LEIST LEADS THE WAY
It went to the wire at Donington Park, with a four-way battle for the title between leader Ricky Collard, Matheus Leist (-15 points), Thomas Randle (-51 points) and Toby Sowery (-62 points).
With 95 points available over the weekend it was all to play for and Leist started well by qualifying in second place in the wet session behind Ben Hingeley.
Saturday’s race started dry but Collard ran wide at Redgate falling down the order while Leist took the lead at the end of the first lap. Collard was then hit by Ennam Ahmed and fell back to 14th place.
Behind them Randle made contact with the rear of rival Sowery damaging his front wing and retiring from the race, ending his title hopes.
Collard started to fight his way back up the order before the safety car was called out to recover Jeremy Wahome’s stricken machine at the Foggerty Esses.
At the restart Collard collided with Enzo Bortoleto retiring both cars, and at the same time Leist ran wide at the Esses losing the race lead. However with Collard and Bortoleto’s cars stuck in a dangerous place the race was red flagged with the standings reverting to the start of the previous lap.
Both Collard and Ahmed would be awarded 5-place grid penalties for their incidents as the championship swung in Leist’s favour as he ended the day with a 20-point lead over Collard. Sowery passed Randle for third in the standings but also found himself out of the championship fight after a fourth placed finish.
“It is the best result that could have happened for me,” said Leist. “I am happy with the win and I am going to keep calm and do my job.”
The Brazilian could have wrapped the title up in race two on Sunday morning, with Collard starting last on the grid. Pole-sitter Ben Hingeley bogged down at the start and was swamped by the field, as Eugene Denyson led from Sowery with Leist in fifth.
Further back Collard was up to 14th place behind Bortoleto, and he made a move into the Melbourne Hairpin. Bortoleto tried to hold his line around the outside but the two touched with Bortoleto’s rear wheel making contact with Collard’s side pod and front wheel, flipping him over and into retirement.
Both drivers felt the other was to blame for the incident, Collard telling The Motorsport Report: “It’s such a shame. My front wing was level with his and he continued to turn in. I tried to avoid contact because I have everything to lose but he carried on squeezing and drove over my front wheel after hitting my side pod.”
Bortoleto felt otherwise: “I made a mistake at the chicane and on the straight he started pushing me – he touched my rear. I braked quite late, he braked later and he hit me, again.”
After a safety-car period third placed Aleksanteri Huovinen spun into the barriers at Hollywood, while Sowery took the lead and started to pull clear.
Leist came under increasing pressure from Harrison Scott for fourth while Collard, now suffering with understeer, was locked into a tight battle with Randle for 9th, the two passing each other on consecutive laps at the Melbourne Hairpin.
On the final lap Leist looked to go around Maxwell for third but found Scott on his inside, and settled behind him at the flag. “I didn’t push too hard,” he said. “I was so close to Maxwell, but I knew if I finished fifth and Collard didn’t finish I would be champion.”
The 23rd and final race of the season would decide the title, with Leist, 25 points ahead in the championship, starting fifth and Collard directly behind on the track in seventh.
Once again Ben Hingeley had a problem on the grid, this time causing a delayed start as he was pushed off the track. At the start Harrison Scott moved across to block Leist, almost forcing the Brazilian off the road.
Toby Sowery built up a huge lead in front as Thomas Randle dove past Scott for third and set after his teammate Enaam Ahmed. Ricky Collard was still behind Leist but unable to find any way to get past this rival.
With the performance of the cars so closely matched it was hard for anyone to make progress, with Ahmed, Randle, Scott, Leist and Collard all covered by around 1.5 seconds.
Randle looked left and right behind his teammate but couldn’t make the move, with Sowery winning comfortably from the two Double R drivers.
“We had a good start and a good end to the season!” said Sowery. “It’s a tough championship with fantastic drivers and teams.”
Coming across the line in fifth place Matheus Leist secured the 2016 BRDC British Formula 3 title, joining countrymen Nelson Piquet, Ayrton Senna and Rubens Barrichello, amongst others, on the list of British F3 champions.
“It was just about being calm, relaxed and not pushing so much or taking risks,” he said to The Motorsport Report. “It was all about when Ricky crashed yesterday – that was where I won the championship.
“I only had two DNFs and after this lots of podiums, so I think consistency was the main thing.”