Petr Ptacek played a starring role on his F3 Asian Championship debut at the Suzuka International Circuit this weekend, claiming P3 in his first-ever Formula 3 race and qualifying on pole position for the final race of the weekend.
The Czech youngster travelled to Japan to keep himself race-fit during a long gap between races in his Formula Renault Eurocup campaign. Driving for Seven Grand Prix and using an unfamiliar engine and tyre combination, Petr matched the pace of the championship’s established frontrunners – despite a persistent engine issue which cost him time in each track session.
In Qualifying One, Petr finished P3 around the 5.807km circuit and then in Qualifying Two, which established the grid for Sunday’s third encounter, he confidently secured pole position. The Parmigiani Fleurier-supported driver’slap time of 1:56.557 was the fastest set by any driver during the entire race weekend.
“I was happy with P3, because I’d missed half of each free practice session due to the engine issue,” the 16-year-old said. “I had made a few small mistakes on my P3 lap, so I knew we had the potential to be up there in second qualifying.
“It was my call to tell the team to wait for five minutes before going out on track, rather than go out immediately like my rivals did, because I knew there would only be the opportunity for one fast lap. It was good to have the confidence to make the correct strategy decision.”
Petr dropped to P4 at the start of Race One, but quickly reclaimed P3 with a late-braking manoeuvre at the chicane. That earned him a podium finish from his first start and he backed that up with P4 in Race Two on Sunday morning.
All eyes were on the impressive series newcomer at the start of Race Three, and Petr defended his advantage into the first turn. However, near the end of the opening lap, he was tapped into a spin by a rival at the chicane and fell to the back of the field.
Although Petr was blameless in the incident, for which his assailant was penalised by the stewards, his race was effectively over and he elected to retire in the pits due to the ongoing engine issue.
“P1 or P2 was possible, but I’m not going to beat myself up about it. I’m not heartbroken because I feel like I’ve done a positive job throughout the weekend,” he said.
“I was the only driver all season who has been able to push the frontrunning team hard in this championship, and I’m happy to get some useful experience. I’m going to travel home with my mind clear and take this confidence into the next Formula Renault event.”
Petr’s Formula Renault Eurocup campaign will continue at Spa-Francorchamps in Belgium on 25-27 July.