F3 Basil Shaaban ends season with 12th at Hockenheim
2009 FORMULA 3 EURO SERIES
Hockenheim, Germany, rounds 19 and 20 – October 23rd-25th
For immediate release
Monday, October 26th, 2009
LEBANESE F3 RACER BASIL SHAABAN ENDS F3 EURO SERIES SEASON WITH 12TH PLACE AT HOCKENHEIM
· Arab world’s leading F1 hopeful sets sights on 2010 racing programme
· Hockenheim race victories fall to Jules Bianchi and Jean Karl Vernay
· ART Grand Prix wins F3 Euro Series Teams’ Championship
HOCKENHEIM (Germany): Lebanese F3 driver, Basil Shaaban, ended his 2009 F3 Euro Series campaign with 12th position and an unfortunate non-finish in the two races at Hockenheim in Germany on Saturday and Sunday.
The results confirmed that the Abu Dhabi-raised star finished 17th in the F3 Euro Series Drivers’ Championship standings from a total of 32 drivers who were eligible to compete for championship points in the world’s pinnacle F3 series. Prema Powerteam are contesting Shaaban’s ranking, however, since a dead-heat in points between Germany’s Marco Wittmann – who is currently 16th – and Shaaban should see the Arab are taking the higher position. The matter now pends final verification by the F3 Euro Series organising committee.
This was a weekend when newly-crowned champion and Pole Position winner, Jules Bianchi, took victory in Saturday’s 18-lap race and Jean Karl Vernay won Sunday’s climactic 23-lap encounter.
Bianchi’s race one success ensured that he finished the 20-race series 39 points in front of runner-up Christian Vietoris and ART Grand Prix claimed the Teams’ title.
After a difficult qualifying session, Shaaban started the first race from 18th on the grid in his Shell-backed Dallara Mercedes-Benz F308/309, but the Prema Powerteam driver moved up the field to clinch 12th position. He then fell out out of the second race after 10 laps and was unable to add to the points he had earned in Barcelona last month.
“I started race one from 18th and had a great first lap,” said Shaaban. “I managed to fight my way up to 10th and was setting a strong early pace. But the car began to suffer from braking instability and that caused me to lose over a second per lap during the second half of the race. From then on, I was forced to defend my position and worked very hard to hold on to 12th place at the finish.”
The second race was a thriller and began in wet, but drying conditions. Only a few drivers towards the rear of the field gambled to start with dry-weather slick tyres, hoping that the circuit would dry quickly enough for them to gain a sufficient advantage at the end of the race. Starting from 12th position, Shaaban and all the cars ahead and close behind him were shod with wet tyres.
“The first laps were dicey,” revealed Shaaban. “It was our first wet race start of the season and it was very exciting stuff to be jostling for positions in those conditions. As the circuit began to dry very quickly, within several laps the slick-shod cars were quicker than the leading cars on wets.”
Sensing a crucial opportunity, the Prema Powerteam decided to bring Shaaban in early for slick tyres. Unfortunately a stuck rear wheel lengthened his pit stop to 80 seconds and the determined Arab driver rejoined the race one lap down just behind Roberto Merhi, the race leader at the time. Misfortune struck again on the very next lap when Shaaban spun in the slippery conditions and could not restart his stalled engine.
“It was a real shame to make such an error, pushing too hard too soon on cold slicks on a moist and slippery track. I did a half-spin in the 180-degrees Sachs curve, and although I had the clutch depressed, the engine died and wouldn’t restart again. It was a missed opportunity, especially since at the end the top seven finishers were on slicks.”
The varying team strategies and circuit conditions made for multiple lead and position changes, producing one of the season’s most exciting races. Race two’s ultimate victor, Vernay, had also pitted to change to slick tyres, then scythed through the field to pass second-placed finisher Christopher Zanella for the lead on the final lap in the tough conditions.
Conditions were similarly wet, cold and slippery during Friday’s practice and qualification runs on the 4.574km circuit. “My performance was respectable in practice and I was running in the middle of the field for much of the time,” admitted Shaaban. “In qualifying I began trying different wet approaches, seeking a further advantage after what I learned in practice, but a small error and the little damage this caused on my car pushed me down to 19th as the conditions worsened through the session.
“Ultimately, I have made the most significant progress of my career this season, in which I proudly scored several historic results for the Arab world,” beamed the ambitious talent, who captured Lebanon’s and the Arab world’s first ever international formula podium finish by coming third in Barcelona last month.
“I have also been on a steep and intensive learning curve, which has seen me attack new situations and naturally make mistakes like I did this past race weekend. That is the only way forward and, if I continue in this manner, then the future should be bright for myself and Middle Eastern motor sport.”
The Lebanese racer will now concentrate on finalising a budget that enables him to continue flying the flag for the Arab world in top level formula motor sport, on his mission to become the region’s first Formula One driver. With a possibility to run in the World Series by Renault 3.5 championship in 2010, Shaaban heads to the new Motorland Aragon circuit in Spain this week to begin his inaugural test programme with the car. The Arab world’s leading formula driver has yet to confirm in which championship he intends to continue his ascent for 2010.
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