In a weekend scattered with downpours and sunshine, Zak O’Sullivan impressed with strong Qualifying pace and a P6 race finish, demonstrating good team progress following Bahrain and the in-season tests.
Arriving on Friday morning to a practically flooded paddock, it was clear that Qualifying day would be a wet one in Imola. With the rain not letting off, Zak and his peers headed out for Practice onto a sodden track with poor visibility. For Zak this session was crucial as he had not raced at this track before. Confirming what was previously suggested at testing in Jerez, Zak proved to have decent pace in these conditions, setting some strong lap times and eventually putting his car in P8.
Moving into the afternoon, Zak’s Qualifying session was postponed by around an hour following delays to the Formula 2 schedule. Whilst the track was significantly drier than in the morning, the track conditions still just required wet weather tyres at first. Immediately the Williams Academy driver showed his intentions, pushing into P2 in the early stages. As the session continued and the track improved a number of drivers, including Zak, switched to slicks. Frustratingly a red flag meant he wasn’t able to improve, and he headed into the pits in P12 at that time. The session went green with approximately 5 minutes remaining and Zak switched back to the wet tyres. With a very strong lap the GB3 Champion placed his car into P2 once more, extracting every piece of pace from the #26 machine, and eventually at the conclusion of the session he sat in P8.
For Saturday’s Sprint Race O’Sullivan would line up in P8. A good start saw him immediately up to 7th and then later into 6th after a pass on Cohen. Sadly DRS meant he lost out on that place the following lap, but he kept close to the Jenzer car. By lap 9 he was still pushing hard, but then frustratingly caught the exit curb at Turn 17, sending him towards the barrier unable to control the car. Coming to a stop against the wall, Zak was still in the car when another driver had the same incident, careering into the side of the Carlin machine and causing additional damage. Thankfully both drivers were okay, and the safety car was brought out to clear the stranded cars from the track. The team quickly got to work on assessing and fixing the damage ahead of the next race.
It was an early start for the Feature Race on Sunday morning with lights out at 08:55am. Although the track had dried significantly overnight, there was still some dampness and grease on the tarmac, so a decision needed to be made regarding tyre choice. Zak lined up in P8 once more and the team selected slicks, along with about half the grid. With a good launch the 17-year-old was soon into 7th but lack of grip compared to those on the wets pushed him back into P12 at one brief stage. Throughout the race Zak fought hard, climbing back into the top 10 between two Safety Car periods and defending against Frederick behind. On the final lap Zak avoided some last-minute drama up ahead and crossed the line in 7th which later became 6th in the final classification. This was a fantastic result for him and the team.
The next round of FIA F3 takes place at the Circuit De Barcelona-Catalunya, Spain, on 20 - 22 May.