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After a solid debut in the opening round of the FIA Formula 3 European Championship at Silverstone in England, Hong Kong’s Matt Solomon was back in action over the weekend at the Hockenheim Formula One circuit in Germany for round two of the championship looking to take another forward step in his emerging open wheel career.

Just as testing had shown prior to the season-opener, pre-event practice provided the teenager and his Double R Racing team with plenty of positive signs heading into qualifying. Although mother nature was soon to provide him with a first-hand lesson in changeable track conditions on what is regarded as arguably the most challenging circuit in Europe.

Despite the setbacks in qualifying Solomon was his typical upbeat self ahead of the opening race, where he managed to charge through from last [35th] to 22nd in the process gaining valuable data ahead of rave two. “In race two it was dry and I got an amazing start to go from 30th to about P18 on the first lap, but going through the back of the circuit – Sachs Curve the banked left-hander just before the last two corners – Nabil Jeffrey tried a very ambitious lunge from nowhere, and he hit me and spun me around so I lost all those places again. “I then had to work my way back through the field, but by then the pack had spread out and I’d lost too much time in the spin and the guys in front were just too far away.

Solomon’s pace was exceptional under the circumstances. Consider a field of the best young open wheel drivers in the world, all separated by just on two seconds in slippery conditions in a car designed to be driven quickly. Putting that into pure mathematical terms, Matt was just 1.8% slower than the drivers at the front of the field, or in other words, he was performing at 98.2% of drivers with as much as five years experience in the same cars – not a bad start to his season just two races in.

Off the rear of the field again for the final race as a by-product of his unfortunate contact in qualifying two, Solomon once more charged his way
through the field to be comfortably inside the front half of the field ahead of a final Safety Car period which bunched up the field with two laps
to go.

Hanging on to the tail of Fabian Schiller – who would eventually finish 15th – Solomon went for a move on the final lap to take the position away only to pull out at the last second, at which point he was dive bombed from behind and forced wide, dropping back to 23rd at the line. “I probably should have just kept my nose in and forced my way through but I hesitated thinking I could make a more solid move at the next turn, and that’s all it took,” Solomon explained. “Another lesson learned, especially against competition like this. “It’s been a tough experience so far, it’s not quite going our way yet, but I’m sure that if I keep working with the team, and my engineer, there’s no reason why we can’t be up the front and I think we’ve shown a number of times that we have the pace to be at the front. We’ll get there, there’s no doubt about that!”

For Solomon it’s now back to his UK base to continue training ahead of the third round of the championship at the Pau Circuit in France in two weeks time (15-17 May).

Ben Potter

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