that they were on slicks, they could have slid at every moment and crashed into me. So I was a bit nervous for that, but I think I’ve done well to avoid every contact and pass everybody as quickly as possible.

“I came P4 I think on the first lap already, so I was happy with that.”

Bedrin admitted that despite finishing on the podium, he was too far off in pace to challenge his team-mate and fellow PHM-supported driver Barnard for the win and even Mansell for second place. Indeed, he finished over six seconds behind the Campos ace and 7.703 seconds off of the winner.

“To be honest, I had no pace from the beginning. Mansell passed me very early on because I had no pace. I was struggling for grip a lot. I’ve tried to do my best to keep Garcia behind and I think I’ve done well.

“Already from the beginning, I started to struggle a lot and then, at the end, it got even worse because I had not grip the whole session. So considering that we got P3, I still was a bit struggling for pace.”

Photo: Jenzer Motorsport

Like his team-mates, Garcia was also over the moon as the fourth place awarded him his maiden FIA F3 points. 

“At the end, we had nothing to lose,” the Mexican said about his tyre choice. “We went for the wet tyres, we said ‘let’s go for the first laps that we can get an advantage and then we see’. To be honest, it was the right gamble. It could have gone the other way around, but for our luck, it went our way.

“We are happy about the result, happy also with the team because the team did an amazing job. To do first, third and fourth is amazing. Shame we were so close to the podium, so it doesn’t feel as good as it should be. But I’m so happy either way, first points and in a feature race, it’s just amazing.

“It was pretty risky. The first few laps was a mess on track. I had to avoid a lot of crashes because a lot of cars also were going slow. So I was just seeing like way in front of me, seeing where the gaps were to go by and just also try to lose as minimum time as possible. That was the first lap.

“We knew since we were going to go out with the wet tyres, we knew that was going to be the first lap. So I prepared myself and we did it right. By the end laps, I was just pushing forward. I was trying to do everything also with Nikita, just different lines, just trying to be faster than him. But it was really hard to overtake right now with these conditions,” he said after ending the race 1.212 seconds behind Bedrin.

Garcia did discuss boxing for slicks with his engineer over the radio when the safety car appeared on track, but they soon ruled it out.

“We for sure talked about entering for slicks in the safety car, but at the end it was way too late. Already some people were entered. So if we should enter and box for slick tyres, we would have lost a lot of time. At the end, it was a right call, also because we didn’t have time to box for slicks.

“Everything happens for a reason and I’m happy.”