Podium success on strong Japanese F3 debut for Ahmed
Enaam Ahmed enjoyed a strong start to his foray into the Japanese Formula 3 Championship by claiming two podium finishes on his series debut.
The 19-year-old Briton twice stepped on to the Suzuka podium in what proved to be a successful opening round to the 2019 season at the Formula 1 Japanese Grand Prix venue, leaving the B-Max with Motopark driver second overall in the championship.
Ahmed, who won the 2017 BRDC British F3 Championship in comprehensive fashion before going on to become a multiple race-winner in his maiden European Formula 3 Championship campaign a year later, made early progress from sixth on the grid in the opening race and soon found himself in contention for the podium.
Having already surged past Toshiki Oyu to snatch fourth, Ahmed rapidly closed onto the back of Kazuko Kotaka – driving for the dominant TOM’s squad which has swept to seven Japanese F3 Championship titles in the last 10 years – and sealed the final spot on the rostrum thanks to a sensational pass around the outside of the fast, sweeping turn one on the penultimate lap.
Starting fifth on the grid for the longer race two, Ahmed made a lightning-quick start to jump two cars on the run to turn one and immediately move himself in third place, before an bizarre Safety Car period was instigated when the medical car suffered an engine failure at the first corner.
Ahmed gained another position at the Safety Car restart when teammate Sacha Fenestraz clipped the back of race-leader Ritomo Miyata and was forced to make an unscheduled pit stop with front wing damage. Ahmed took advantage of the drama to secure second place and cap off a strong first weekend in Japan, despite his lack of experience with Yokohama tyres and the challenges of learning a new circuit.
Enaam Ahmed, #65 B-Max with Motopark: “I felt like I maximised the weekend because I didn’t have the pace compared to Sacha and Miyata from the start of the weekend so I need to do some more work on new tyres for qualifying. They seem to be able to get more out of the new Yokohama tyres than I can at the moment, because I have slightly less experience than them on it at the moment. So that’s something I’m going to be working on.
“But I’m happy, I still came through in the race and I think that’s the most I could have achieved with the pace that I had during the weekend – a win was probably unrealistic. But I’m going to be working much harder to make sure I get up to speed and be able to fight them both harder. The next round is at Autopolis, another new track so let’s see how it goes over there!”
Timo Rumpfkeil, Team Principal of Motopark: “It was a very good first event for Enaam overall really. Going into the event we were aware that we would be a bit on the back foot. We only got the deal in place with Enaam pretty much last minute, so we had simply no time to really prepare properly.
“So Enaam had only very limited time in the car and as a consequence Enaam had very limited time to get used to the Yokohama tyre and our way of setting up the car. The whole weekend there was massive improvement from Enaam and we made good steps every time he got into the car.
“A solid qualifying put us in a good position to challenge during the races. In both races Enaam did a very good job, with good starts, very good fights for position and this was rewarded with P3 and P2, and furthermore P2 in the championship. So a very pleasant way to start into the season. Now we will make good use of the time before round two and will give Enaam the time needed to get the confident with the set-up and the tyres.”
R1 Suzuka Circuit 20-21 April
R2 Autopolis 18-19 May
R3 Okayama International Circuit 8-9 June
R4 Sportsland SUGO 22-23 June
R5 Fuji Speedway 13-14 July
R6 Sportsland SUGO 27-28 July
R7 Twin Ring Motegi 17-18 August
R8 Okayama International Circuit 28-29 September