If Robert Doornbos had been looking forward to the penultimate F3 Euroseries meeting of the year at Hockenheim, he certainly wasn't as enthusiastic after the event.

After another successful return to the British F3 Championship at Brands Hatch last weekend, which culminated with a podium finish, the Dutch driver transferred back to his regular Team Ghinzani Dallara-Mugen for the two races making up round nine of the Euroseries at a circuit where he had also stood on the podium earlier in the season.

Heavy rain overnight and a slight drizzle throughout the morning made for a wet qualifying session for race one, and Doornbos struggled with serious set-up problems throughout. The 22-year old eventually wound up a hugely disappointing 26th on the grid after he and the team opted to run a dry-weather set-up in the hope that the track would come to them at the end of the 30-minute session.

"I have always been very fast in wet conditions," the driver complained, "At Spa, where I raced the two rounds of the British Championship with Menu Motorsport, I had a really strong performance, taking our first ever pole position. It's amazing to think that here I couldn't qualify on front row."

Saturday's second qualifying session promised better for the Dutch hopeful, but eventually saw a succession of drivers taking turns at the top of the order, and shuffling the grid with every lap. Doornbos was repeatedly lying fourth overall until late in the session, when he dropped to seventh. This time around, he opted for a low downforce set-up to be faster in the first part of the track - and duly set the fastest intermediate lap-time of all - but his strategy didn't pay off in the Motodrom section, where he lost all his advantage. This time, too, the track continued to dry and most of the drivers improved their lap times throughout the session. As a result, Doornbos' seventh eventually translated into 13th.

The first race was something of a mess, as the wet but drying track saw a lot of drivers spinning. Starting from the back of the grid, Doornbos knew that it would have been difficult to finish in the top ten, but he eventually managed to get a clean start, pushing as much as he could to make up ground while being careful not to run off the road on his slick tyres.

He passed two cars on the first lap and, by lap three, was up to 21st - only to then be assessed a drive-through penalty for having changed tyres after the permitted point in the pre-race preparations. Doornbos was able to take his penalty when the safety car came out to clear up Richard Lietz's accident. Able then to close up on the back of the pack, he assumed 16th position and made up more ground in the final stages to eventually come home 13th overall.

"There must have been a marshal whose clock was ticking faster than our's," he claimed afterwards, "That can be the only reason why I got a drive-through penalty. I had a good race fighting with [Ryan] Briscoe and [Jamie] Green, but we are not fast enough."

If finishing outside the points was disappointing for Doornbos, retirement in race two was even more galling.

The race began on a dry track and all the cars started with slick tyres, thereby avoiding any confusion with when to change rubber. Doornbos made a very quick start that allowed him to pass four cars by the end of the lap and, gaining one more position when Nico Rosberg spun on at lap three, the Dutchman continued to push hard in the hope of climbing into the top six scoring positions.

He was able to reduce his gap to seventh-placed Alexandros Margaritis with a succession of fastest laps, passing the Greek driver and then doing the same to Nicolas to move into fifth. By lap seven, he had closed in on Alexandre Pr?mat and Bruno Spengler, who were battling for fourth place, but, attempting to take advantage of a move by the Canadian, made contact with Premat, causing both cars to retire on the spot.

"I had a good start and, seeing Pr?mat and Spengler fighting, I thought I could maybe take advantage of the mistakes they were making, " he explained, "While I was trying to overtake Pr?mat, he braked in the middle of the corner and I couldn't do anything to avoid him. I touched his car and broke the nose of mine."

Two final races remain on the schedule, at Magny-Cours towards the end of the month, where Doornbos will aim to move deeper into the top ten overall standings.

 

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