Having shown front-running pace in free practice at Donington Park in the F4 British Championship certified by FIA – powered by Ford EcoBoost, TRS Arden endured a frustrating weekend at the Leicestershire circuit.
Oscar Piastri looked favourite for pole with just minutes of qualifying remaining. A personal best first sector and quickest second sector of anybody the hallmarks of an absolute flyer. Yet Piastri came to grief at the final corner, pushing fractionally too hard and taking a trip off the track. The 16-year-old had been consistently quick however, and still qualified third with team-mate Alex Quinn alongside him on the second row, Ayrton Simmons ninth and Yves Baltas twelfth.
Despite a strong getaway in a race one, Piastri was shuffled a couple of places down the order in the opening stages and found himself locked in a closely fought battle for the podium with Billy Monger, Oliver York and Patrik Pasma. Piastri did well to fend off the latter and missed out on silverware in fifth.
In race two the roles were reversed, with Pasma defending from a significantly quicker Piastri. The young Aussie’s TRS Arden-prepared racer had no shortage of pace as he tried to fashion a deft overtaking manoeuvre to overcome Pasma’s robust defence. In his efforts to overtake, it was an opportunistic Harry Webb who seized the chance to squeeze by for fourth in the final laps and demote Piastri to fifth.
Simmons’ first race was thwarted due to a technical problem causing him to finish eleventh. Quinn and Baltas didn’t fare much better, both having to retire due to accident damage. A polystyrene marker board entered the radiator of Quinn’s car causing his engine to overheat. It put paid to his chances of competing in race two, with an engine change needed in too short a
Simmons shone in the second race with a brilliantly combative drive. The rising star from Epping climbed five places from eleventh to sixth to bring home a valuable haul of points. Meanwhile Baltas was denied a shot at points following a lightning start after damage to his car forced him to pit, putting him adrift of the top 10.
Piastri finished second in the final race of the weekend which saw only half points awarded, after it was halted and the decision taken not to restart following an incident involving Pasma and Monger. All four TRS Arden racers finished in the top 10 with Quinn and Simmons in ninth and tenth respectively and Baltas scoring his maiden points in sixth.
Oscar Piastri: “It’s not been an ideal weekend for the team, especially after a fantastic performance at Brands Hatch. It’s still early days though. There are eight more meetings to go so there’s a lot of points on offer. In the first race we struggled a little
bit with tyre wear, but in the second race we had a really fast car throughout. Unfortunately, we got held up by one or two cars which made it harder to use that pace. The positive is that we know we have a very fast car and hopefully we can use that to our advantage in future rounds.”
Alex Quinn: “It’s been a horrendous weekend. There’s no other way to describe it. Qualifying was actually quite good putting the car on the second row, but the races just didn’t go to plan. To end it on the first lap in race one was very disappointing. We were really unlucky. We know we’re quick though and we’ll bounce back. It’s all-out attack now for future races. I have very little to lose.”
Yves Baltas: “I was running with Ayrton in both races one and two which made me really happy. As a driver you always look at how you are performing compared to your team-mates and Ayrton is very strong. The first race was going so well and I broke into
the top 10. I feel like I could have got up to seventh, but then I got caught up in an incident at the final chicane which ended my points scoring chances. In the second race I had a fantastic start and immediately got past a couple of cars. I then got sandwiched between two cars and there was contact which caused damage, especially to my front wing. I kept going and my pace was still faster than the drivers ahead of me, but I was called into the pits for a front wing change and that ultimately put me out of contention.”
Ben Bloomfield, TRS Arden Team Manager:
“It was pretty much a disaster weekend from start to finish. It was very frustrating in qualifying with the yellow flags and that
meant we lost a lot of very quick laps, especially with Ayrton. Our other drivers did really well to get some quick laps in and we showed once again we’ve got plenty of pace.
Oscar would have had an easy pole had it not been for him going off on the grass at the end of his lap when he was quickest in sector two. I think Oscar is kicking himself knowing where he could have finished in race one and two, looking at how Jamie Caroline went on to win both of them. That’s where we should have been. Unfortunately we weren’t and we seem to have
fallen foul of most of the on-track incidents this weekend. Certainly it’s not been what we had hoped for, but we’ll keep pushing and move forward.”
Piastri heads to Thruxton for the next rounds of the season on 6-7 May in 2nd overall in the standings on 70 points with Simmons 4th, Quinn 7th and Baltas 15th.
Following the Donington Park weekend, the thoughts of everyone at Arden Motorsport remain with both Billy Monger and Patrik Pasma as we wish them well in their recovery from their injuries.