WILLIAM Buller made a solid start to his assault on the 2013 FIA Formula 3 European Championship during the opening rounds of the new season at Monza, although the Northern Irish racer was left to wonder what might have been after heavy rain affected the Italian race weekend.
The 20-year-old from Scarva was making his debut with the T-Sport and ThreeBond team on the back of an impressive showing in pre-season testing, where he posted the fastest time at both Catalunya and Monza at the wheel of his new machine.
Warmer conditions compared to the Monza test greeted the teams for qualifying, but a wrong call on set-up for the conditions meant Buller was unable to replicate the result he had enjoyed in testing.
Buller was subsequently left to settle for twelfth on the grid for race one and ninth on the grid for race two following the opening qualifying session of the weekend, while the second session saw him starting race three from tenth on the grid.
The team’s hard work on improving the car paid off, and Buller was able to showcase his talent when the opening race got underway on Saturday with a fine start that saw him quickly making up places. Vaulting up to fifth in the opening laps of the race, he then battled his way ahead of fellow Briton Harry Tincknell to start his campaign with a hugely impressive fourth place.
The arrival of heavy rain at the Italian circuit led to treacherous conditions for the second race of the weekend on Sunday morning, with the decision taken to start proceedings behind the Safety Car. As had been the case the previous day, Buller was making his way up the order and looked destined for at least a top six finish before he was involved in a serious accident going into the Rettifilo Chicane.
Following behind Buller, Mans Grenhagen lost control of his car under braking and hit the rear of Jordan King, launching his car into the air before it landed on the rear of Buller’s car as he turned in to take the corner. The resulting damage instantly put him out of the race, and he was lucky to escape without injury.
The T-Sport and ThreeBond team worked hard to repair the damage for race three, which again started behind the Safety Car due to the conditions. When the race finally got underway, Buller was able to climb up to seventh place but with multiple incidents on track leaving cars stranded around the circuit, the race was brought to an early conclusion before he was able to make any further forward progress.
Buller’s results from the three races leave him seventh in the Championship standings ahead of his home round of the season at Silverstone next month.
“It’s a bit disappointing to come away from the weekend with the points we did, although I’m happy with the way we performed in the three races,” Buller said when asked for his thoughts on the opening event of the year. “We went into the weekend on a high after the results in testing but didn’t quite get things right for qualifying which meant there was work to do in the races.
“The team worked hard to improve the car for the first race and made a number of changes and it felt really good. I was able to lap strongly and worked my way forward and fourth was a good result considering where I started.
“The conditions on Sunday were some of the worst I’ve faced while I’ve been in F3 and in the first race of the day I was battling for fifth place before the accident that put me out. There was absolutely nothing I could do about it as the guy behind made a mistake and I just got wiped out, which was disappointing as we could have picked up another strong finish.
“The team did a fantastic job to repair the car for the final race and it felt perfect. The conditions again were so difficult and it was the right call to stop the race early, even though I think we could have finished higher than we did; it was just too dangerous.
“Overall, I’d hoped for more points from the first round but there are a lot of positives to take away from it. We’ve shown we have a quick car and I feel really comfortable with the team I have around me. I can’t wait for Silverstone.”