Gelael Races Strongly Despite Problems

Nurburgring, 23rd September - Young Indonesian talent Sean Gelael took a best finish of seventh in the final round of the British Formula 3 International Series at the Nurburgring, but he left the historic German circuit disappointed as the weekend had promised so much more.

Gelael, just 16 years old, was returning to the scene of his best performance and result to date in the FIA Formula 3 European Championship last month, so his confidence was high.

This continued with excellent form in difficult weather conditions in free practice, when he was fifth fastest, both in the wet and in the damp.

A spin in qualifying, which bent a suspension pushrod on his Double R Racing Dallara-Mercedes, played a big part in his fall down the order to take ninth on the grid, but this did not deter a driver famed for his excellent starts.

He lived up to his reputation at the beginning of race one, when decisive overtaking moves on Australian Spike Goddard and Colombian Tatiana Calderon promoted him to sixth position. However, a problem with the set-up of his car caused big oversteer, with the rear of the car sliding around and further affecting the performance of his tyres. He was unable to stop Calderon repassing him on the penultimate lap of the race.

“The car just did not feel right,” he said, “and under braking especially it was oversteering a lot.”

Sean started race two from second on the grid, but a clutch problem that hampered him for most of the weekend meant he dropped to fifth on the opening lap. He then had a spin and fell to 10th, but made a strong recovery and was setting very good lap times as he made it back up to eighth place at the chequered flag.

“We have been struggling with the clutch,” said Gelael. “The start was terrible but after that it was not going too bad. Then I went a bit tight into a corner, lost control a little bit and tried to catch the car, but I ran out of road. I was able to come back up the order a bit but it was a big shame and a wasted opportunity for a really good result.”

Sean put his clutch problems behind him with a terrific start to race three, when he leapt up the order from ninth on the grid to sixth on the opening lap. He then passed Calderon for fifth and was holding this position when he was attacked by Goddard into the Turn 1 hairpin.

Goddard made contact with Gelael and spun him around, and the Australian was forced by race officials to drive slowly down the pit lane on one lap as a punishment. Meanwhile, Sean came into the pits too to change his right-rear tyre, which he suspected was damaged in the impact. This turned out not to be the case and the problem he felt was actually more serious damage to the car, although he continued to finish ninth.

“We finally got the clutch working!” he said. “I was going well, and our group was all running at the same pace, and then I was hit. I think it actually may have done some damage to the suspension because the car just did not feel right.”

The results dropped Sean to a final position of eighth in the championship standings, but there is little time to dwell on that as he is getting ready for a big push in the final three rounds of the FIA Formula 3 European Championship, starting with the Dutch circuit of Zandvoort next weekend.(ms/arl)

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