Absolute Racing driver Alessio Picariello (22) of Belgium put in a wheel-perfect performance today at the 5.451 km Shanghai International Circuit to take a lights-to-flag victory in Race 16 of the Formula Masters China Series (FMCS). Picariello, who joined China and the region’s leading international junior single-seater series mid-way through the 2015 season, scored his third straight victory after storming to pole in each of this morning’s two qualifying sessions. Second across the line was Cebu Pacific Air by KCMG driver and new 2015 FMCS champion Martin Rump (19) of Estonia, who got past third-place finisher Oliver Askew (18). The American karter reached the podium for the first time in just his second weekend racing in FMCS.
While Rump sealed the 2015 championship title in Zhuhai last month, there is still plenty at stake in this weekend’s season finale triple-header at China’s Formula 1 track. Racing as part of the China Speed Weekend, the fledging talents from China, Asia, Australia, Europe, South Africa and the United States are all looking for an opportunity to impress and finish their 2015 seasons on a high note.
Second in the Drivers Classification is Australian Jake Parsons (20) of Meritus.GP, whose race did not go according to plan after he and South African Matthew Swanepoel (20) of Arrows Racing touched. Parsons finished ninth. Fellow Australian Nicholas Rowe (17) is third overall and attempting to make it a 1-2 finish for the Cebu Pacific Air by KCMG team. Rowe finished just shy of the podium in fourth, having battled with Askew during the 10-lap race. Eurasia Motorsport driver Aidan Read of Australia, who, at 16, is the youngest driver in the championship, is fourth overall. Picariello rounds out the top five. While Yuan Bo was the race’s top Chinese driver, finishing sixth overall, fellow Star Racing Academy driver Jeffrey Ye (18) of Cebu Pacific Air by KCMG continues to lead the race for the FMCS Best Chinese Driver Trophy. Ye finished Race 16 in seventh position and now only 15 points separate the pair, setting up a tough Trophy battle tomorrow.
Picariello got his day off to a strong start, earning pole position for both today’s Race 16 and tomorrow’s season-ending Race 18. In each of the two 15-minute sessions, the Belgian was the only driver to achieve a lap time under two minutes and seven seconds. With a strong qualifying effort, Askew would join team mate Picariello on the front row for Race 16, with Rump set to line up on the front row for tomorrow’s Race 18.
“I had a good start and could immediately, in the first two laps, begin to build a gap,” said Picariello. “Then we had the safety car and it’s not easy when you’re leading and building a gap and to have a safety car, but I knew the pace was good and so I was confident it would work out. Immediately after the restart I was able to build the gap again. I’m happy because we improved from our first race in KL in Zhuhai and then here is even better than last month as well. My team mate is also on the podium so it’s been a good day for the team.”
At the start, Picariello got away cleanly and immediately set about trying to pull a gap from his rival. Askew made a small error allowing Rump to stay close and on Lap 2 the new champion got past the FMCS newcomer. On the second lap, Swanepoel and Parsons made contact, with Swanepoel forced to retire. Following Swanepoel’s spin, the Safety Car was called out, closing up the field.
A lap later, the Safety Car came in and at the restart, a confident Picariello held the lead, with Rump again following close behind. After the restart Rowe was able to get past Askew, setting up a battle for the final podium position between the two young drivers. Askew would retake the position on Lap 7 and successfully fended off any further challenges from his Australian rival.
As the race continued, Picariello began to build a lead to Rump, setting the fastest lap of the race in the process. With the fastest lap times from Race 16 determining the grid for Race 17, Picariello will once again start from pole for the short six-lap race, with team mate Askew alongside him. Teammates Rump and Row will start from third and fourth, respectively, and will be on the hunt to put a stop to the hard-charging Absolute Racing duo.
Results – Race 16
|1||6||Alessio PICARIELLO/BEL||Absolute Racing||23:01.355|
|2||4||Martin RUMP/EST||Cebu Pacific Air by KCMG||+6.918|
|3||5||Oliver ASKEW/USA||Absolute Racing||+8.874|
|4||2||Nicholas ROWE/AUS||Cebu Pacific Air by KCMG||+13.141|
|5||24||Aidan READ/AUS||Eurasia Motorsport||+14.140|
|6||8||YUAN Bo/CHN||Cebu Pacific Air by KCMG||+14.863|
|7||1||Jeffrey YE/CHN||Cebu Pacific Air by KCMG||+15.570|
|10||3||Sean ZHENG/CHN||Cebu Pacific Air by KCMG||+24.583|
|11||39||Tomoki TAKAHASHI/JPN||Super License||+27.022|
|12||7||KIM Jeong Tae/KOR||Eurasia Motorsport||+31.228|
|13||55||Takashi HATA/JPN||Super License||+36.156|
|DNF||17||HONG Shi Jie/CHN||Super License||—|
|DNF||49||Matthew SWANEPOEL/RSA||Arrows Racing||—|
Fastest Lap: Alessio Picariello/ Absolute Racing/ 2:07.794