Carlin's lead driver, Alan van der Merwe, can afford to relax this weekend at Donington Park - after all, he needs only one podium position from the two races with team-mate Jamie Green behind him to confirm himself as British Formula 3 Champion, 2003.

But, van der Merwe is having none of it and he clearly intends to end the season in the dominant style which he has produced throughout the year.

So, pole position was on offer for race one during qualifying this afternoon and the most complete driver in the series saw no reason not to take it. And he took it without drama. Former Benetton engineer, Mark Owen, elected to run van der Merwe from the beginning of the session whilst the track was clean and pole came on lap two followed by faster times which assured the position. There was uninterrupted running for the full 30 minutes of qualifying but van der Merwe's tactics paid off and nobody was able to improve on his time.

van der Merwe's job tomorrow has been made easier than he could have perhaps hoped for - he sits on pole whilst the only other contender for the title, Jamie Green, lines up on the sixth row of the grid - a disappointing result after his two poles of the year here in the first two rounds of the series when van der Merwe was forced to shadow him home into second place as the McLaren Autosport award winner stole the first two race wins of the season.

Nevertheless, it has been a very impressive debut season for Jamie Green and he is still fighting and beating Nelson Piquet jnr. for second place with a 47 point advantage. Carlin will be going all-out to repeat the 1-2 result achieved with Takuma Sato and Anthony Davidson in 2001 but an overall win is now simply a statistical possibility rather than an achievable reality for their latest prot?g?.

17 year old Nelson Piquet jnr. joined the British series with bags of racing experience from Brazil but no UK circuit knowledge and a new team to be knocked into shape. He has usurped many more experienced drivers and seen off all new-comers with the exception of Jamie Green and nobody in the F3 paddock doubts that he will follow in his father's footsteps and be signed to an F1 deal in the near future.

Alan van der Merwe will move on next season - possibly staying with Carlin to compete in the Nissan World Series - but if Green and Piquet decide to stay in the British F3 championship for another year then it will be an absolute classic - reminiscent of Ayrton Senna versus Martin Brundle and Mika Hakkinen against Mika Salo.

Joining van der Merwe on the front row of the grid for race one will be Danny Watts with Rob Austin making a good return to the series after injuries to take third spot. Malaysian, Fairuz Fauzy is an impressive fourth followed by Robert Dahlgren and Nelson Piquet jnr.

Carlin is running Michael Keohane for the remaining races of the year and he lines up seventh alongside Clivio Piccione who is tipped to join the team for 2004. Carlin's Ronnie Bremer joins them in ninth place.

 

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