Joel managed to turn around his qualifying fortunes and stage a return to his early-season one-lap form at Zandvoort this evening, lapping less than a tenth off pole in the first grid-deciding session of the weekend to take third place.
After struggling with single-lap performance in the latest rounds of the FIA F3 European Championship, Joel and Team Motopark went into Friday’s qualifying session with a sense of nervous excitement, eager to find out if extensive work in recent weeks had finally paid off.
The uplifting answer to that question eventually turned out to be “yes”, as Joel rejoined the frontrunning battle and hauled himself into contention for pole position for Saturday’s Race 1 at the former Dutch Grand Prix circuit.
Despite ultimately missing out by the tiniest of margins – lapping just 0.08 seconds slower than pole-setter Lando Norris – Joel was pleased to find himself P3 and to out-pace all Prema Powerteam cars (the Italian squad’s charge being headed by championship leader Maximilian Günther in fourth).
Norris commanded a Carlin 1-2 ahead of Ferdinand Habsburg, with Joel and Günther set to line up on the second row tomorrow morning. Callum Ilott will start the first race of the weekend from fifth, ensuring all four of the leading title contenders (Günther, Norris, Joel and Ilott) are positioned close to the front.
Next session: Race 1, 10.45 local time (GMT+02:00) tomorrow.
“This is a big relief! This was probably one of the most important sessions of the year for us; we really needed to know that all our recent hard work to turn qualifying around has paid off. Being less than a tenth off pole proves that our theories have been correct, which is crucial in the championship fight.
“That said, we are still not actually on pole, so there is further room for improvement. My lap today was pretty much on the edge, as always here at Zandvoort, and I think I squeezed everything out of the car. From third on the grid tomorrow, we have a great opportunity to score big points, and that’s the main target now.”
RESULTS – Qualifying 1 (grid for Race 1)