JORDAN King kept himself firmly in contention for the fiercely-disputed FIA Formula 3 European Championship honours with a hard-fought podium finish and points-scoring hat-trick in the second outing of the 2014 campaign at Hockenheim.
King travelled to the German Grand Prix venue off the back of a mixed weekend in the Silverstone curtain-raiser a fortnight earlier, feeling optimistic about his prospects and looking forward to returning to a track where he had set a new lap record last year in only his third F3 appearance.
Despite feeling under the weather, the gifted Stoneleigh ace featured immediately up at the sharp end in practice but was disappointed to line up just tenth for race one on the 27-strong grid – the indisputable crème de la crème of young racing talent.
Undeterred, King displayed the benefit of his experience as a second-year competitor by storming through to fourth on the first lap, before finding himself embroiled in a three-way tussle for the runner-up spoils behind the wheel of his Carlin-prepared, Volkswagen-powered Dallara single-seater.
Evincing excellent race pace, the highly-rated hotshot stole third position on the final lap when championship leader Esteban Ocon suddenly slowed with technical issues, securing a richly-deserved second rostrum finish of the season for his efforts.
King was looking in fine form indeed during qualifying for races two and three, only for engine woes to intervene and leave him a lowly 19th in the pecking-order – and with plenty of work to do.
Reacting quickly to the starting lights, on both occasions, the 20-year-old British Racing Drivers’ Club (BRDC) SuperStar, MSA Team UK protégé and former McLaren Autosport Award finalist gained no fewer than seven places around the course of the opening lap, thereafter scything his way through the field like the proverbial hot knife through butter to take the chequered flag respectively ninth and seventh.
Those results ensured King consolidated his sixth position in the points table heading next to the unforgiving French street circuit of Pau, where the reigning British F3 champion and Hugo Boss brand ambassador – who recently joined forces with luxury watchmaker Bulova, the Official Timekeeping Partner of Manchester United – is hopeful of shifting his title bid up a gear.
“I felt really positive going to Hockenheim after leading the race there in 2013 as a rookie.” he reflected, “but we didn’t quite pull everything together in the first qualifying session. Track conditions had changed since practice and I didn’t manage to get the best out of the new tyres. It was frustrating, because I was only just over a third-of-a-second shy of pole position but when it’s as close as it is in the championship at the moment, that kind of time loss will really hurt you.
“Like at Silverstone, I got a great first lap in race one, and after that it was a question of taking care of my tyres whilst maintaining the pressure on Ocon. To finish third was a great result from where we had started and demonstrated our true pace.
“Things were looking good during qualifying for Sunday’s races and I felt that the front row was on at the very least – and then we had the engine problem, which left me well out of position and facing a mountain to climb. It was the lowest I had ever started in F3. I could barely see the lights from where I was sat on the grid!
“I was pleased with my performance and progress – our pace was strong again, which went to show what might have been but for the issue in qualifying. The weekend was definitely a missed opportunity from that point of view and it was disappointing not to come away with the results we were capable of, but in the circumstances, it was a solid exercise in damage limitation.
“I’ve never been to Pau before, but it looks like an interesting and challenging track and we proved our potential on street circuits in Macau last year. Grid position will be crucial there, so we can’’t afford a repeat of Hockenheim.
“Our race speed is good enough to fight at the front, so if we can just get qualifying all hooked up, we should be able to start scoring some really big points and close the gap in the championship standings.”